Abstract:
We describe a method for efficiently hashing multiple messages of different lengths. Such computations occur in various scenarios, and one of them is when an operating system checks the integrity of its components during boot time. These tasks can gain performance by parallelizing the computations and using SIMD architectures. For such scenarios, we compare the performance of a new 4-buffers SHA-256 S-HASH implementation, to that of the standard serial hashing. Our results are measured on the 2nd Generation Intel^{?} Core^{TM} Processor, and demonstrate SHA-256 processing at effectively ~5.2 Cycles per Byte, when hashing from any of the three cache levels, or from the system memory. This represents speedup by a factor of 3.42x compared to OpenSSL (1.0.1), and by 2.25x compared to the recent and faster n-SMS method. For hashing from a disk, we show an effective rate of ~6.73 Cycles/Byte, which is almost 3 times faster than OpenSSL (1.0.1) under the same conditions. These results indicate that for some usage models, SHA-256 is significantly faster than commonly perceived.

Abstract:
We describe an infinite-parametric class of effective metric Lagrangians that arise from an underlying theory with two propagating degrees of freedom. The Lagrangians start with the Einstein-Hilbert term, continue with the standard R^2, (Ricci)^2 terms, and in the next order contain (Riemann)^3 as well as on-shell vanishing terms. This is exactly the structure of the effective metric Lagrangian that renormalizes quantum gravity divergences at two-loops. This shows that the theory underlying the effective field theory of gravity may have no more degrees of freedom than is already contained in general relativity. We show that the reason why an effective metric theory may describe just two propagating degrees of freedom is that there exists a (non-local) field redefinition that maps an infinitely complicated effective metric Lagrangian to the usual Einstein-Hilbert one. We describe this map for our class of theories and, in particular, exhibit it explicitly for the (Riemann)^3 term.

Abstract:
Spin foam models of quantum gravity are based on Plebanski's formulation of general relativity as a constrained BF theory. We give an alternative formulation of gravity as BF theory plus a certain potential term for the B-field. When the potential is taken to be infinitely steep one recovers general relativity. For a generic potential the theory still describes gravity in that it propagates just two graviton polarizations. The arising class of theories is of the type amenable to spin foam quantization methods, and, we argue, may allow one to come to terms with renormalization in the spin foam context.

Abstract:
The formula for the area eigenvalues that was obtained by many authors within the approach known as loop quantum gravity states that each edge of a spin network contributes an area proportional to sqrt{j(j+1)} times Planck length squared to any surface it transversely intersects. However, some confusion exists in the literature as to a value of the proportionality coefficient. The purpose of this rather technical note is to fix this coefficient. We present a calculation which shows that in a sector of quantum theory based on the connection A=Gamma-gamma*K, where Gamma is the spin connection compatible with the triad field, K is the extrinsic curvature and gamma is Immirzi parameter, the value of the multiplicative factor is 8*pi*gamma. In other words, each edge of a spin network contributes an area 8*pi*gamma*l_p^2*sqrt{j(j+1)} to any surface it transversely intersects.

Abstract:
We argue that four-dimensional quantum gravity may be essentially renormalizable if one relaxes the assumption of metricity of the theory. We work with Plebanski formulation of general relativity in which the metric (tetrad), the connection, and the curvature are all independent variables and the usual relations among these quantities are valid only on-shell. One of the Euler-Lagrange equations of this theory ensures its metricity. We show that quantum corrected action contains a counterterm that destroys this metricity property, and that no other counterterms appear, at least, at the one-loop level. The new term in the action is akin to a curvature-dependent cosmological ``constant''.

Abstract:
We describe "small bodies" in a non-metric gravity theory previously studied by this author. The main dynamical field of the theory is a certain triple of two-forms rather than the metric, with only the spacetime conformal structure, not metric, being canonically defined. The theory is obtained from general relativity (GR) in Plebanski formulation by adding to the action a certain potential. Importantly, the modification does not change the number of propagating degrees of freedom as compared to GR. We find that "small bodies" move along geodesics of a certain metric that is constructed with the help of a new potential function that appears in the matter sector. We then use the "small body" results to formulate a prescription for coupling the theory to general stress-energy tensor. In its final formulation the theory takes an entirely standard form, with matter propagating in a metric background and only the matter-gravity coupling and the gravitational dynamics being modified. This completes the construction of the theory and opens way to an analysis of its physical predictions.

Abstract:
We give a pedagogical introduction into an old, but unfortunately not commonly known formulation of GR in terms of self-dual two-forms due to in particular Jerzy Plebanski. Our presentation is rather explicit in that we show how the familiar textbook solutions: Schwarzschild, Volkoff-Oppenheimer, as well as those describing the Newtonian limit, a gravitational wave and the homogeneous isotropic Universe can be obtained within this formalism. Our description shows how Plebanski formulation gives quite an economical alternative to the usual metric and frame-based schemes for deriving Einstein equations.

Abstract:
We review the status of a certain (infinite) class of four-dimensional generally covariant theories propagating two degrees of freedom that are formulated without any direct mention of the metric. General relativity itself (in its Plebanski formulation) belongs to the class, so these theories are examples of modified gravity. We summarize the current understanding of the nature of the modification, of the renormalizability properties of these theories, of their coupling to matter fields, and describe some of their physical properties.

Abstract:
We show that the constraint algebra of Ashtekar's Hamiltonian formulation of general relativity can be non-trivially deformed by allowing the cosmological constant to become an arbitrary function of the (Weyl) curvature. Our result implies that there is not one but infinitely many (parameterized by an arbitrary function) four-dimensional gravity theories propagating two degrees of freedom.

Abstract:
In Plebanski's self-dual formulation general relativity becomes SO(3) BF theory supplemented with the so-called simplicity (or metricity) constraints for the B-field. The main dynamical equation of the theory states that the curvature of the B-compatible SO(3) connection is self-dual, with the notion of self-duality being defined by the B-field. We describe a theory obtained by dropping the metricity constraints, keeping only the requirement that the curvature of the B-compatible connection is self-dual. It turns out that the theory one obtains is to a very large degree fixed by the Bianchi identities. Moreover, it is still a gravity theory, with just two propagating degrees of freedom as in GR.