Unitarity constraints on the ratio of shear viscosity to entropy density in higher derivative gravity

Ram Brustein, A. J.M. Medved

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We discuss corrections to the ratio of shear viscosity to entropy density η/s in higher-derivative gravity theories. Generically, these theories contain ghost modes with Planck-scale masses. Motivated by general considerations about unitarity, we propose new boundary conditions for the equations of motion of the graviton perturbations that force the amplitude of the ghosts modes to vanish. We analyze explicitly four-derivative perturbative corrections to Einstein gravity which generically lead to four-derivative equations of motion, compare our choice of boundary conditions to previous proposals and show that, with our new prescription, the ratio η/s remains at the Einstein-gravity value of 1/4π to leading order in the corrections. It is argued that, when the new boundary conditions are imposed on six and higher-derivative equations of motion, η/s can only increase from the Einstein-gravity value. We also recall some general arguments that support the validity of our results to all orders in the strength of the corrections to Einstein gravity. We then discuss the particular case of Gauss-Bonnet gravity, for which the equations of motion are only of two-derivative order and the value of η/s can decrease below 1/4π when treated in a nonperturbative way. Our findings provide further evidence for the validity of the KSS bound for theories that can be viewed as perturbative corrections to Einstein gravity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126005
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 8 Jun 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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