Ostrogradsky in theories with multiple fields

Claudia De Rham, Andrew Matas

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77 Scopus citations


We review how the (absence of) Ostrogradsky instability manifests itself in theories with multiple fields. It has recently been appreciated that when multiple fields are present, the existence of higher derivatives may not automatically imply the existence of ghosts. We discuss the connection with gravitational theories like massive gravity and beyond Horndeski which manifest higher derivatives in some formulations and yet are free of Ostrogradsky ghost. We also examine an interesting new class of Extended Scalar-Tensor Theories of gravity which has been recently proposed. We show that for a subclass of these theories, the tensor modes are either not dynamical or are infinitely strongly coupled. Among the remaining theories for which the tensor modes are well-defined one counts one new model that is not field-redefinable to Horndeski via a conformal and disformal transformation but that does require the vacuum to break Lorentz invariance. We discuss the implications for the effective field theory of dark energy and the stability of the theory. In particular we find that if we restrict ourselves to the Extended Scalar-Tensor class of theories for which the tensors are well-behaved and the scalar is free from gradient or ghost instabilities on FLRW then we recover Horndeski up to field redefinitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number041
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 23 2016


  • dark energy theory
  • modified gravity


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