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A Gaussian approximation to the effective potential Morgan, David C.


This thesis investigates some of the properties of a variational approximation to scalar field theories: a trial wavefunctional which has a gaussian form is used as a ground state ansatz for an interacting scalar field theory - the expectation value of the Hamiltonian in this state is then minimized. This we call the Gaussian Approximation; the resulting effective potential we follow others by calling the Gaussian Effective Potential (GEP). An equivalent but more general finite temperature formalism is then reviewed and used for the calculations of the GEP in this thesis. Two scalar field theories are described: ϕ⁴ theory in four dimensions (ϕ⁴₄) and ϕ⁶ theory in three dimensions (ϕ⁶₃). After showing what the Gaussian Approximation does in terms of Feynman diagrams, renormalized GEP's are calculated for both theories. Dimensional Regularization is used in the renormalization and this this is especially convenient for the GEP in ϕ⁶₃ theory because it becomes trivially renor-malizable. It is noted that ϕ⁶₃ loses its infrared asymptotic freedom in the Gaussian Approximation. Finally, it is shown how a finite temperature GEP can be calculated by finding low and high temperature expansions of the temperature terms in ϕ⁶₃ theory.

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