Do we need the sphere spectrum?

Last time I mentioned the talk “From noncommutative geometry to the tropical geometry of the scaling site” by Alain Connes, culminating in the canonical isomorphism (last slide of the talk)



Or rather, what is actually proved in his paper with Caterina Consani BC-system, absolute cyclotomy and the quantized calculus (and which they conjectured previously to be the case in Segal’s Gamma rings and universal arithmetic), is a canonical isomorphism between the $\lambda$-rings
\[
\mathbb{Z}[\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}] \simeq \mathbb{W}_0(\overline{\mathbb{S}}) \]
The left hand side is the integral groupring of the additive quotient-group $\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}$, or if you prefer, $\mathbb{Z}[\mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}]$ the integral groupring of the multiplicative group of all roots of unity $\mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}$.

The power maps on $\mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}$ equip $\mathbb{Z}[\mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}]$ with a $\lambda$-ring structure, that is, a family of commuting endomorphisms $\sigma_n$ with $\sigma_n(\zeta) = \zeta^n$ for all $\zeta \in \mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}$, and a family of linear maps $\rho_n$ induced by requiring for all $\zeta \in \mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}$ that
\[
\rho_n(\zeta) = \sum_{\mu^n=\zeta} \mu \]
The maps $\sigma_n$ and $\rho_n$ are used to construct an integral version of the Bost-Connes algebra describing the Bost-Connes sytem, a quantum statistical dynamical system.

On the right hand side, $\mathbb{S}$ is the sphere spectrum (an object from stable homotopy theory) and $\overline{\mathbb{S}}$ its ‘algebraic closure’, that is, adding all abstract roots of unity.

The ring $\mathbb{W}_0(\overline{\mathbb{S}})$ is a generalisation to the world of spectra of the Almkvist-ring $\mathbb{W}_0(R)$ defined for any commutative ring $R$, constructed from pairs $(E,f)$ where $E$ is a projective $R$-module of finite rank and $f$ an $R$-endomorphism on it. Addition and multiplication are coming from direct sums and tensor products of such pairs, with zero element the pair $(0,0)$ and unit element the pair $(R,1_R)$. The ring $\mathbb{W}_0(R)$ is then the quotient-ring obtained by dividing out the ideal consisting of all zero-pairs $(E,0)$.

The ring $\mathbb{W}_0(R)$ becomes a $\lambda$-ring via the Frobenius endomorphisms $F_n$ sending a pair $(E,f)$ to the pair $(E,f^n)$, and we also have a collection of linear maps on $\mathbb{W}_0(R)$, the ‘Verschiebung’-maps which send a pair $(E,f)$ to the pair $(E^{\oplus n},F)$ with
\[
F = \begin{bmatrix} 0 & 0 & 0 & \cdots & f \\
1 & 0 & 0 & \cdots & 0 \\
0 & 1 & 0 & \cdots & 0 \\
\vdots & \vdots & \vdots & & \vdots \\
0 & 0 & 0 & \cdots & 1 \end{bmatrix} \]
Connes and Consani define a notion of modules and their endomorphisms for $\mathbb{S}$ and $\overline{\mathbb{S}}$, allowing them to define in a similar way the rings $\mathbb{W}_0(\mathbb{S})$ and $\mathbb{W}_0(\overline{\mathbb{S}})$, with corresponding maps $F_n$ and $V_n$. They then establish an isomorphism with $\mathbb{Z}[\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}]$ such that the maps $(F_n,V_n)$ correspond to $(\sigma_n,\rho_n)$.

But, do we really have the go to spectra to achieve this?

All this reminds me of an old idea of Yuri Manin mentioned in the introduction of his paper Cyclotomy and analytic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$, and later elaborated in section two of his paper with Matilde Marcolli Homotopy types and geometries below $\mathbf{Spec}(\mathbb{Z})$.

Take a manifold $M$ with a diffeomorphism $f$ and consider the corresponding discrete dynamical system by iterating the diffeomorphism. In such situations it is important to investigate the periodic orbits, or the fix-points $Fix(M,f^n)$ for all $n$. If we are in a situation that the number of fixed points is finite we can package these numbers in the Artin-Mazur zeta function
\[
\zeta_{AM}(M,f) = exp(\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac{\# Fix(M,f^n)}{n}t^n) \]
and investigate the properties of this function.

To connect this type of problem to Almkvist-like rings, Manin considers the Morse-Smale dynamical systems, a structural stable diffeomorphism $f$, having a finite number of non-wandering points on a compact manifold $M$.



From Topological classification of Morse-Smale diffeomorphisms on 3-manifolds

In such a situation $f_{\ast}$ acts on homology $H_k(M,\mathbb{Z})$, which are free $\mathbb{Z}$-modules of finite rank, as a matrix $M_f$ having only roots of unity as its eigenvalues.

Manin argues that this action is similar to the action of the Frobenius on etale cohomology groups, in which case the eigenvalues are Weil numbers. That is, one might view roots of unity as Weil numbers in characteristic one.

Clearly, all relevant data $(H_k(M,\mathbb{Z}),f_{\ast})$ belongs to the $\lambda$-subring of $\mathbb{W}_0(\mathbb{Z})$ generated by all pairs $(E,f)$ such that $M_f$ is diagonalisable and all its eigenvalues are either $0$ or roots of unity.

If we denote for any ring $R$ by $\mathbb{W}_1(R)$ this $\lambda$-subring of $\mathbb{W}_0(R)$, probably one would obtain canonical isomorphisms

– between $\mathbb{W}_1(\mathbb{Z})$ and the invariant part of the integral groupring $\mathbb{Z}[\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}]$ for the action of the group $Aut(\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}) = \widehat{\mathbb{Z}}^*$, and

– between $\mathbb{Z}[\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}]$ and $\mathbb{W}_1(\mathbb{Z}(\mathbf{\mu}_{\infty}))$ where $\mathbb{Z}(\mathbf{\mu}_{\infty})$ is the ring obtained by adjoining to $\mathbb{Z}$ all roots of unity.

Alain Connes on his RH-project

In recent months, my primary focus was on teaching and family matters, so I make advantage of this Christmas break to catch up with some of the things I’ve missed.

Peter Woit’s blog alerted me to the existence of the (virtual) Lake Como-conference, end of september: Unifying themes in Geometry.

In Corona times, virtual conferences seem to sprout up out of nowhere, everywhere (zero costs), giving us an inflation of YouTubeD talks. I’m always grateful to the organisers of such events to provide the slides of the talks separately, as the generic YouTubeD-talk consists merely in reading off the slides.

Allow me to point you to one of the rare exceptions to this rule.

When I downloaded the slides of Alain Connes’ talk at the conference From noncommutative geometry to the tropical geometry of the scaling site I just saw a collage of graphics from his endless stream of papers with Katia Consani, and slides I’d seen before watching several of his YouTubeD-talks in recent years.

Boy, am I glad I gave Alain 5 minutes to convince me this talk was different.

For the better part of his talk, Alain didn’t just read off the slides, but rather tried to explain the thought processes that led him and Katia to move on from the results on this slide to those on the next one.

If you’re pressed for time, perhaps you might join in at 49.34 into the talk, when he acknowledges the previous (tropical) approach ran out of steam as they were unable to define any $H^1$ properly, and how this led them to ‘absolute’ algebraic geometry, meaning over the sphere spectrum $\mathbb{S}$.

Sadly, for some reason Alain didn’t manage to get his final two slides on screen. So, in this case, the slides actually add value to the talk…

Bourbaki and Grothendieck-Serre

This time of year I’m usually in France, or at least I was before Covid. This might explain for my recent obsession with French math YouTube interviews.

Today’s first one is about Bourbaki’s golden years, the period between WW2 and 1975. Alain Connes is trying to get some anecdotes from Jean-Pierre Serre, Pierre Cartier, and Jacques Dixmier.

If you don’t have the time to sit through the whole thing, perhaps you might have a look at the discussion on whether or not to include categories in Bourbaki (starting at 51.40 into the clip).

Here are some other time-slots (typed on a qwerty keyboard, mes excuses) with some links.

  • 8.59 : Canular stupide (mort de Bourbaki)
  • 15.45 : recrutement de Koszul
  • 17.45 : recrutement de Grothendieck
  • 26.15 : influence de Serre
  • 28.05 : importance des ultra filtres
  • 35.35 : Meyer
  • 37.20 : faisceaux
  • 51.00 : Grothendieck
  • 51.40 : des categories, Gabriel-Demazure
  • 57.50 : lemme de Serre, theoreme de Weil
  • 1.03.20 : Chevalley vs. Godement
  • 1.05.26 : retraite Dieudonne
  • 1.07.05 : retraite
  • 1.10.00 : Weil vs. Serre-Borel
  • 1.13.50 : hierarchie Bourbaki
  • 1.20.22 : categories
  • 1.21.30 : Bourbaki, une secte?
  • 1.22.15 : Grothendieck C.N.R.S. 1984

The second one is an interview conducted by Alain Connes with Jean-Pierre Serre on the Grothendieck-Serre correspondence.

Again, if you don’t have the energy to sit through it all, perhaps I can tempt you with Serre’s reaction to Connes bringing up the subject of toposes (starting at 14.36 into the clip).

  • 2.10 : 2e these de Grothendieck: des faisceaux
  • 3.50 : Grothendieck -> Bourbaki
  • 6.46 : Tohoku
  • 8.00 : categorie des diagrammes
  • 9.10 : schemas et Krull
  • 10.50 : motifs
  • 11.50 : cohomologie etale
  • 14.05 : Weil
  • 14.36 : topos
  • 16.30 : Langlands
  • 19.40 : Grothendieck, cours d’ecologie
  • 24.20 : Dwork
  • 25.45 : Riemann-Roch
  • 29.30 : influence de Serre
  • 30.50 : fin de correspondence
  • 32.05 : pourquoi?
  • 33.10 : SGA 5
  • 34.50 : methode G. vs. theorie des nombres
  • 37.00 : paranoia
  • 37.15 : Grothendieck = centrale nucleaire
  • 38.30 : Clef des songes
  • 42.35 : 30.000 pages, probleme du mal
  • 44.25 : Ribenboim
  • 45.20 : Grothendieck a Paris, publication R et S
  • 48.00 : 50 ans IHES, lettre a Bourguignon
  • 50.46 : Laurant Laforgue
  • 51.35 : Lasserre
  • 53.10 : l’humour

RH and the Ishango bone

“She simply walked into the pond in Kensington Gardens Sunday morning and drowned herself in three feet of water.”

This is the opening sentence of The Ishango Bone, a novel by Paul Hastings Wilson. It (re)tells the story of a young mathematician at Cambridge, Amiele, who (dis)proves the Riemann Hypothesis at the age of 26, is denied the Fields medal, and commits suicide.

In his review of the novel on MathFiction, Alex Kasman casts he story in the 1970ties, based on the admission of the first female students to Trinity.

More likely, the correct time frame is in the first decade of this century. On page 121 Amiele meets Alain Connes, said to be a “past winner of the Crafoord Prize”, which Alain obtained in 2001. In fact, noncommutative geometry and its interaction with quantum physics plays a crucial role in her ‘proof’.



The Ishango artefact only appears in the Coda to the book. There are a number of theories on the nature and grouping of the scorings on the bone. In one column some people recognise the numbers 11, 13, 17 and 19 (the primes between 10 and 20).

In the book, Amiele remarks that the total number of lines scored on the bone (168) “happened to be the exact total of all the primes between 1 and 1000” and “if she multiplied 60, the total number of lines in one side column, by 168, the grand total of lines, she’d get 10080,…,not such a far guess from 9592, the actual total of primes between 1 and 100000.” (page 139-140)

The bone is believed to be more than 20000 years old, prime numbers were probably not understood until about 500 BC…



More interesting than these speculations on the nature of the Ishango bone is the description of the tools Amiele thinks to need to tackle the Riemann Hypothesis:

“These included algebraic geometry (which combines commutative algebra with the language and problems of geometry); noncommutative geometry (concerned with the geometric approach to associative algebras, in which multiplication is not commutative, that is, for which $x$ times $y$ does not always equal $y$ times $x$); quantum field theory on noncommutative spacetime, and mathematical aspects of quantum models of consciousness, to name a few.” (page 115)

The breakthrough came two years later when Amiele was giving a lecture on Grothendieck’s dessins d’enfant.

“Dessin d’enfant, or ‘child’s drawing’, which Amiele had discovered in Grothendieck’s work, is a type of graph drawing that seemed technically simple, but had a very strong impression on her, partly due to the familiar nature of the objects considered. (…) Amiele found subtle arithmetic invariants associated with these dessins, which were completely transformed, again, as soon as another stroke was added.” (page 116)

Amiele’s ‘disproof’ of RH is outlined on pages 122-124 of “The Ishango Bone” and is a mixture of recognisable concepts and ill-defined terms.

“Her final result proved that Riemann’s Hypothesis was false, a zero must fall to the east of Riemann’s critical line whenever the zeta function of point $q$ with momentum $p$ approached the aelotropic state-vector (this is a simplification, of course).” (page 123)

More details are given in a footnote:

“(…) a zero must fall to the east of Riemann’s critical line whenever:

\[
\zeta(q_p) = \frac{( | \uparrow \rangle + \Psi) + \frac{1}{2}(1+cos(\Theta))\frac{\hbar}{\pi}}{\int(\Delta_p)} \]

(…) The intrepid are invited to try the equation for themselves.” (page 124)

Wilson’s “The Ishango Bone” was published in 2012. A fair number of topics covered (the Ishango bone, dessin d’enfant, Riemann hypothesis, quantum theory) also play a prominent role in the 2015 paper/story by Michel Planat “A moonshine dialogue in mathematical physics”, but this time with additional story-line: monstrous moonshine

Such a paper surely deserves a separate post.



Closing in on Gabriel’s topos?

‘Gabriel’s topos’ (see here) is the conjectural, but still elusive topos from which the validity of the Riemann hypothesis would follow.

It is the latest attempt in Alain Connes’ 20 year long quest to tackle the RH (before, he tried the tools of noncommutative geometry and later those offered by the field with one element).

For the last 5 years he hopes that topos theory might provide the missing ingredient. Together with Katia Consani he introduced and studied the geometry of the Arithmetic site, and later the geometry of the scaling site.

If you look at the points of these toposes you get horribly complicated ‘non-commutative’ spaces, such as the finite adele classes $\mathbb{Q}^*_+ \backslash \mathbb{A}^f_{\mathbb{Q}} / \widehat{\mathbb{Z}}^{\ast}$ (in case of the arithmetic site) and the full adele classes $\mathbb{Q}^*_+ \backslash \mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}} / \widehat{\mathbb{Z}}^{\ast}$ (for the scaling site).

In Vienna, Connes gave a nice introduction to the arithmetic site in two lectures. The first part of the talk below also gives an historic overview of his work on the RH



The second lecture can be watched here.

However, not everyone is as optimistic about the topos-approach as he seems to be. Here’s an insightful answer on MathOverflow by Will Sawin to the question “What is precisely still missing in Connes’ approach to RH?”.

Other interesting MathOverflow threads related to the RH-approach via the field with one element are Approaches to Riemann hypothesis using methods outside number theory and Riemann hypothesis via absolute geometry.

About a month ago, from May 10th till 14th Alain Connes gave a series of lectures at Ohio State University with title “The Riemann-Roch strategy, quantizing the Scaling Site”.

The accompanying paper has now been arXived: The Riemann-Roch strategy, Complex lift of the Scaling Site (joint with K. Consani).

Especially interesting is section 2 “The geometry behind the zeros of $\zeta$” in which they explain how looking at the zeros locus inevitably leads to the space of adele classes and why one has to study this space with the tools from noncommutative geometry.

Perhaps further developments will be disclosed in a few weeks time when Connes is one of the speakers at Toposes in Como.