Total angular momentum waves for scalar, vector, and tensor fields

Liang Dai, Marc Kamionkowski, Donghui Jeong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Most calculations in cosmological perturbation theory, including those dealing with the inflationary generation of perturbations, their time evolution, and their observational consequences, decompose those perturbations into plane waves (Fourier modes). However, for some calculations, particularly those involving observations performed on a spherical sky, a decomposition into waves of fixed total angular momentum (TAM) may be more appropriate. Here we introduce TAM waves-solutions of fixed total angular momentum to the Helmholtz equation-for three-dimensional scalar, vector, and tensor fields. The vector TAM waves of given total angular momentum can be decomposed further into a set of three basis functions of fixed orbital angular momentum, a set of fixed helicity, or a basis consisting of a longitudinal (L) and two transverse (E and B) TAM waves. The symmetric traceless rank-2 tensor TAM waves can be similarly decomposed into a basis of fixed orbital angular momentum or fixed helicity, or a basis that consists of a longitudinal (L), two vector (VE and VB, of opposite parity), and two tensor (TE and TB, of opposite parity) waves. We show how all of the vector and tensor TAM waves can be obtained by applying derivative operators to scalar TAM waves. This operator approach then allows one to decompose a vector field into three covariant scalar fields for the L, E, and B components and symmetric-traceless-tensor fields into five covariant scalar fields for the L, VE, VB, TE, and TB components. We provide projections of the vector and tensor TAM waves onto vector and tensor spherical harmonics. We provide calculational detail to facilitate the assimilation of this formalism into cosmological calculations. As an example, we calculate the power spectra of the deflection angle for gravitational lensing by density perturbations and by gravitational waves. We comment on an alternative approach to cosmic microwave background fluctuations based on TAM waves. An accompanying paper will work out three-point functions in terms of TAM waves and their relation to the usual Fourier-space bispectra. Our work may have applications elsewhere in field theory and in general relativity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125013
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 4 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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