The higher gauge field in 11-dimensional supergravity—the C-field—is constrained by quantum effects to be a cocycle in some twisted version of differential cohomology. We argue that it should indeed be a cocycle in a certain twisted nonabelian differential cohomology. We give a simple and natural characterization of the full smooth moduli 3-stack of configurations of the C-field, the gravitational field/background, and the (auxiliary) E8-field. We show that the truncation of this moduli 3-stack to a bare 1-groupoid of field configurations reproduces the differential integral Wu structures that Hopkins–Singer had shown to formalize Witten’s argument on the nature of the C-field. We give a similarly simple and natural characterization of the moduli 2-stack of boundary C-field configurations and show that it is equivalent to the moduli 2-stack of anomaly free heterotic supergravity field configurations. Finally, we show how to naturally encode the Hořava–Witten boundary condition on the level of moduli 3-stacks, and refine it from a condition on 3-forms to a condition on the corresponding full differential cocycles.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Mathematical Physics