Hypothesis H




Hypothesis H is a hypothesis about the mathematical formulation of the theory about fundamental physics known as M-theory.

The open problem of formulating M-Theory

It is an open problem to mathematically formulate M-theory: Supposedly a single coherent theory of physics whose various limiting cases reproduce the zoo of perturbative string theories (HET/I/IIA/IIB&F/11d SuGra) and the expected dualities relating them; but which also makes mathematical sense of non-perturbative D-/M-brane physics, and hence solves, via intersecting D-brane models of confined quantum Yang-Mills theory (holographic QCD), the last of the Millennium Problems:

In the physics-minded string theory community, parts of the literature tends to forget or downplay the conjectural nature of many assumptions and leaps of faiths that are being made when it comes to discussion of D-brane/M-brane dynamics and generally of non-perturbative effects in string theory. More widely recognized is the fact that the theory of coincident M5-branes is missing, together with the formulation of its expected decoupling limit to the D=6 N=(2,0) SCFT – but of course these major open problems are but one aspect of full M-theory. For string-theoretic references that do highlight the open problem of formulating M-theory see at M-theory – The open problem.

In mathematics, it is rare but not unfamiliar that an open problem is not the proof of a theorem within an established theory, but is the establishing of a theory in the first place. A famous example of such a situation is the search for a theory of “absolute geometry” over the “field with one element”. In this analogy, the various perturbative string theories (HET, I, IIA, IIB and their KK-compactified perturbative string theory vacua) correspond to arithmetic geometries over base prime field 𝔽 p\mathbb{F}_p for p2p \geq 2, and the would-be M-theory corresponds to a theory of a “field with one element” that unifies and completes all this, by describing it at a deeper level (literally: a deeper base).

Hence the task here is to conjure a mathematical theory 𝒳\mathcal{X}, hypothesize that and explain how 𝒳\mathcal{X} is the putative M-theory, and then rigorously work out the mathematical implications of 𝒳\mathcal{X} in order to check to which extent they include the required design criterion “𝒳ST\mathcal{X} \Rightarrow ST”. To the extent that 𝒳\mathcal{X} implies known or expected phenomena in perturbative string theory the hypothesis that 𝒳\mathcal{X} is M-theory finds support, to the extent that it doesn’t 𝒳\mathcal{X} needs to be modified to or be replaced by some 𝒳\mathcal{X}', and the process re-started.

Hypothesis H


In the large-scale/low-energy limit of M-theory given by D=11 supergravity, the covariant phase space must consist of super-torsion free super orbi 10,1|32\mathbb{R}^{10,1\vert \mathbf{32}}-folds equipped with a suitable higher gauge field: the C-field.

The first ingredient of a non-perturbative quantization of this phase space must be a choice of Dirac charge quantization-condition for the C-field.

Hypothesis H: (FSS 19b,FSS 19c) The C-field is charge quantized in J-twisted Cohomotopy cohomology theory.

Motivation from re-analysis of the brane-scan

This Hypothesis H is motivated by analysis (based on Sati 13, Sec. 2.5 see FSS 19a for comprehensive review) of super p-brane WZ terms in super homotopy theory, which proves that – in the approximation of rational homotopy theoryM-brane charge is in rational Cohomotopy in exactly the same way that D-brane charge is in twisted K-theory.

Detailed lecture note on this point are at geometry of physics – fundamental super p-branes, in the section M-Flux fields.


Assuming Hypothesis H, we have a well-defined covariant phase space and may rigorously derive properties of the resulting states and observables. These are the implications of Hypothesis H. To the extent that these implications match known facts of perturbative string theory and to the extent that they match folklore about M-theory, Hypothesis H finds support, to the extend that they do not Hypothesis H may need to be adjusted or abandoned.

Anomaly cancellation

What physicists call anomalies are what mathematician call obstructions to the construction of a physical theory. Hence cancellation of all anomalies in every quantum field theory that folklore expects to be a limiting case of M-theory is strictly necessary for M-theory to exist: Any remaining anomaly is an obstruction against the existence of the theory that it is an anomaly of.

A long list of anomaly cancellation conditions in M-theory has been argued for in the literature, obtained from a variety of different arguments and under various assumptions, but supported by a web of consistency checks.

Theorem (FSS 19b, FSS 19c, SS 19a)

Hypothesis H implies the following list of anomaly cancellation consistency conditions expected in the M-theory folklore:

On curved but non-singular 8-manifolds

Here is a quick survey of the implications of Hypothesis H on expected M-theory anomaly cancellation conditions for M-theory on 8-manifolds:

download: pdf

On flat but singular orbifolds:

Hypothesis H implies RR-field tadpole cancellation on flat orbifolds with ADE-singularities, including the absolute O-plane charge and hence the SemiSpin(32)-gauge group of type I' string theory, dually of heterotic string theory. This is the heart of what came to be known as the “first string theory revolution” (Schwarz 07).

From SS 19a:

Microscopic brane physics

The core aspect of D-brane physics is the folklore (see BMSS 19, p. 3) that, at low energy, coincident D-branes carry Yang-Mills gauge theory on their worldvolumes. This is the starting point of geometric engineering of quantum field theory in intersecting D-brane models and without this phenomenon, string theory would be irrelevant for phenomenology.

Moreover, folklore has it (but see the issues with the nonabelian DBI action here) that at small-scale/high-energy intersecting branes show the deep quantum phenomena associated with monopoles in Yang-Mills theory, which ultimately lead to the partial formulation of M-theory via the BFSS matrix model and the BMN matrix model.

Hypothesis H implies that the states and observables of M-theory reflect the following expected phenomena for Dp-D(p+2)-brane intersections:

From SS 19c:


Motivation by results in rational Cohomotopy

Hypothesis H is motivated by analysis of super p-brane WZ terms in super homotopy theory, which proves that – in the approximation of rational homotopy theoryM-brane charge is in rational Cohomotopy in exactly the same way that D-brane charge is in twisted K-theory.

This is due to

  • Hisham Sati:

    Section 2.5 of:

    Framed M-branes, corners, and topological invariants,

    J. Math. Phys. 59 (2018), 062304


and was further developed in

A comprehensive exposition and review is in:

Formulation in full Cohomotopy theory

The detailed form of Hypothesis H was formulated, and first consistency checks were made, in:

See also

Exposition and talk notes

Last revised on September 10, 2020 at 08:11:23. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.