Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics

Volume 24 (2020)

Number 6

JT gravity and the ensembles of random matrix theory

Pages: 1475 – 1680



Douglas Stanford (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A.; and Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics, Stanford, California, U.S.A.)

Edward Witten (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A.)


We generalize the recently discovered relationship between JT gravity and double-scaled random matrix theory to the case that the boundary theory may have time-reversal symmetry and may have fermions with or without supersymmetry. The matching between variants of JT gravity and matrix ensembles depends on the assumed symmetries. Time-reversal symmetry in the boundary theory means that unorientable spacetimes must be considered in the bulk. In such a case, the partition function of JT gravity is still related to the volume of the moduli space of conformal structures, but this volume has a quantum correction and has to be computed using Reidemeister–Ray–Singer “torsion.” Presence of fermions in the boundary theory (and thus a symmetry $(-1)^\mathsf{F}$) means that the bulk has a spin or pin structure. Supersymmetry in the boundary means that the bulk theory is associated to JT supergravity and is related to the volume of the moduli space of super Riemann surfaces rather than of ordinary Riemann surfaces. In all cases we match JT gravity or supergravity with an appropriate random matrix ensemble. All ten standard random matrix ensembles make an appearance—the three Dyson ensembles and the seven Altland–Zirnbauer ensembles. To facilitate the analysis, we extend to the other ensembles techniques that are most familiar in the case of the original Wigner–Dyson ensemble of hermitian matrices. We also generalize Mirzakhani’s recursion for the volumes of ordinary moduli space to the case of super Riemann surfaces.

Published 7 July 2021