Confronting pseudo-Nambu-Goldstone-boson quintessence with data

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  • Confronting pseudo-Nambu-Goldstone-boson quintessence with data

    Koushik Dutta* and Lorenzo Sorbo

    Department of Physics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA(Received 12 January 2007; published 22 March 2007)

    We analyze the observational constraints on the model where a pseudo-Nambu-Goldstone boson(pNGB) plays the role of dark energy. The constraints are derived by using the latest Gold set of 182type Ia supernovae and the CMB shift parameter. We allow for both the initial value of the scalar field andthe present value of the energy density in the pNGB to vary. We find thatcompared to previousanalysesthe allowed portion of parameter space has shrunk around the region where the pNGB does notevolve significantly.

    DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.75.063514 PACS numbers: 98.80.Cq, 98.80.Es


    Since the type Ia supernova observations of [13], anintense activity has been devoted to the search of anexplanation of the accelerated expansion of the Universe.If gravity is described by Einsteins general relativity andthe effects of inhomogeneities can be neglected, then ac-celeration must be due to a dark energy component thatrepresents roughly 70% of the matter content of the Uni-verse. Current data tell that the equation of state parameterw p= of dark energy has to obey w & 0:7 [4].

    The simplest explanation of cosmic acceleration is acosmological constant, the energy of vacuum, with magni-tude

    2 103 eV4 (1)and equation of state parameter w 1. This solution isattractive in many respects, both for its simplicity (a singleparameter is needed to describe it) and for its excellentagreement with data. It is however hard to justify from atheoretical standpoint. Quantum fluctuations of matter, in-deed, give contributions to the vacuum energy, and veryprecise cancellations are needed to keep this energy atsmall values. Unfortunately the standard model does notdisplay any of these cancellations at least up to the scalesthat have been probed in collider experiments, about 60orders of magnitude beyond the value of (1).

    For this reason, soon after the release of [13], peoplehave started to look for alternative scenarios, and a wideinterest in quintessence models has emerged [5] (for arecent review, see [6]). The philosophy behind quintes-sence is the following. First, it is assumed that somemechanism is able to fix the energy of the ground stateof the Universe to zero.1 Then the existence of a new

    degree of freedom (quintessence) is postulated: quintes-sence is supposed not to have yet relaxed to its vacuum, sothat its energy density is responsible for cosmic accelera-tion. Quintessence has w 1 as a distinctive prediction,and is usually described by some scalar degree of freedom endowed with some potential V. V has to be veryflat, if we want w to be sufficiently negative.

    It is possible to write down a virtually infinite number ofquintessence potentials V. However, only for few ofthem the flatness of the potential is not spoiled by radiativecorrections and the exchange of quanta of do not giverise to an (unobserved) fifth force [7]. Those few potentialsare more motivated from a theoretical point of view thanthe others. This is especially true for the pseudo-Nambu-Goldstone boson (pNGB) potential of [8] that has all thegood qualities of radiative stability that anybody whobelieves in quantum mechanics might require.

    In the present paper we analyze the parameter space ofpNGB quintessence [8] in the light of the most recentobservations, in particular, those from supernovae. Ourapproach is orthogonal to the model independent ap-proach recently taken on the subject by many investigators(see for instance [9]), and is admittedly based on a theo-retical prejudice in favor of radiatively stable potentials. Toour knowledge, the most recent complete analyses of thismodel date back to about five years ago [1012]. Given therecent developments of the observational situation, webelieve that it is important to perform an analysis of themodel in which the latest data are taken into account.

    In the next section we briefly describe the properties ofthe model of pNGB quintessence. Then in Sec. III wepresent the observational constraints from supernovaeand from the CMB shift parameter. In Sec. IV we discussour results before concluding in Sec. V.


    The use of pNBGs has been first proposed in order torealize a technically natural model of inflation in [13] andhas been subsequently considered for dark energy in [8].The model is characterized by a pseudoscalar field witha potential that can be well approximated by

    *Electronic address: koushik@physics.umass.eduElectronic address: sorbo@physics.umass.edu1It is often stated that finding a mechanism that fixes the

    cosmological constant to zero should be easier than finding amechanism that fixes it to some very small nonvanishing value.Let us note here that this is not what usually occurs in quantumfield theory: if it is possible to find a symmetry that fixes somequantity to zero, it is typically straightforward to break such asymmetry so that this quantity can be kept small in a controlledway.

    PHYSICAL REVIEW D 75, 063514 (2007)

    1550-7998=2007=75(6)=063514(6) 063514-1 2007 The American Physical Society

  • V 4cos=f 1; (2)where we have neglected the contributions by higher har-monics (this is supposed to be a good approximation aslong as f is sufficiently smaller than the Planck mass [14]).The potential is generated by the breaking of a shift sym-metry ! constant, and for this reason it is radia-tively stable.

    The cosmological evolution of this model is in generaldetermined by four parameters: the quantities and f andthe initial conditions in and _in. Because of the highexpansion rate of the Early Universe, we assume _in 0. One more free parameter is eliminated if we insist that (the current ratio of the amount of dark energy overcritical energy) is equal to 0.7. As a consequence, if weassume 0:7, the model is described by only twoparameters that can be taken to be f and in. A detailedanalysis of the dynamics of the pNGB zero mode can befound in [11]. Because of periodicity of the potential intakes values between 0 and 2f. In addition, if we takeinto account the indication from String Theory [14] that fcannot be larger than MP 2:4 1018 GeV, then the pa-rameter space of the potential turns out to be compact. Thisimplies that, at least in principle, all of it can be excludedby observation, and that pNGB quintessence in its simplestversion can be ruled out. For this reason we find this modeleven more attractive (although there are ways to evade theconstraint f 1. This is the most up-to-datesupernova data set available in the literature. This data sethas been recently used in [18,19] to study the observationalconstraints on different parametrizations of dark energy.

    For a particular cosmological model with parameters sthe predicted distance moduli are given by

    0z; s mM 5log10dLsMpc

    25; (4)

    where m and M are the apparent and absolute magnitude ofdistant supernovae. dL is the luminosity distance given by

    dLz 1 zZ z0


    Hz0 (5)

    and depends only on the expansion history of the Universefrom redshift z to today. Assuming that all the distancemoduli are independent and normally distributed the like-lihood function can be calculated from the chi-squarestatistics L / exp2=2, where

    2in; _in; f; ;H0 X182i1

    obs0i th0i220i

    : (6)

    Here obs0i and 0i are the measured value of the distancemodulus and the corresponding uncertainty for the i-thsupernova. obs0i and 0i, as well as the redshift zi are foundfrom the data set [16]. th0 is calculated by using Eq. (5),where Hz is obtained by numerically solving the back-ground evolution Eq. (3). We marginalize the likelihoodover the nuisance parameter H0 [2].

    As we have noted earlier, the model has four parameters:f, , in and _in. We assume _in 0 and allow thesystem to evolve until 0:7 today. This leaves uswith two parameters and we choose them to be f andin. We plot the resulting confidence contour in Fig. 1.The upper left portion of the plot corresponds to the part ofparameter space where does not reach the value 0.7. Inthis part of the parameter space, the scalar field rollsquickly to the minimum and oscillates around it, behavinglike matter.

    The dark areas at the bottom right part of the plot givethe 68.3% (1) and the 95.4% (2) confidence level re-gions. The 3 contour runs between the 2 contour and theboundary of the forbidden region (we do not show it in theplot for clarity). As we go closer to the boundary of theforbidden region, the value of 2 increases sharply. Even ifthe 95.4% confidence level area seems to cover almost allof the allowed region, this is actually not the case. Indeed,there is a part of the parameter space, below the boundaryof the forbidden region, where goes across 0.7 severaltimes, as an effect of the oscillations of . This means thatpoints with the same values of in, f and can corre-



  • spond to different histories, depending on the number oftimes has gone across the value 0.7. We have computedthe value of 2 in the case where has crossed 0:7more than once and we have found that this part of theparameter space is excluded at more than the 3 level.

    Once 0:7 is fixed, the constraints on the parame-ters in and f can be converted into constraints on theplane f;. We plot the 1, 2, and 3 contours in Fig. 2.

    The thick white dashed line in the bottom right part ofFig. 1 corresponds to the part of parameter space that givesw0 0:965 (where w0 is the current value of the equa-tion of state parameter). According to [20], w

  • R m


    Z zcmb0

    dzHz ; (7)

    where zcmb is the redshift of recombination. By usingWMAP 3rd year data the value of the shift parameter hasbeen extracted as R 1:70 0:03 for zcmb 1089 [21].In the left panel of Fig. 3 we plot the resulting confidencecontour arising from this constraint. Note that the CMBcontours favor a value of that is slightly larger than thatfavored by the SN data.

    Once the SN and the CMB constraints are combined, weobtain the plot shown on the right panel of Fig. 3. Since weare assuming a flat Universe, imposing the shift parameterconstraint does not reduce significantly the area of theallowed region, and indeed the SN and CMB constraintsare not orthogonal. However, the CMB constraint helpseliminate the part of parameter space at large and largein that is available at the 2 and 3 level if only SNconstraints are taken into account. Moreover, once theCMB constraint is added, the best-fit point is not anymore at in 0, but at the point in 1:25MP, 0:71 where 2 161:6. This should be compared to 2 162:9 found at 0:71 when the constraint in 0 isimposed. Since in 0 implies that is rolling, thecombination of CMB and SN data seems to hint at someevolution in dark energy. However, this hint should betaken with a grain of salt, since it emerges when we jointwo data sets that are not exactly compatible, as shown bythe increase of 2 units in 2 when we add the single CMBpoint to the SN data set (as stated above, the best-fit pointfor SN data only has 2 159:6).


    The data presented above indicate that, if we use super-nova constraints only, the parameters that yield the best fitto data are those where the field sits at the top of thecosine potential, thus mimicking a cosmological constant.If we use also the constraint from the CMB shift parameter,a slowly rolling pNGB is slightly preferred to a constantone.

    In order to see how the new data of [4] improve theconstraints on the model, we can compare our results withthose of previous analyses. In [10], Waga and Friemanhave studied the constraints from the 1998 supernovadata of Riess et al. [1], together with the statistics ofgravitationally lensed quasars. Comparison of our resultswith those of [10] is complicated by different assumptionson the parametrization of the model. Indeed, in [10] thevalue of in is fixed to 1:5f, so that is not a freeparameter, but is function of f and . Nevertheless,some comparison is possible: in the parameter space of[10] there is still room at 2 for a small region where thescale factor of the Universe is currently decelerating. In ouranalysis (see Fig. 4) this is not possible any more at the 2level, even if it is still allowed at 3.

    In [11], a wider portion of the parameter space is ana-lyzed (and a different data set [2] is used), that shows that apart of parameter space where has performed half oscil-lation is allowed at the 2 level. As we have stressed in theSec. III, the current data do not allow for this possibilityany more.

    In [12], a detailed study of the parameter space of themodel has been performed by taking into account theconstraints from CMB observations of BOOMERanG[22] and MAXIMA [23]. Constraints on this quintessencemodel were derived from its effects on integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect as well as from its effects on the location ofthe first peak. In Fig. 2 we show the 1, 2, and 3 constraintsin the f; plane obtained by our analysis. Comparisonwith Fig. 5 of [12], shows that the more recent dataimprove by a factor of 3 or so the constraints on .

    Let us also note that a quintessence field that is climbingup the potential could mimic w

  • the contours are quite tilted, allowing for a value of w0significantly different from 1 only if DE gets very closeto unity. Indeed, if dark energy has a constant equation ofstate parameter different from 1, then a larger amount ofdark energy is needed to get the same averaged value of w.In the case of a pNGB, however, the value of w0 can besignificantly different from 1 even if w was close to 1in the past. As a consequence, one can obtain the requiredaveraged value of w even without requiring that isextremely close to unity.


    We have analyzed the portion of parameter space avail-able for the model of pNGB quintessence. Our work ex-tends the previous studies on the subject by allowing bothfor variations in the initial value of the zero mode of thepNGB and for variations in the current value of . Usingthe most up-to-date supernova data, we have shown that theparameter space of the pNBG potential is significantlyconstrained around the region where quintessence is sittingon the top of the cosine potential or slowly evolving alongit. At the 95.4% level, previous analyses on the subject[10,11] were still allowing the current value of w to be

    larger than 1=3 or even the possibility that quintessencehad already performed a half oscillation about its mini-mum. Current data do not allow this any more.

    We have also observed that, when CMB and SN con-straints are joined, an evolving pNGB provides a slightlybetter fit to data than a pNGB stuck at the top of itspotential.

    Let us finally discuss future perspectives. Already now,data tell that f cannot be smaller than about a third ofPlanck mass (unless we fine tune in to be very close to thetop of the potential). As shown in Fig. 1, future data mightconstrain f * MP=2, leading to some tension with therequirement f & MP from String Theory [14]. One mightwonder if this will be enough to consider the model finelytuned, and to start to consider alternative options [15] asmore natural. But one can also take a more optimisticapproach: maybe future data will show that cosmic accel-eration is sourced by an evolving, radiatively stablepseudo-Nambu-Goldstone boson.


    We thank Subinoy Das and John Donoghue for usefuldiscussions.

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