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Monstrous dessins 1

Dedekind’s Psi-function $\Psi(n)= n \prod_{p |n}(1 + \frac{1}{p})$ pops up in a number of topics:

  • $\Psi(n)$ is the index of the congruence subgroup $\Gamma_0(n)$ in the modular group $\Gamma=PSL_2(\mathbb{Z})$,
  • $\Psi(n)$ is the number of points in the projective line $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z})$,
  • $\Psi(n)$ is the number of classes of $2$-dimensional lattices $L_{M \frac{g}{h}}$ at hyperdistance $n$ in Conway’s big picture from the standard lattice $L_1$,
  • $\Psi(n)$ is the number of admissible maximal commuting sets of operators in the Pauli group of a single qudit.

The first and third interpretation have obvious connections with Monstrous Moonshine.

Conway’s big picture originated from the desire to better understand the Moonshine groups, and Ogg’s Jack Daniels problem
asks for a conceptual interpretation of the fact that the prime numbers such that $\Gamma_0(p)^+$ is a genus zero group are exactly the prime divisors of the order of the Monster simple group.

Here’s a nice talk by Ken Ono : Can’t you just feel the Moonshine?



For this reason it might be worthwhile to make the connection between these two concepts and the number of points of $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z})$ as explicit as possible.

Surely all of this is classical, but it is nicely summarised in the paper by Tatitscheff, He and McKay “Cusps, congruence groups and monstrous dessins”.

The ‘monstrous dessins’ from their title refers to the fact that the lattices $L_{M \frac{g}{h}}$ at hyperdistance $n$ from $L_1$ are permuted by the action of the modular groups and so determine a Grothendieck’s dessin d’enfant. In this paper they describe the dessins corresponding to the $15$ genus zero congruence subgroups $\Gamma_0(n)$, that is when $n=1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12,13,16,18$ or $25$.

Here’s the ‘monstrous dessin’ for $\Gamma_0(6)$



But, one can compute these dessins for arbitrary $n$, describing the ripples in Conway’s big picture, and try to figure out whether they are consistent with the Riemann hypothesis.

We will get there eventually, but let’s start at an easy pace and try to describe the points of the projective line $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z})$.

Over a field $k$ the points of $\mathbb{P}^1(k)$ correspond to the lines through the origin in the affine plane $\mathbb{A}^2(k)$ and they can represented by projective coordinates $[a:b]$ which are equivalence classes of couples $(a,b) \in k^2- \{ (0,0) \}$ under scalar multiplication with non-zero elements in $k$, so with points $[a:1]$ for all $a \in k$ together with the point at infinity $[1:0]$. When $n=p$ is a prime number we have $\# \mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z}) = p+1$. Here are the $8$ lines through the origin in $\mathbb{A}^2(\mathbb{Z}/7\mathbb{Z})$



Over an arbitrary (commutative) ring $R$ the points of $\mathbb{P}^1(R)$ again represent equivalence classes, this time of pairs
\[
(a,b) \in R^2~:~aR+bR=R \]
with respect to scalar multiplication by units in $R$, that is
\[
(a,b) \sim (c,d)~\quad~\text{iff}~\qquad \exists \lambda \in R^*~:~a=\lambda c, b = \lambda d \]
For $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z})$ we have to find all pairs of integers $(a,b) \in \mathbb{Z}^2$ with $0 \leq a,b < n$ with $gcd(a,b)=1$ and use Cremona’s trick to test for equivalence:
\[
(a,b) = (c,d) \in \mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z})~\quad \text{iff}~\quad ad-bc \equiv 0~mod~n \]
The problem is to find a canonical representative in each class in an efficient way because this is used a huge number of times in working with modular symbols.

Perhaps the best algorithm, for large $n$, is sketched in pages 145-146 of Bill Stein’s Modular forms: a computational approach.

For small $n$ the algorithm in $\S 1.3$ in the Tatitscheff, He and McKay paper suffices:

  • Consider the action of $(\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z})^*$ on $\{ 0,1,…,n-1 \}=\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z}$ and let $D$ be the set of the smallest elements in each orbit,
  • For each $d \in D$ compute the stabilizer subgroup $G_d$ for this action and let $C_d$ be the set of smallest elements in each $G_d$-orbit on the set of all elements in $\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z}$ coprime with $d$,
  • Then $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z})= \{ [c:d]~|~d \in D, c \in C_d \}$.

Let’s work this out for $n=12$ which will be our running example (the smallest non-squarefree non-primepower):

  • $(\mathbb{Z}/12\mathbb{Z})^* = \{ 1,5,7,11 \} \simeq C_2 \times C_2$,
  • The orbits on $\{ 0,1,…,11 \}$ are
    \[
    \{ 0 \}, \{ 1,5,7,11 \}, \{ 2,10 \}, \{ 3,9 \}, \{ 4,8 \}, \{ 6 \} \]
    and $D=\{ 0,1,2,3,4,6 \}$,
  • $G_0 = C_2 \times C_2$, $G_1 = \{ 1 \}$, $G_2 = \{ 1,7 \}$, $G_3 = \{ 1,5 \}$, $G_4=\{ 1,7 \}$ and $G_6=C_2 \times C_2$,
  • $1$ is the only number coprime with $0$, giving us $[1:0]$,
  • $\{ 0,1,…,11 \}$ are all coprime with $1$, and we have trivial stabilizer, giving us the points $[0:1],[1:1],…,[11:1]$,
  • $\{ 1,3,5,7,9,11 \}$ are coprime with $2$ and under the action of $\{ 1,7 \}$ they split into the orbits
    \[
    \{ 1,7 \},~\{ 3,9 \},~\{ 5,11 \} \]
    giving us the points $[1:2],[3:2]$ and $[5:2]$,
  • $\{ 1,2,4,5,7,8,10,11 \}$ are coprime with $3$, the action of $\{ 1,5 \}$ gives us the orbits
    \[
    \{ 1,5 \},~\{ 2,10 \},~\{ 4,8 \},~\{ 7,11 \} \]
    and additional points $[1:3],[2:3],[4:3]$ and $[7:3]$,
  • $\{ 1,3,5,7,9,11 \}$ are coprime with $4$ and under the action of $\{ 1,7 \}$ we get orbits
    \[
    \{ 1,7 \},~\{ 3,9 \},~\{ 5,11 \} \]
    and points $[1:4],[3:4]$ and $[5,4]$,
  • Finally, $\{ 1,5,7,11 \}$ are the only coprimes with $6$ and they form a single orbit under $C_2 \times C_2$ giving us just one additional point $[1:6]$.

This gives us all $24= \Psi(12)$ points of $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/12 \mathbb{Z})$ (strangely, op page 43 of the T-H-M paper they use different representants).

One way to see that $\# \mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z}) = \Psi(n)$ comes from a consequence of the Chinese Remainder Theorem that for the prime factorization $n = p_1^{e_1} … p_k^{e_k}$ we have
\[
\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z}) = \mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/p_1^{e_1} \mathbb{Z}) \times … \times \mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/p_k^{e_k} \mathbb{Z}) \]
and for a prime power $p^k$ we have canonical representants for $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/p^k \mathbb{Z})$
\[
[a:1]~\text{for}~a=0,1,…,p^k-1~\quad \text{and} \quad [1:b]~\text{for}~b=0,p,2p,3p,…,p^k-p \]
which shows that $\# \mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/p^k \mathbb{Z}) = (p+1)p^{k-1}= \Psi(p^k)$.

Next time, we’ll connect $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n \mathbb{Z})$ to Conway’s big picture and the congruence subgroup $\Gamma_0(n)$.

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Grothendieck’s gribouillis (4)

Fortunately, there are a few certainties left in life:

In spring, you might expect the next instalment of Connes’ and Consani’s quest for Gabriel’s topos. Here’s the latest: $\overline{\mathbf{Spec}(\mathbb{Z})}$ and the Gromov norm.

Every half year or so, Mochizuki’s circle-of-friends tries to create some buzz announcing the next IUTeich-workshop. I’ll spare you the link, if you are still interested, follow math_jin or IUTT_bot_math_jin on Twitter.

And then, there’s the never-ending story of Grothendieck’s griboullis, kept alive by the French journalist and author Philippe Douroux.

Here are some recent links:

Alexandre Grothendieck : une mathématique en cathédrale gothique, an article (in French) by Philippe Douroux in Le Monde, May 6th (behind paywall).

L’histoire étonnante des archives du mathématicien Alexandre Grothendieck, an article (in French) on France Inter by Mathieu Vidar, based on info from Philippe Douroux.

Les archives mystérieuses de Alexandre Grothendieck, a podcast of a broadcast on France Inter on June 10th. Interesting interview (in French) with Philippe Douroux and the French mathematician Etienne Ghys (with a guest appearance by Luc Illusie).

El enigmático legado de un genio de las matemáticas, an article (in Spanish) in El Pais, May 13th, with 8 photos of some of the Gribouillis. The two pictures in this post are taken from this article.

So, what’s the latest on the 70.000+ pages left by Grothendieck?

As far as i know, the Mormoiron part of the gribouillis is still at the University of Montpellier, and has been made available online at the Grothendieck archives.

The Lasserre part of the gribouillis is still in a cellar in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés, belonging to Jean-Bernard Gillot. The French national library cannot take possession of the notes before a financial agreement is reached with Grothendieck’s children (French law does not allow children to be disinherited).

And there’s a dispute about the price to be paid. The notes were estimated at 45.000 Euros, but some prefer to believe that they may be worth several millions of dollars.

It all depends on their mathematical content.

Unfortunately, pictures claimed to be of the Lasserre notes (such as the one above) are in fact from the Mormoiron/Montpellier notes, which do indeed contain interesting mathematics.

But, it is very unlikely that the Lasserre notes contain (math) surprises. Probably, most of them look like this one

endless lists of people deported by the Nazis to extermination camps in WW2.

Or, as Philippe Douroux is quoted in the El Pais piece: “I think it’s a treasure, maybe not a mathematical one, but a human one. It’s a descent into the hell of one the best organised brains in the world.”



The film made by Catherine Aira and Yves Le Pestipon “Alexandre Grothendieck: On the Paths of a Genius” (on the quest for G’s last hideout in the French Pyrenees) can now be watched on YouTube (with English subtitles)

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the Riemann hypothesis and Psi

Last time we revisited Robin’s theorem saying that 5040 being the largest counterexample to the bound
\[
\frac{\sigma(n)}{n~log(log(n))} < e^{\gamma} = 1.78107... \] is equivalent to the Riemann hypothesis.

There’s an industry of similar results using other arithmetic functions. Today, we’ll focus on Dedekind’s Psi function
\[
\Psi(n) = n \prod_{p | n}(1 + \frac{1}{p}) \]
where $p$ runs over the prime divisors of $n$. It is series A001615 in the online encyclopedia of integer sequences and it starts off with

1, 3, 4, 6, 6, 12, 8, 12, 12, 18, 12, 24, 14, 24, 24, 24, 18, 36, 20, 36, 32, 36, 24, 48, 30, 42, 36, 48, 30, 72, 32, 48, 48, 54, 48, …

and here’s a plot of its first 1000 values



To understand this behaviour it is best to focus on the ‘slopes’ $\frac{\Psi(n)}{n}=\prod_{p|n}(1+\frac{1}{p})$.

So, the red dots of minimal ‘slope’ $\approx 1$ correspond to the prime numbers, and the ‘outliers’ have a maximal number of distinct small prime divisors. Look at $210 = 2 \times 3 \times 5 \times 7$ and its multiples $420,630$ and $840$ in the picture.

For this reason the primorial numbers, which are the products of the fist $k$ prime numbers, play a special role. This is series A002110 starting off with

1, 2, 6, 30, 210, 2310, 30030, 510510, 9699690, 223092870,…

In Patrick Solé and Michel Planat Extreme values of the Dedekind $\Psi$ function, it is shown that the primorials play a similar role for Dedekind’s Psi as the superabundant numbers play for the sum-of-divisors function $\sigma(n)$.

That is, if $N_k$ is the $k$-th primorial, then for all $n < N_k$ we have that the 'slope' at $n$ is strictly below that of $N_k$ \[ \frac{\Psi(n)}{n} < \frac{\Psi(N_k)}{N_k} \] which follows immediately from the fact that any $n < N_k$ can have at most $k-1$ distinct prime factors and $p \mapsto 1 + \frac{1}{p}$ is a strictly decreasing function.

Another easy, but nice, observation is that for all $n$ we have the inequalities
\[
n^2 > \phi(n) \times \psi(n) > \frac{n^2}{\zeta(2)} \]
where $\phi(n)$ is Euler’s totient function
\[
\phi(n) = n \prod_{p | n}(1 – \frac{1}{p}) \]
This follows as once from the definitions of $\phi(n)$ and $\Psi(n)$
\[
\phi(n) \times \Psi(n) = n^2 \prod_{p|n}(1 – \frac{1}{p^2}) < n^2 \prod_{p~\text{prime}} (1 - \frac{1}{p^2}) = \frac{n^2}{\zeta(2)} \] But now it starts getting interesting.

In the proof of his theorem, Guy Robin used a result of his Ph.D. advisor Jean-Louis Nicolas



known as Nicolas’ criterion for the Riemann hypothesis: RH is true if and only if for all $k$ we have the inequality for the $k$-th primorial number $N_k$
\[
\frac{N_k}{\phi(N_k)~log(log(N_k))} > e^{\gamma} \]
From the above lower bound on $\phi(n) \times \Psi(n)$ we have for $n=N_k$ that
\[
\frac{\Psi(N_k)}{N_k} > \frac{N_k}{\phi(N_k) \zeta(2)} \]
and combining this with Nicolas’ criterion we get
\[
\frac{\Psi(N_k)}{N_k~log(log(N_k))} > \frac{N_k}{\phi(N_k)~log(log(N_k)) \zeta(2)} > \frac{e^{\gamma}}{\zeta(2)} \approx 1.08… \]
In fact, Patrick Solé and Michel Planat prove in their paper Extreme values of the Dedekind $\Psi$ function that RH is equivalent to the lower bound
\[
\frac{\Psi(N_k)}{N_k~log(log(N_k))} > \frac{e^{\gamma}}{\zeta(2)} \]
holding for all $k \geq 3$.

Dedekind’s Psi function pops up in lots of interesting mathematics.

In the theory of modular forms, Dedekind himself used it to describe the index of the congruence subgroup $\Gamma_0(n)$ in the full modular group $\Gamma$.

In other words, it gives us the number of tiles needed in the Dedekind tessellation to describe the fundamental domain of the action of $\Gamma_0(n)$ on the upper half-plane by Moebius transformations.

When $n=6$ we have $\Psi(6)=12$ and we can view its fundamental domain via these Sage commands:


G=Gamma0(6)
FareySymbol(G).fundamental_domain()

giving us the 24 back or white tiles (note that these tiles are each fundamental domains of the extended modular group, so we have twice as many of them as for subgroups of the modular group)



But, there are plenty of other, seemingly unrelated, topics where $\Psi(n)$ appears. To name just a few:

  • The number of points on the projective line $\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z})$.
  • The number of lattices at hyperdistance $n$ in Conway’s big picture.
  • The number of admissible maximal commuting sets of operators in the Pauli group for the $n$ qudit.

and there are explicit natural one-to-one correspondences between all these manifestations of $\Psi(n)$, tbc.

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the Riemann hypothesis and 5040

Yesterday, there was an interesting post by John Baez at the n-category cafe: The Riemann Hypothesis Says 5040 is the Last.

The 5040 in the title refers to the largest known counterexample to a bound for the sum-of-divisors function
\[
\sigma(n) = \sum_{d | n} d = n \sum_{d | n} \frac{1}{n} \]

In 1983, the french mathematician Guy Robin proved that the Riemann hypothesis is equivalent to
\[
\frac{\sigma(n)}{n~log(log(n))} < e^{\gamma} = 1.78107... \] when $n > 5040$.

The other known counterexamples to this bound are the numbers 3,4,5,6,8,9,10,12,16,18,20,24,30,36,48,60,72,84,120,180,240,360,720,840,2520.




In Baez’ post there is a nice graph of this function made by Nicolas Tessore, with 5040 indicated with a grey line towards the right and the other counterexamples jumping over the bound 1.78107…



Robin’s theorem has a remarkable history, starting in 1915 with good old Ramanujan writing a part of this thesis on “highly composite numbers” (numbers divisible by high powers of primes).

His PhD. adviser Hardy liked his result but called them “in the backwaters of mathematics” and most of it was not published at the time of Ramanujan’s degree ceremony in 1916, due to paper shortage in WW1.



When Ramanujan’s paper “Highly Composite Numbers” was first published in 1988 in ‘The lost notebook and other unpublished papers’ it became clear that Ramanujan had already part of Robin’s theorem.

Ramanujan states that if the Riemann hypothesis is true, then for $n_0$ large enough we must have for all $n > n_0$ that
\[
\frac{\sigma(n)}{n~log(log(n))} < e^{\gamma} = 1.78107... \] When Jean-Louis Nicolas, Robin's PhD. adviser, read Ramanujan's lost notes he noticed that there was a sign error in Ramanujan's formula which prevented him from seeing Robin's theorem.

Nicolas: “Soon after discovering the hidden part, I read it and saw the difference between Ramanujan’s result and Robin’s one. Of course, I would have bet that the error was in Robin’s paper, but after recalculating it several times and asking Robin to check, it turned out that there was an error of sign in what Ramanujan had written.”

If you are interested in the full story, read the paper by Jean-Louis Nicolas and Jonathan Sondow: Ramanujan, Robin, Highly Composite Numbers, and the Riemann Hypothesis.

What’s the latest on Robin’s inequality? An arXiv-search for Robin’s inequality shows a flurry of activity.

For starters, it has been verified for all numbers smaller that $10^{10^{13}}$…

It has been verified, unconditionally, for certain classes of numbers:

  • all odd integers $> 9$
  • all numbers not divisible by a 25-th power of a prime

Rings a bell? Here’s another hint:

According to Xiaolong Wu in A better method than t-free for Robin’s hypothesis one can replace the condition of ‘not divisible by an N-th power of a prime’ by ‘not divisible by an N-th power of 2’.

Further, he claims to have an (as yet unpublished) argument that Robin’s inequality holds for all numbers not divisible by $2^{42}$.

So, where should we look for counterexamples to the Riemann hypothesis?

What about the orders of huge simple groups?

The order of the Monster group is too small to be a counterexample (yet, it is divisible by $2^{46}$).

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G+ recovery 6 : math-history

In April my Google+ account will disappear. Here I collect some G+ posts, in chronological order, having a common theme. Today, math-history (jokes and puns included).

September 20th, 2011

Was looking up pictures of mathematicians from the past and couldn’t help thinking ‘Hey, I’ve seen this face before…’

Leopold Kronecker = DSK (2/7/2019 : DSK = Dominique Strauss-Kahn)

Adolf Hurwitz = Groucho Marx

June 2nd, 2012

The ‘Noether boys’

(Noether-Knaben in German) were the group of (then) young algebra students around Emmy Noether in the early 1930’s. Actually two of them were girls (Grete Hermann and Olga Taussky).

The picture is taken from a talk Peter Roquette gave in Heidelberg. Slides of this talk are now available from his website.

In 1931 Jacques Herbrand (one of the ‘Noether boys’) fell to his death while mountain-climbing in the Massif des Écrins (France). He was just 23, but already considered one of the greatest minds of his generation.

He introduced the notion of recursive functions while proving “On the consistency of arithmetic”. In several texts on Herbrand one finds this intriguing quote by Chevalley (one of the first generation Bourbakis):

“Jacques Herbrand would have hated Bourbaki” said French mathematician Claude Chevalley quoted in Michèle Chouchan “Nicolas Bourbaki Faits et légendes” Edition du choix, 1995. («Jacques Herbrand aurait détesté Bourbaki» in the original French version).

Can anyone tell me the underlying story?

June 26th, 2012

a 3yr old post on Scottish vs. Platonic Solids did hit Reddit/pics

1.4k upvotes. Surreal!

I’d better point them to the latest on this then.

Scottish solids, final(?) comments.

The return of the Scottish solids

December 19th, 2012

Mumford’s treasure map

+Pieter Belmans (re)discovered a proto-drawing of Mumford’s iconic map of Spec(Z[x]) in his ‘red book’.

The proto-pic is taken from Mumford’s ‘Lectures on curves on an algebraic surface’ p.28 and tries to depict the integral projective line. The set-up is rather classical (focussing on points of different codimension) whereas the red-book picture is more daring and has been an inspiration for generations of arithmetical geometers.

Still there’s the issue of dating these maps.

Mumford himself dates the P^1 drawing 1964 (although the publication date is 66) and the red-book as 1967. 

Though I’d love to hear more precise dates, I’m convinced they are about right. In the ‘Curves’-book’s preface Mumford apologises to ‘any reader who, hoping that he would find here in these 60 odd pages an easy and concise introduction to schemes, instead becomes hopelessly lost in a maze of unproven assertions and undeveloped suggestions.’ and he stresses by underlining ‘From lecture 12 on, we have proven everything that we need’.

So, clearly the RedBook was written later, and as he has written in-between his master-piece GIT i’d say Mumford’s own dating is about right.

Still, it is not a completely vacuous dispute as the ‘Curves’ book (supposedly from 1964 or earlier) contains a marvelous appendix by George Bergman on the Witt ring which would predate Cartier’s account…

Thanks to +James Borger i know of George’s take on this

“I was a graduate student taking the course Mumford gave on curves and surfaces; but algebraic geometry was not my main field, and soon into the course I was completely lost.  Then Mumford started a self-contained topic that he was going to weave in — ring schemes — and it made clear and beautiful sense to me; and when he constructed the Witt vector ring scheme, I thought about it, saw a nicer way to do it, talked with him about it and with his permission presented it to the class, and eventually wrote it up as a chapter in his course notes.
I think that my main substantive contribution was the tying together of the various prime-specific ring schemes into one big ring scheme that works for all primes.  The development in terms of power series may or may not have originated with me; I just don’t remember.”

which sounds very Bergmannian to me.

Anyway I’d love to know more about the dating of the ‘Curves’ book and (even more) the first year Mumford delivered his Red-Book-Lectures (my guess 1965-66). Thanks.
Pieter maintains an “Atlas of this picture” here

June 17th, 2013

the birthday of schemes : november 5th 1956

The wikipedia-entry linking Andre Martineau to the origin of the scheme-concept appears to rely on footnote 29 of Cartier’s ‘A mad day’s work, from Grothendieck to Connes and Kontsevich’ which reads:

“Serre first considered the set of maximal ideals of a commutative ring A subject to certain restrictions. Martineau then remarked to him that his arguments remained valid for any commutative ring, provided one takes all prime ideals instead of only maximal ideals. I then proposed a definition of schemes equivalent to the definition of Grothendieck. In my dissertation I confined myself to a framework similar to that of Chevalley, so as to avoid an excessively long exposition of the preliminaries!”

In the 1956/57 Chevalley seminar Cartier gave the first two talks and in the first one, on november 5th 1956, one finds the first published use of the word ‘scheme’, which he refers to as ‘schemes in the sense of Chevalley-Nagata’. On page 9 of that talk he introduces the prime spectrum with its Zariski topology.

In the second talk a week later, on november 12th, he then gives the general definition of a scheme (as we know it, by gluing together affine schemes and including the stalks).

BUT, he did all of this ‘only’ for affine rings over a field, ‘to avoid an excessively long exposition of the preliminaries’…

Grothendieck then made the quantum-leap to general commutative rings.

June 18th, 2013

Correction : scheme-birthday = december 12th, 1955

Claude Chevalley gave already two talks on ‘Schemes’ in the Cartan-Chevalley seminar of 1955/56, the first one on december 12th 1955, the other a week later.

Chevalley only considers integral schemes, of finite type over a field (Cartier drops the integrality condition on november 5th 1956, a bit later Grothendieck will drop all restrictions).

Grothendieck’s quote “But then, what are schemes?” uttered in a Parisian Cafe must date from that period. Possibly Cartier explained the concept to him. In a letter to Serre, dated december 15th 1955, Grothendieck is quite impressed with Cartier:

“Cartier seems to be an amazing person, especially his speed of understanding, and the incredible amount of things he reads and grasps; I really have the impression that in a few years he will be where you are now. I am exploiting him most profitably.”

June 18th, 2013

David Mumford on the Italian school of Geometry

Short version:
Castelnuovo : the good
Severi : the bad
Enriques : the ugly

The longer version:

“The best known case is the Italian school of algebraic geometry, which produced extremely good and deep results for some 50 years, but then went to pieces.
There are 3 key names here — Castelnuovo, Enriques and Severi.

C was earliest and was totally rigorous, a splendid mathematician.

E came next and, as far as I know, never published anything that was false, though he openly acknowledged that some of his proofs didn’t cover every possible case (there were often special highly singular cases which later turned out to be central to understanding a situation).  He used to talk about posing “critical doubts”. He had his own standards and was happy to reexamine a “proof” and make it more nearly complete.

Unfortunately Severi, the last in the line, a fascist with a dictatorial temperament, really killed the whole school because, although he started off with brilliant and correct discoveries, later published books full of garbage (this was in the 30’s and 40’s). The rest of the world was uncertain what had been proven and what not. He gave a keynote speech at the first Int Congress after the war in 1950, but his mistakes were becoming clearer and clearer.

It took the efforts of 2 great men, Zariski and Weil, to clean up the mess in the 40’s and 50’s although dredging this morass for its correct results continues occasionally to this day.” (David Mumford)

June 19th, 2014

Hirune Mendebaldeko – Bourbaki’s muse

After more than 70 years, credit is finally given to a fine, inspiring and courageous Basque algebraic geometer.

One of the better held secrets, known only to the first generation Bourbakistas, was released to the general public in april 2012 at the WAGS Spring 2012, the Western Algebraic Geometry Symposium, held at the University of Washington.

Hirune Mendebaldeko was a Basque pacifist, a contemporary of Nicholas Bourbaki, whom she met in Paris while there studying algebraic geometry. They were rumored to be carrying on a secret affair, with not infrequent trysts in the Pyrenees. Whenever they appeared together in public, however, there was no indication of any personal relationship.

From the comments, by +Sandor Kovacs:

+Chris Brav Chris, just between us: the whole thing is a joke. I just tried to put yet another twist on it. Also, until now we have never admitted that it is, so please don’t tell anyone. 😉

The explanation at the end of +lieven lebruyn’s blog post was indeed the original motivation for the name. We were starting a new “named” lecture series as part of WAGS and wanted to name it after someone not obvious. Basque is a language not related to any other. It seemed a good idea to use that, so very few people would know the meaning of any particular word.

Then we tried all the words in WAGS, but the other three were actually very similar to the English/etc versions. The first name was chosen by vibe. Then we decided that we needed a bio for our distinguished namesake and the connection to Bourbaki presented itself for various reasons that you can guess. But we wanted a pacifist and it seemed a nice contrast to Bourbaki. So Hirune was born and we were hoping that one day she would gain prominence in the world. Finally, it happened. 🙂

June 22nd, 2014

the state of European mathematics in 1927

This map, from the Rockefeller foundation, gives us the top 3 mathematical institutes in 1927 : Goettingen, Paris and … Rome.
The pie-charts per university show that algebra was a marginal topic then (wondering how a similar map might look today).

December 1st, 2015

Did Chevalley invent the Zariski topology?

In his inaugural lecture at #ToposIHES Pierre Cartier stated (around 44m11s):
“By the way, Zariski topology, as we know it today, was not what Zariski invented. He invented a variant of that, a topology on the set of all valuation rings of a given field, which is not exactly the same thing. As for the Zariski topology, the rumour is that it was invented by Chevalley in a seminar given by Zariski, but I have no real proof.”
Do you know more about this?

Btw. the full lecture of Cartier (mostly on sheaf theory) is not on the IHES YouTube channel, but on the channel of +Laurence Honnorat.

The IHES did begin to upload videos of the remaining plenary talks
here (so far, the wednesday talks are available).

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