**Gist**

Graviton, postulated quantum that is thought to be the carrier of the gravitational field. It is analogous to the well-established photon of the electromagnetic field. Gravitons, like photons, would be massless, electrically uncharged particles traveling at the speed of light.

**Details**

In theories of quantum gravity, the graviton is the hypothetical quantum of gravity, an elementary particle that mediates the force of gravitational interaction. There is no complete quantum field theory of gravitons due to an outstanding mathematical problem with renormalization in general relativity. In string theory, believed by some to be a consistent theory of quantum gravity, the graviton is a massless state of a fundamental string.

If it exists, the graviton is expected to be massless because the gravitational force has a very long range, and appears to propagate at the speed of light. The graviton must be a spin-2 boson because the source of gravitation is the stress–energy tensor, a second-order tensor (compared with electromagnetism's spin-1 photon, the source of which is the four-current, a first-order tensor). Additionally, it can be shown that any massless spin-2 field would give rise to a force indistinguishable from gravitation, because a massless spin-2 field would couple to the stress–energy tensor in the same way gravitational interactions do. This result suggests that, if a massless spin-2 particle is discovered, it must be the graviton.

**Theory**

It is hypothesized that gravitational interactions are mediated by an as yet undiscovered elementary particle, dubbed the graviton. The three other known forces of nature are mediated by elementary particles: electromagnetism by the photon, the strong interaction by gluons, and the weak interaction by the W and Z bosons. All three of these forces appear to be accurately described by the Standard Model of particle physics. In the classical limit, a successful theory of gravitons would reduce to general relativity, which itself reduces to Newton's law of gravitation in the weak-field limit.

**History**

Albert Einstein discussed quantized gravitational radiation in 1916, the year following his publication of general relativity. The term graviton was coined in 1934 by Soviet physicists Dmitry Blokhintsev and Fyodor Galperin. Paul Dirac reintroduced the term in a number of lectures in 1959, noting that the energy of the gravitational field should come in quanta. A mediation of the gravitational interaction by particles was anticipated by Pierre-Simon Laplace. Just like Newton's anticipation of photons, Laplace's anticipated "gravitons" had a greater speed than the speed of light in vacuum c, the speed of gravitons expected in modern theories, and were not connected to quantum mechanics or special relativity, since these theories didn't yet exist during Laplace's lifetime.

**Gravitons and renormalization**

When describing graviton interactions, the classical theory of Feynman diagrams and semiclassical corrections such as one-loop diagrams behave normally. However, Feynman diagrams with at least two loops lead to ultraviolet divergences.[13] These infinite results cannot be removed because quantized general relativity is not perturbatively renormalizable, unlike quantum electrodynamics and models such as the Yang–Mills theory. Therefore, incalculable answers are found from the perturbation method by which physicists calculate the probability of a particle to emit or absorb gravitons, and the theory loses predictive veracity. Those problems and the complementary approximation framework are grounds to show that a theory more unified than quantized general relativity is required to describe the behavior near the Planck scale.

**Comparison with other forces**

Like the force carriers of the other forces (see photon, gluon, W and Z bosons), the graviton plays a role in general relativity, in defining the spacetime in which events take place. In some descriptions energy modifies the "shape" of spacetime itself, and gravity is a result of this shape, an idea which at first glance may appear hard to match with the idea of a force acting between particles. Because the diffeomorphism invariance of the theory does not allow any particular space-time background to be singled out as the "true" space-time background, general relativity is said to be background-independent. In contrast, the Standard Model is not background-independent, with Minkowski space enjoying a special status as the fixed background space-time. A theory of quantum gravity is needed in order to reconcile these differences. Whether this theory should be background-independent is an open question. The answer to this question will determine the understanding of what specific role gravitation plays in the fate of the universe.

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