## Abstract

We suggest that the gauge-invariant hedgehog-like structures in the Wilson loops are physically interesting degrees of freedom in the Yang-Mills theory. The trajectories of these "hedgehog loops" are closed curves corresponding to center-valued (untraced) Wilson loops and are characterized by the center charge and winding number. We show numerically in the SU(2) Yang-Mills theory that the density of hedgehog structures in the thermal Wilson-Polyakov line is very sensitive to the finite-temperature phase transition. The (additively normalized) hedgehog line density behaves like an order parameter: The density is almost independent of the temperature in the confinement phase and changes substantially as the system enters the deconfinement phase. In particular, our results suggest that the (static) hedgehog lines may be relevant degrees of freedom around the deconfinement transition and thus affect evolution of the quark-gluon plasma in high-energy heavy-ion collisions.

Original language | English |
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Pages (from-to) | 524-539 |

Number of pages | 16 |

Journal | Nuclear Physics B |

Volume | 748 |

Issue number | 3 |

DOIs | |

State | Published - 7 Aug 2006 |

Externally published | Yes |

## Keywords

- Deconfinement phase transition
- Finite temperature
- Lattice gauge theory
- Topological defects
- Yang-Mills theory