Higher gauge theory—differential versus integral formulation. (English) Zbl 1071.53011

Summary: The term higher gauge theory refers to the generalization of gauge theory to a theory of connections at two levels, essentially given by 1- and 2-forms. So far, there have been two approaches to this subject. The differential picture uses non-Abelian 1- and 2-forms in order to generalize the connection 1-form of a conventional gauge theory to the next level. The integral picture makes use of curves and surfaces labeled with elements of non-Abelian groups and generalizes the formulation of gauge theory in terms of parallel transports. We recall how to circumvent the classic no-go theorems in order to define non-Abelian surface ordered products in the integral picture. We then derive the differential picture from the integral formulation under the assumption that the curve and surface labels depend smoothly on the position of the curves and surfaces. We show that some aspects of the no-go theorems are still present in the differential (but not in the integral) picture. This implies a substantial structural difference between nonperturbative and perturbative approaches to higher gauge theory. We finally demonstrate that higher gauge theory provides a geometrical explanation for the extended topological symmetry of BF-theory in both pictures.


53C07 Special connections and metrics on vector bundles (Hermite-Einstein, Yang-Mills)
18D99 Categorical structures
Full Text: DOI arXiv


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