Holography, quark-gluon plasma and dynamical spacetimes


Strongly coupled quantum theories include particularly rich physics ranging from quark-gluon plasma (QGP), high temperature superconductors, unitary Fermi gases to neutron stars, and are hence of primary importance. Qualitative insights into these systems can be obtained from holography, also called gauge/gravity duality, which is a truly remarkable exact equivalence between certain strongly coupled quantum field theories and classical general relativity in a negatively-curved universe with one extra dimension.

Holography is hence perfectly suited to study strongly coupled quantum physics using a gravitational dual. Two examples are the computation of the smallest shear viscosity found in nature (by computing viscosity of black hole horizons ), relevant to both quark-gluon plasma and unitary Fermi gases, and my pioneering work of fast equilibration of strongly coupled quantum theories (by studying gravitational collapse ).

The proposal aims to develop a full-fledged holographic theory of equilibration and propagating energetic particles (jets) in holographic theories constructed to mimic relativistic heavy ion collisions as close as possible. This requires improved holographic theories, including typical QCD phenomena such as a running coupling, confinement, as well as a construction of (classical) holographic strings that can be a realistic model for jets in QCD. The project will answer how these QCD phenomena will affect the initial conditions for a hydrodynamic quark-gluon plasma, as well as the influence this plasma has on jets traversing the plasma.

The researcher is well prepared for the proposed study, having already performed many advanced (numerical) simulations in gravity that model strongly coupled equilibration. Recent work also includes a pioneering study on the evolution of jet substructure while traversing strongly coupled plasma. Combined with the recently founded Delta Institute for Theoretical Physics (DITP) the researcher will find excellent training, teaching and collaboration opportunities to make the proposal successful.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. W. van der Schee

Affiliated with

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


01/10/2017 to 30/09/2020