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Nothing is certain in string compactifications

García Etxebarria, Iñaki; Montero, Miguel; Sousa, Kepa; Valenzuela, Irene

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Miguel Montero

Kepa Sousa

Irene Valenzuela


A bubble of nothing is a spacetime instability where a compact dimension collapses. After nucleation, it expands at the speed of light, leaving “nothing” behind. We argue that the topological and dynamical mechanisms which could protect a compactification against decay to nothing seem to be absent in string compactifications once supersymmetry is broken. The topological obstruction lies in a bordism group and, surprisingly, it can disappear even for a SUSY-compatible spin structure. As a proof of principle, we construct an explicit bubble of nothing for a T3 with completely periodic (SUSY-compatible) spin structure in an Einstein dilaton Gauss-Bonnet theory, which arises in the low-energy limit of certain heterotic and type II flux compactifications. Without the topological protection, supersymmetric compactifications are purely stabilized by a Coleman-deLuccia mechanism, which relies on a certain local energy condition. This is violated in our example by the nonsupersymmetric GB term. In the presence of fluxes this energy condition gets modified and its violation might be related to the Weak Gravity Conjecture. We expect that our techniques can be used to construct a plethora of new bubbles of nothing in any setup where the low-energy bordism group vanishes, including type II compactifications on CY3, AdS flux compactifications on 5-manifolds, and M-theory on 7-manifolds. This lends further evidence to the conjecture that any non-supersymmetric vacuum of quantum gravity is ultimately unstable.


García Etxebarria, I., Montero, M., Sousa, K., & Valenzuela, I. (2020). Nothing is certain in string compactifications. Journal of High Energy Physics, 2020, Article 32.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 30, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 4, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 13, 2021
Journal Journal of High Energy Physics
Print ISSN 1126-6708
Electronic ISSN 1029-8479
Publisher Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2020
Article Number 32
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Copyright Statement
Open Access . This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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