This is a review on brane effective actions, their symmetries and some of their applications. Its first part covers the Green–Schwarz formulation of single M- and D-brane effective actions focusing on kinematical aspects: the identification of their degrees of freedom, the importance of world volume diffeomorphisms and kappa symmetry to achieve manifest spacetime covariance and supersymmetry, and the explicit construction of such actions in arbitrary on-shell supergravity backgrounds.
Its second part deals with applications. First, the use of kappa symmetry to determine supersymmetric world volume solitons. This includes their explicit construction in flat and curved backgrounds, their interpretation as Bogomol’nyi–Prasad–Sommerfield (BPS) states carrying (topological) charges in the supersymmetry algebra and the connection between supersymmetry and Hamiltonian BPS bounds. When available, I emphasise the use of these solitons as constituents in microscopic models of black holes. Second, the use of probe approximations to infer about the non-trivial dynamics of strongly-coupled gauge theories using the anti de Sitter/conformal field theory (AdS/CFT) correspondence. This includes expectation values of Wilson loop operators, spectrum information and the general use of D-brane probes to approximate the dynamics of systems with small number of degrees of freedom interacting with larger systems allowing a dual gravitational description.
Its final part briefly discusses effective actions for N D-branes and M2-branes. This includes both Super-Yang-Mills theories, their higher-order corrections and partial results in covariantising these couplings to curved backgrounds, and the more recent supersymmetric Chern–Simons matter theories describing M2-branes using field theory, brane constructions and 3-algebra considerations.
Living Rev. Relativity 15, (2012), 3
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