Ghost Instabilities in Self-Interacting Vector Fields: The Problem with Proca Fields

Katy Clough, Thomas Helfer, Helvi Witek, Emanuele Berti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Massive vector fields feature in several areas of particle physics, e.g., as carriers of weak interactions, dark matter candidates, or an effective description of photons in a plasma. Here, we investigate vector fields with self-interactions by replacing the mass term in the Proca equation with a general potential. We show that this seemingly benign modification inevitably introduces ghost instabilities of the same kind as those recently identified for vector-tensor theories of modified gravity (but in this simpler, minimally coupled theory). It has been suggested that nonperturbative dynamics may drive systems away from such instabilities. We demonstrate that this is not the case by evolving a self-interacting Proca field on a Kerr background, where it grows due to the superradiant instability. The system initially evolves as in the massive case, but instabilities are triggered in a finite time once the self-interaction becomes significant. These instabilities have implications for the formation of condensates of massive, self-interacting vector bosons, the possibility of spin-one bosenovae, vector dark matter models, and effective models for interacting photons in a plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151102
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Oct 7 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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