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Tag: Brauer

Brauer-Severi varieties

Classical Brauer-Severi varieties can be described either as twisted
forms of projective space (Severi\’s way) or as varieties containing
splitting information about central simple algebras (Brauer\’s way). If
$K$ is a field with separable closure $\overline{K}$, the first approach
asks for projective varieties $X$ defined over $K$ such that over the
separable closure $X(\overline{K}) \simeq
\mathbb{P}^{n-1}_{\overline{K}}$ they are just projective space. In
the second approach let $\Sigma$ be a central simple $K$-algebra and
define a variety $X_{\Sigma}$ whose points over a field extension $L$
are precisely the left ideals of $\Sigma \otimes_K L$ of dimension $n$.
This variety is defined over $K$ and is a closed subvariety of the
Grassmannian $Gr(n,n^2)$. In the special case that $\Sigma = M_n(K)$ one
can use the matrix-idempotents to show that the left ideals of dimension
$n$ correspond to the points of $\mathbb{P}^{n-1}_K$. As for any central
simple $K$-algebra $\Sigma$ we have that $\Sigma \otimes_K \overline{K}
\simeq M_n(\overline{K})$ it follows that the varieties $X_{\Sigma}$ are
among those of the first approach. In fact, there is a natural bijection
between those of the first approach (twisted forms) and of the second as
both are classified by the Galois cohomology pointed set
$H^1(Gal(\overline{K}/K),PGL_n(\overline{K}))$ because
$PGL_n(\overline{K})$ is the automorphism group of
$\mathbb{P}^{n-1}_{\overline{K}}$ as well as of $M_n(\overline{K})$. The
ringtheoretic relevance of the Brauer-Severi variety $X_{\Sigma}$ is
that for any field extension $L$ it has $L$-rational points if and only
if $L$ is a _splitting field_ for $\Sigma$, that is, $\Sigma \otimes_K L
\simeq M_n(\Sigma)$. To give one concrete example, If $\Sigma$ is the
quaternion-algebra $(a,b)_K$, then the Brauer-Severi variety is a conic
$X_{\Sigma} = \mathbb{V}(x_0^2-ax_1^2-bx_2^2) \subset \mathbb{P}^2_K$
Whenever one has something working for central simple algebras, one can
_sheafify_ the construction to Azumaya algebras. For if $A$ is an
Azumaya algebra with center $R$ then for every maximal ideal
$\mathfrak{m}$ of $R$, the quotient $A/\mathfrak{m}A$ is a central
simple $R/\mathfrak{m}$-algebra. This was noted by the
sheafification-guru [Alexander Grothendieck][2] and he extended the
notion to Brauer-Severi schemes of Azumaya algebras which are projective
bundles $X_A \rightarrow \mathbf{max}~R$ all of which fibers are
projective spaces (in case $R$ is an affine algebra over an
algebraically closed field). But the real fun started when [Mike
Artin][3] and [David Mumford][4] extended the construction to suitably
_ramified_ algebras. In good cases one has that the Brauer-Severi
fibration is flat with fibers over ramified points certain degenerations
of projective space. For example in the case considered by Artin and
Mumford of suitably ramified orders in quaternion algebras, the smooth
conics over Azumaya points degenerate to a pair of lines over ramified
points. A major application of their construction were examples of
unirational non-rational varieties. To date still one of the nicest
applications of non-commutative algebra to more mainstream mathematics.
The final step in generalizing Brauer-Severi fibrations to arbitrary
orders was achieved by [Michel Van den Bergh][5] in 1986. Let $R$ be an
affine algebra over an algebraically closed field (say of characteristic
zero) $k$ and let $A$ be an $R$-order is a central simple algebra
$\Sigma$ of dimension $n^2$. Let $\mathbf{trep}_n~A$ be teh affine variety
of _trace preserving_ $n$-dimensional representations, then there is a
natural action of $GL_n$ on this variety by basechange (conjugation).
Moreover, $GL_n$ acts by left multiplication on column vectors $k^n$.
One then considers the open subset in $\mathbf{trep}_n~A \times k^n$
consisting of _Brauer-Stable representations_, that is those pairs
$(\phi,v)$ such that $\phi(A).v = k^n$ on which $GL_n$ acts freely. The
corresponding orbit space is then called the Brauer-Severio scheme $X_A$
of $A$ and there is a fibration $X_A \rightarrow \mathbf{max}~R$ again
having as fibers projective spaces over Azumaya points but this time the
fibration is allowed to be far from flat in general. Two months ago I
outlined in Warwick an idea to apply this Brauer-Severi scheme to get a
hold on desingularizations of quiver quotient singularities. More on
this next time.


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Galois and the Brauer group

Last time we have seen that in order to classify all
non-commutative $l$-points one needs to control the finite
dimensional simple algebras having as their center a finite
dimensional field-extension of $l$. We have seen that the equivalence
classes of simple algebras with the same center $L$ form an Abelian
group, the
Brauer group. The calculation of Brauer groups
is best done using
Galois-cohomology. As an aside :
Evariste Galois was one of the more tragic figures in the history of
mathematics, he died at the age of 20 as a result of a duel. There is
a whole site the Evariste Galois archive dedicated to his

But let us return to a simple algebra $T$ over the
field $L$ which we have seen to be of the form $M(k,S)$, full
matrices over a division algebra $S$. We know that the dimension of
$S$ over $L$ is a square, say $n^2$, and it can be shown that all
maximal commutative subfields of $S$ have dimension n over $L$.
In this way one can view a simple algebra as a bag containing all
sorts of degree n extensions of its center. All these maximal
subfields are also splitting fields for $S$, meaning that
if you tensor $S$ with one of them, say $M$, one obtains full nxn
matrices $M(n,M)$. Among this collection there is at least one
separable field but for a long time it was an open question
whether the collection of all maximal commutative subfields also
contains a Galois-extension of $L$. If this is the case, then
one could describe the division algebra $S$ as a crossed
. It was known for some time that there is always a simple
algebra $S’$ equivalent to $S$ which is a crossed product (usually
corresponding to a different number n’), that is, all elements of
the Brauer group can be represented by crossed products. It came as a
surprise when S.A. Amitsur in 1972 came up with examples of
non-crossed product division algebras, that is, division algebras $D$
such that none of its maximal commutative subfields is a Galois
extension of the center. His examples were generic
division algebras
$D(n)$. To define $D(n)$ take two generic
nxn matrices
, that is, nxn matrices A and B such that all its
entries are algebraically independent over $L$ and consider the
$L$-subalgebra generated by A and B in the full nxn matrixring over the
field $F$ generated by all entries of A and B. Somewhat surprisingly,
one can show that this subalgebra is a domain and inverting all its
central elements (which, again, is somewhat of a surprise that
there are lots of them apart from elements of $L$, the so called
central polynomials) one obtains the division algebra $D(n)$ with
center $F(n)$ which has trancendence degree n^2 1 over $L$. By the
way, it is still unknown (apart from some low n cases) whether $F(n)$
is purely trancendental over $L$. Now, utilising the generic
nature of $D(n)$, Amitsur was able to prove that when $L=Q$, the
field of rational numbers, $D(n)$ cannot be a crossed product unless
$n=2^s p_1…p_k$ with the p_i prime numbers and s at most 2. So, for
example $D(8)$ is not a crossed product.

One can then
ask whether any division algebra $S$, of dimension n^2 over $L$, is a
crossed whenever n is squarefree. Even teh simplest case, when n is a
prime number is not known unless p=2 or 3. This shows how little we do
know about finite dimensional division algebras : nobody knows
whether a division algebra of dimension 25 contains a maximal
cyclic subfield (the main problem in deciding this type of
problems is that we know so few methods to construct division
algebras; either they are constructed quite explicitly as a crossed
product or otherwise they are constructed by some generic construction
but then it is very hard to make explicit calculations with

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Brauer’s forgotten group

Non-commutative geometry seems pretty trivial compared
to commutative geometry : there are just two types of manifolds,
points and curves. However, nobody knows how to start classifying
these non-commutative curves. I do have a conjecture that any
non-commutative curve can (up to non-commutative birationality) be
constructed from hereditary orders over commutative curves
by universal methods but I’ll try to explain that another

On the other hand, non-commutative points
have been classified (at least in principle) for at least 50
years over an arbitrary basefield $l$. non-commutative
$l$-points $P$ is an $l$-algebra such that its double
$d(P) = P \\otimes P^o$ ( where $P^o$ is the opposite algebra,
that is with the reverse multiplication) has an element$c=\\sum_i
a_i \\otimes b_i with \\sum_i a_ib_i = 1 (in $P$)$ and such that for
all p in $P$ we have that $(1 \\otimes a).c = (a \\otimes 1).c$ For
people of my generation, c is called a separability idempotent
and $P$ itself is called a separable $l$-algebra.
Examples of $l$-points include direct sums of full matrixrings
(of varying sizes) over $l$ or group-algebras $lG$ for $G$ a
finite group of n elements where n is invertible in $l$. Hence, in
particular, the group-algebra $lG$ of a p-group $G$ over a field $l$
of characteristic p is a non-commutative singular point and
modular representation theory (a theory build almost single
handed by
Richard Brauer) can be viewed as
the methods needed to resolve this singularity. Brauer’s name is
still mentioned a lot in modular representation theory, but another
of his inventions, the Brauer group, seems to be hardly known
among youngsters.

Still, it is a crucial tool
in classifying all non-commutative $l$-points. The algebraic
structure of an $l$-point $P$ is as follows : $$P = S_1 + S_2 + …
+ S_k$$ where each S_i is a simple algebra (that is, it
contains no proper twosided ideals), finite dimensional over
its center $l_i$ which is in its turn a finite dimensional
separable field extension of $l$. So we need to know all
simple algebras $S$, finite dimensional over their center $L$ which
is any finite dimensional separable field extension of $l$. The
algebraic structure of such an $S$ is of the form$$S = M(a,D)$$ that
is, full axa matrices with entries in $D$ where $D$ is a
skew-field (or some say, a division algebra) with
center $L$. The $L$-dimension of such a $D$ is always a square,
say b^2, so that the $L$-dimension of $S$ itself is also a square
a^2b^2. There are usually plenty such division algebras, the simplest
examples being quaternion algebras. Let p and q be two
non-zero elements of $L$ such that the conic $C : X^2-pY^2-bZ^2 =
0$ has no $L$-points in the projective $L$-plane, then the
algebra$D=(p,q)_2 = L.1 + L.i + L.j + L.ij where i^2=p, j^2=q and
ji=-ij$ is a four-dimensional skew-field over $L$. Brauer’s idea to
classify all simple $L$-algebras was to associate a group to them,
the Brauer group, $Br(L)$. Its elements are equivalence
of simple algebras where two simple algebras $S$ and
$S’$ are equivalent if and only if$M(m,S) = M(n,S’)$ for some sizes
m and n. Multiplication on these classes in induced by
the tensor-product (over $L$) as $S_1 \\otimes S_2$ is again a simple
$L$-algebra if $S_1$ and $S_2$ are. The Brauer group $Br(L)$ is an
Abelian torsion group and if we know its structure we know all
$L$-simple algebras so if we know $Br(L)$ for all finite dimensional
separable extensions $L$ of $l$ we have a full classification of
all non-commutative $l$-points.

Here are some examples
of Brauer groups : if $L$ is algebraically closed (or separable
closed), then $Br(L)=0$ so in particular, if $l$ is algebraically
closed, then the only non-commutative points are sums of matrix rings.
If $R$ is the field of real numbers, then $Br(R) = Z/2Z$ generated by
the Hamilton quaternion algebra (-1,-1)_2. If $L$ is a complete
valued number field, then $Br(L)=Q/Z$ which allows to describe also
the Brauer group of a number field in terms of its places. Brauer groups
of function fields of (commutative) varieties over an algebraically
closed basefield is usually huge but there is one noteworthy
exception $Tsen’s theorem$ which states that $Br(L)=0$ if $L$ is the
function field of a curve C over an algebraically closed field. In 1982
Merkurjev and Suslin proved a marvelous result about generators of
$Br(L)$ whenever $L$ is large enough to contain all primitive roots
of unity. They showed, in present day lingo, that $Br(L)$
is generated by non-commutative points of the quantum-planes
over $L$ at roots of unity. That is, it is generated by cyclic
of the form$(p,q)_n = L
\\< X,Y>/(X^n=p,Y^n=q,YX=zXY)$where z is an n-th primitive root of
unity. Next time we will recall some basic results on the relation
between the Brauer group and Galois cohomology.