Quantum Theory of Gravity. I. The Canonical Theory

Phys. Rev. 160, 1113 – Published 25 August 1967
Bryce S. DeWitt


Following an historical introduction, the conventional canonical formulation of general relativity theory is presented. The canonical Lagrangian is expressed in terms of the extrinsic and intrinsic curvatures of the hypersurface x0=constant, and its relation to the asymptotic field energy in an infinite world is noted. The distinction between finite and infinite worlds is emphasized. In the quantum theory the primary and secondary constraints become conditions on the state vector, and in the case of finite worlds these conditions alone govern the dynamics. A resolution of the factor-ordering problem is proposed, and the consistency of the constraints is demonstrated. A 6-dimensional hyperbolic Riemannian manifold is introduced which takes for its metric the coefficient of the momenta in the Hamiltonian constraint. The geodesic incompletability of this manifold, owing to the existence of a frontier of infinite curvature, is demonstrated. The possibility is explored of relating this manifold to an infinite-dimensional manifold of 3-geometries, and of relating the structure of the latter manifold in turn to the dynamical behavior of space-time. The problem is approached through the WKB approximation and Hamilton-Jacobi theory. Einstein's equations are revealed as geodesic equations in the manifold of 3-geometries, modified by the presence of a "force term." The classical phenomenon of gravitational collapse shows that the force term is not powerful enough to prevent the trajectory of space-time from running into the frontier. The as-yet unresolved problem of determining when the collapse phenomenon represents a real barrier to the quantum-state functional is briefly discussed, and a boundary condition at the barrier is proposed. The state functional of a finite world can depend only on the 3-geometry of the hypersurface x0=constant. The label x0 itself is irrelevant, and "time" must be determined intrinsically. A natural definition for the inner product of two such state functionals is introduced which, however, encounters difficulties with negative probabilities owing to the barrier boundary condition. In order to resolve these difficulties, a simplified model, the quantized Friedmann universe, is studied in detail. In order to obtain nonstatic wave functions which resemble a universe evolving, it is necessary to introduce a clock. In order that the combined wave functions of universe-cum-clock be normalizable, it turns out that the periods of universe and clock must be commensurable. Wave packets exhibiting quasiclassical behavior are constructed, and attention is called to the phenomenological character of "time." The innerproduct definition is rescued from its negative-probability difficulties by making use of the fact that probability flows in a closed finite circuit in configuration space. The article ends with some speculations on the uniqueness of the state functional of the actual universe. It is suggested that a viewpoint due to Everett should be adopted in its interpretation.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRev.160.1113

  • Received 25 July 1966
  • Revised 9 January 1967
  • Published in the issue dated August 1967

© 1967 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

Bryce S. DeWitt*

  • Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey and Department of Physics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

  • *Permanent address.


References (Subscription Required)

Authorization Required




Log In



Article Lookup
Paste a citation or DOI

Enter a citation
  1. Enter a citation to look up or terms to search.

    Ex: "PRL 112 068103", "Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 068103", "10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.068103"