Stochastic Gravity: Theory and Applications

Bei Lok Hu
Department of Physics
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland 20742-4111

'External link'

Enric Verdaguer
Departament de Física Fonamental and
Institut de Ciències del Cosmos
Universitat de Barcelona
Av. Diagonal 647, 08028 Barcelona


Whereas semiclassical gravity is based on the semiclassical Einstein equation with sources given by the expectation value of the stress-energy tensor of quantum fields, stochastic semiclassical gravity is based on the Einstein–Langevin equation, which has, in addition, sources due to the noise kernel. The noise kernel is the vacuum expectation value of the (operator-valued) stress-energy bitensor, which describes the fluctuations of quantum-matter fields in curved spacetimes. A new improved criterion for the validity of semiclassical gravity may also be formulated from the viewpoint of this theory. In the first part of this review we describe the fundamentals of this new theory via two approaches: the axiomatic and the functional. The axiomatic approach is useful to see the structure of the theory from the framework of semiclassical gravity, showing the link from the mean value of the stress-energy tensor to the correlation functions. The functional approach uses the Feynman–Vernon influence functional and the Schwinger–Keldysh closed-time-path effective action methods. In the second part, we describe three applications of stochastic gravity. First, we consider metric perturbations in a Minkowski spacetime, compute the two-point correlation functions of these perturbations and prove that Minkowski spacetime is a stable solution of semiclassical gravity. Second, we discuss structure formation from the stochastic-gravity viewpoint, which can go beyond the standard treatment by incorporating the full quantum effect of the inflaton fluctuations. Third, using the Einstein–Langevin equation, we discuss the backreaction of Hawking radiation and the behavior of metric fluctuations for both the quasi-equilibrium condition of a black-hole in a box and the fully nonequilibrium condition of an evaporating black hole spacetime. Finally, we briefly discuss the theoretical structure of stochastic gravity in relation to quantum gravity and point out directions for further developments and applications.