John Baez

Lecture at the Union College Mathematics Conference

December 4, 2005

Higher Gauge Theory: 2-Connections

Gauge theory describes the parallel transport of point particles using the formalism of connections on bundles. In both string theory and loop quantum gravity, point particles are replaced by 1-dimensional extended objects: paths or loops in space. This suggests that we seek some kind of "higher gauge theory" that describes the parallel transport as we move a path through space, tracing out a surface. To find the right mathematical language for this, it seems we must "categorify" concepts from differential geometry, replacing smooth manifolds by smooth categories, Lie groups by Lie 2-groups, Lie algebras by Lie 2-algebras, bundles by 2-bundles, sheaves by stacks or gerbes, and so on. We give an overview of higher gauge theory, with an emphasis on the concept of "2-connection" for a principal 2-bundle.
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© 2005 John Baez