Art and the absolute point

In his paper Cyclotomy and analytic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ Yuri I. Manin sketches and compares four approaches to the definition of a geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$, the elusive field with one element.

He writes : “Preparing a colloquium talk in Paris, I have succumbed to the temptation to associate them with some dominant trends in the history of art.”

Remember that the search for the absolute point $\pmb{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1)$ originates from the observation that $\pmb{spec}(\mathbb{Z})$, the set of all prime numbers together with $0$, is too large to serve as the terminal object in Grothendieck’s theory of commutative schemes. The last couple of years have seen a booming industry of proposals, to the extent that Javier Lopez Pena and Oliver Lorscheid decided they had to draw a map of $\mathbb{F}_1$-land.

Manin only discusses the colored proposals (TV=Toen-Vaquie, M=Deitmar, S=Soule and $\Lambda$=Borger) and compares them to these art-history trends.

Toen and Vaquie : Abstract Expressionism

In Under $\pmb{spec}(\mathbb{Z})$ Bertrand Toen and Michel Vaquie argue that geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ is a special case of algebraic geometry over a symmetric monoidal category, taking the simplest example namely sets and direct products. Probably because of its richness and abstract nature, Manin associates this approach to Abstract Expressionism (a.o. Karel Appel, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning).

Deitmar : Minimalism

Because monoids are the ‘commutative algebras’ in sets with direct products, an equivalent proposal is that of Anton Deitmar in Schemes over $\mathbb{F}_1$ in which the basic affine building blocks are spectra of monoids, topological spaces whose points are submonoids satisfying a primeness property. Because Deitmar himself calls this approach a ‘minimalistic’ one it is only natural to associate to it Minimalism where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features. Prominent artists associated with this movement include Donald Judd, John McLaughlin, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella.

Soule : Critical Realism

in Les varietes sur le corps a un element Christophe Soule defines varieties over $\mathbb{F}_1$ to be specific schemes $X$ over $\mathbb{Z}$ together with a form of ‘descent data’ as well as an additional $\mathbb{C}$-algebra, morally the algebra of functions on the real place. Because of this Manin associates to it Critical Realism in philosophy. There are also ‘realism’ movements in art such as American Realism (o.a. Edward Hopper and John Sloan).

Borger : Futurism

James Borger’s paper Lambda-rings and the field with one element offers a totally new conception of the descent data from $\mathbb{Z}$ to $\mathbb{F}_1$, namely that of a $\lambda$-ring in the sense of Grothendieck. Because Manin expects this approach to lead to progress in the field, he connects it to Futurism, an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.

Langlands versus Connes

This is a belated response to a Math-Overflow exchange between Thomas Riepe and Chandan Singh Dalawat asking for a possible connection between Connes’ noncommutative geometry approach to the Riemann hypothesis and the Langlands program.

Here’s the punchline : a large chunk of the Connes-Marcolli book Noncommutative Geometry, Quantum Fields and Motives can be read as an exploration of the noncommutative boundary to the Langlands program (at least for $GL_1 $ and $GL_2 $ over the rationals $\mathbb{Q} $).

Recall that Langlands for $GL_1 $ over the rationals is the correspondence, given by the Artin reciprocity law, between on the one hand the abelianized absolute Galois group

$Gal(\overline{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q})^{ab} = Gal(\mathbb{Q}(\mu_{\infty})/\mathbb{Q}) \simeq \hat{\mathbb{Z}}^* $

and on the other hand the connected components of the idele classes

$\mathbb{A}^{\ast}_{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast} = \mathbb{R}^{\ast}_{+} \times \hat{\mathbb{Z}}^{\ast} $

The locally compact Abelian group of idele classes can be viewed as the nice locus of the horrible quotient space of adele classes $\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast} $. There is a well-defined map

$\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}’/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast} \rightarrow \mathbb{R}_{+} \qquad (x_{\infty},x_2,x_3,\ldots) \mapsto | x_{\infty} | \prod | x_p |_p $

from the subset $\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}’ $ consisting of adeles of which almost all terms belong to $\mathbb{Z}_p^{\ast} $. The inverse image of this map over $\mathbb{R}_+^{\ast} $ are precisely the idele classes $\mathbb{A}^{\ast}_{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast} $. In this way one can view the adele classes as a closure, or ‘compactification’, of the idele classes.

This is somewhat reminiscent of extending the nice action of the modular group on the upper-half plane to its badly behaved action on the boundary as in the Manin-Marcolli cave post.

The topological properties of the fiber over zero, and indeed of the total space of adele classes, are horrible in the sense that the discrete group $\mathbb{Q}^* $ acts ergodically on it, due to the irrationality of $log(p_1)/log(p_2) $ for primes $p_i $. All this is explained well (in the semi-local case, that is using $\mathbb{A}_Q’ $ above) in the Connes-Marcolli book (section 2.7).

In much the same spirit as non-free actions of reductive groups on algebraic varieties are best handled using stacks, such ergodic actions are best handled by the tools of noncommutative geometry. That is, one tries to get at the geometry of $\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast} $ by studying an associated non-commutative algebra, the skew-ring extension of the group-ring of the adeles by the action of $\mathbb{Q}^* $ on it. This algebra is known to be Morita equivalent to the Bost-Connes algebra which is the algebra featuring in Connes’ approach to the Riemann hypothesis.

It shouldn’t thus come as a major surprise that one is able to recover the other side of the Langlands correspondence, that is the Galois group $Gal(\mathbb{Q}(\mu_{\infty})/\mathbb{Q}) $, from the Bost-Connes algebra as the symmetries of certain states.

In a similar vein one can read the Connes-Marcolli $GL_2 $-system (section 3.7 of their book) as an exploration of the noncommutative closure of the Langlands-space $GL_2(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}})/GL_2(\mathbb{Q}) $.

At the moment I’m running a master-seminar noncommutative geometry trying to explain this connection in detail. But, we’re still in the early phases, struggling with the topology of ideles and adeles, reciprocity laws, L-functions and the lot. Still, if someone is interested I might attempt to post some lecture notes here.

best of 2008 (1) : wiskundemeisjes

Of course, excellent math-blogs exist in every language imaginable, but my linguistic limitations restrict me to the ones written in English, French, German and … Dutch. Here a few links to Dutch (or rather, Flemish) math-blogs, in order of proximity :
Stijn Symens blog, Rudy Penne’s wiskunde is sexy (math is sexy), Koen Vervloesem’s QED.

My favorite one is wiskundemeisjes (‘math-chicks’ or ‘math-girls’), written by Ionica Smeets and Jeanine Daems, two reasearchers at Leiden University. Every month they have a post called “the favorite (living) mathematician of …” in which they ask someone to nominate and introduce his/her favorite colleague mathematician. Here some examples : Roger Penrose chooses Michael Atiyah, Robbert Dijkgraaf chooses Maxim Kontsevich, Frans Oort chooses David Mumford, Gunther Cornelissen chooses Yuri I. Manin, Hendrik Lenstra chooses Bjorn Poonen, etc. the full list is here or here. This series deserves a wider audience. Perhaps Ionica and Jeanine might consider translating some of these posts?

I’m certain their English is far better than mine, so here’s a feeble attempt to translate the one post in their series they consider a complete failure (it isn’t even listed in the category). Two reasons for me to do so : it features Matilde Marcolli (one of my own favorite living mathematicians) and Matilde expresses here very clearly my own take on popular-math books/blogs.

The original post was written by Ionica and was called Weg met de ‘favoriete wiskundige van…’ :

“This week I did spend much of my time at the Fifth European Mathematical Congress in Amsterdam. Several mathematicians suggested I should have a chat with Matilde Marcolli, one of the plenary speakers. It seemed like a nice idea to ask her about her favorite (still living) mathematician, for our series.

Marcolli explained why she couldn’t answer this question : she has favorite mathematical ideas, but it doesn’t interest her one bit who discovered or proved them. And, there are mathematicians she likes, but that’s because she finds them interesting as human beings, independent of their mathematical achievements.

In addition, she thinks it’s a mistake to focus science too much on the persons. Scientific ideas should play the main role, not the scientists themselves. To her it is important to remember that many results are the combined effort of several people, that science doesn’t evolve around personalities and that scientific ideas are accessible to anyone.

Marcolli also dislikes the current trend in popular science writing: “I am completely unable to read popular-scientific books. As soon as they start telling anecdotes and stories, I throw away the book. I don’t care about their lives, I care about the real stuff.”

She’d love to read a popular science-book containing only ideas. She regrets that most of these books restrict to story-telling, but fail to disseminate the scientific ideas.”

Ionica then goes on to defend her own approach to science-popularization :

“… Probably, people will not know much about Galois-theory by reading about his turbulent life. Still, I can imagine people to become interested in ‘the real stuff’ after reading his biography, and, in this manner they will read some mathematics they wouldn’t have known to exist otherwise. But, Marcolli got me thinking, for it is true that almost all popular science-books focus on anecdotes rather than science itself. Is this wrong? For instance, do you want to see more mathematics here? I’m curious to hear your opinion on this.”

Even though my own approach is somewhat different, Ionica and Jeanine you’re doing an excellent job: “houden zo!”

Manin’s geometric axis

Mumford’s drawing has a clear emphasis on the vertical direction. The set of all vertical lines corresponds to taking the fibers of the natural ‘structural morphism’ : $\pi~:~\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[t]) \rightarrow \mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) $ coming from the inclusion $\mathbb{Z} \subset \mathbb{Z}[t] $. That is, we consider the intersection $P \cap \mathbb{Z} $ of a prime ideal $P \subset \mathbb{Z}[t] $ with the subring of constants.

Two options arise : either $P \cap \mathbb{Z} \not= 0 $, in which case the intersection is a principal prime ideal $~(p) $ for some prime number $p $ (and hence $P $ itself is bigger or equal to $p\mathbb{Z}[t] $ whence its geometric object is contained in the vertical line $\mathbb{V}((p)) $, the fiber $\pi^{-1}((p)) $ of the structural morphism over $~(p) $), or, the intersection $P \cap \mathbb{Z}[t] = 0 $ reduces to the zero ideal (in which case the extended prime ideal $P \mathbb{Q}[x] = (q(x)) $ is a principal ideal of the rational polynomial algebra $\mathbb{Q}[x] $, and hence the geometric object corresponding to $P $ is a horizontal curve in Mumford’s drawing, or is the whole arithmetic plane itself if $P=0 $).

Because we know already that any ‘point’ in Mumford’s drawing corresponds to a maximal ideal of the form $\mathfrak{m}=(p,f(x)) $ (see last time), we see that every point lies on precisely one of the set of all vertical coordinate axes corresponding to the prime numbers ${~\mathbb{V}((p)) = \mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_p[x]) = \pi^{-1}((p))~} $. In particular, two different vertical lines do not intersect (or, in ringtheoretic lingo, the ‘vertical’ prime ideals $p\mathbb{Z}[x] $ and $q\mathbb{Z}[x] $ are comaximal for different prime numbers $p \not= q $).



That is, the structural morphism is a projection onto the “arithmetic axis” (which is $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) $) and we get the above picture. The extra vertical line to the right of the picture is there because in arithmetic geometry it is customary to include also the archimedean valuations and hence to consider the ‘compactification’ of the arithmetic axis $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) $ which is $\overline{\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z})} = \mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) \cup { v_{\mathbb{R}} } $.

Yuri I. Manin is advocating for years the point that we should take the terminology ‘arithmetic surface’ for $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ a lot more seriously. That is, there ought to be, apart from the projection onto the ‘z-axis’ (that is, the arithmetic axis $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) $) also a projection onto the ‘x-axis’ which he calls the ‘geometric axis’.

But then, what are the ‘points’ of this geometric axis and what are their fibers under this second projection?

We have seen above that the vertical coordinate line over the prime number $~(p) $ coincides with $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_p[x]) $, the affine line over the finite field $\mathbb{F}_p $. But all of these different lines, for varying primes $p $, should project down onto the same geometric axis. Manin’s idea was to take therefore as the geometric axis the affine line $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1[x]) $, over the virtual field with one element, which should be thought of as being the limit of the finite fields $\mathbb{F}_p $ when $p $ goes to one!

How many points does $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1[x]) $ have? Over a virtual object one can postulate whatever one wants and hope for an a posteriori explanation. $\mathbb{F}_1 $-gurus tell us that there should be exactly one point of size n on the affine line over $\mathbb{F}_1 $, corresponding to the unique degree n field extension $\mathbb{F}_{1^n} $. However, it is difficult to explain this from the limiting perspective…

Over a genuine finite field $\mathbb{F}_p $, the number of points of thickness $n $ (that is, those for which the residue field is isomorphic to the degree n extension $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $) is equal to the number of monic irreducible polynomials of degree n over $\mathbb{F}_p $. This number is known to be $\frac{1}{n} \sum_{d | n} \mu(\frac{n}{d}) p^d $ where $\mu(k) $ is the Moebius function. But then, the limiting number should be $\frac{1}{n} \sum_{d | n} \mu(\frac{n}{d}) = \delta_{n1} $, that is, there can only be one point of size one…

Alternatively, one might consider the zeta function counting the number $N_n $ of ideals having a quotient consisting of precisely $p^n $ elements. Then, we have for genuine finite fields $\mathbb{F}_p $ that $\zeta(\mathbb{F}_p[x]) = \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} N_n t^n = 1 + p t + p^2 t^2 + p^3 t^3 + \ldots $, whence in the limit it should become
$1+t+t^2 +t^3 + \ldots $ and there is exactly one ideal in $\mathbb{F}_1[x] $ having a quotient of cardinality n and one argues that this unique quotient should be the unique point with residue field $\mathbb{F}_{1^n} $ (though it might make more sense to view this as the unique n-fold extension of the unique size-one point $\mathbb{F}_1 $ corresponding to the quotient $\mathbb{F}_1[x]/(x^n) $…)

A perhaps more convincing reasoning goes as follows. If $\overline{\mathbb{F}_p} $ is an algebraic closure of the finite field $\mathbb{F}_p $, then the points of the affine line over $\overline{\mathbb{F}_p} $ are in one-to-one correspondence with the maximal ideals of $\overline{\mathbb{F}_p}[x] $ which are all of the form $~(x-\lambda) $ for $\lambda \in \overline{\mathbb{F}_p} $. Hence, we get the points of the affine line over the basefield $\mathbb{F}_p $ as the orbits of points over the algebraic closure under the action of the Galois group $Gal(\overline{\mathbb{F}_p}/\mathbb{F}_p) $.

‘Common wisdom’ has it that one should identify the algebraic closure of the field with one element $\overline{\mathbb{F}_{1}} $ with the group of all roots of unity $\mathbb{\mu}_{\infty} $ and the corresponding Galois group $Gal(\overline{\mathbb{F}_{1}}/\mathbb{F}_1) $ as being generated by the power-maps $\lambda \rightarrow \lambda^n $ on the roots of unity. But then there is exactly one orbit of length n given by the n-th roots of unity $\mathbb{\mu}_n $, so there should be exactly one point of thickness n in $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1[x]) $ and we should then identity the corresponding residue field as $\mathbb{F}_{1^n} = \mathbb{\mu}_n $.

Whatever convinces you, let us assume that we can identify the non-generic points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1[x]) $ with the set of positive natural numbers ${ 1,2,3,\ldots } $ with $n $ denoting the unique size n point with residue field $\mathbb{F}_{1^n} $. Then, what are the fibers of the projection onto the geometric axis $\phi~:~\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) \rightarrow \mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1[x]) = { 1,2,3,\ldots } $?

These fibers should correspond to ‘horizontal’ principal prime ideals of $\mathbb{Z}[x] $. Manin proposes to consider $\phi^{-1}(n) = \mathbb{V}((\Phi_n(x))) $ where $\Phi_n(x) $ is the n-th cyclotomic polynomial. The nice thing about this proposal is that all closed points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ lie on one of these fibers!

Indeed, the residue field at such a point (corresponding to a maximal ideal $\mathfrak{m}=(p,f(x)) $) is the finite field $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $ and as all its elements are either zero or an $p^n-1 $-th root of unity, it does lie on the curve determined by $\Phi_{p^n-1}(x) $.

As a consequence, the localization $\mathbb{Z}[x]_{cycl} $ of the integral polynomial ring $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ at the multiplicative system generated by all cyclotomic polynomials is a principal ideal domain (as all height two primes evaporate in the localization), and, the fiber over the generic point of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1[x]) $ is $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]_{cycl}) $, which should be compared to the fact that the fiber of the generic point in the projection onto the arithmetic axis is $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Q}[x]) $ and $\mathbb{Q}[x] $ is the localization of $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ at the multiplicative system generated by all prime numbers).

Hence, both the vertical coordinate lines and the horizontal ‘lines’ contain all closed points of the arithmetic plane. Further, any such closed point $\mathfrak{m}=(p,f(x)) $ lies on the intersection of a vertical line $\mathbb{V}((p)) $ and a horizontal one $\mathbb{V}((\Phi_{p^n-1}(x))) $ (if $deg(f(x))=n $).
That is, these horizontal and vertical lines form a coordinate system, at least for the closed points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $.

Still, there is a noticeable difference between the two sets of coordinate lines. The vertical lines do not intersect meaning that $p\mathbb{Z}[x]+q\mathbb{Z}[x]=\mathbb{Z}[x] $ for different prime numbers p and q. However, in general the principal prime ideals corresponding to the horizontal lines $~(\Phi_n(x)) $ and $~(\Phi_m(x)) $ are not comaximal when $n \not= m $, that is, these ‘lines’ may have points in common! This will lead to an exotic new topology on the roots of unity… (to be continued).

Mumford’s treasure map


David Mumford did receive earlier this year the 2007 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition. The jury honors Mumford for “his beautiful expository accounts of a host of aspects of algebraic geometry”. Not surprisingly, the first work they mention are his mimeographed notes of the first 3 chapters of a course in algebraic geometry, usually called “Mumford’s red book” because the notes were wrapped in a red cover. In 1988, the notes were reprinted by Springer-Verlag. Unfortnately, the only red they preserved was in the title.

The AMS describes the importance of the red book as follows. “This is one of the few books that attempt to convey in pictures some of the highly abstract notions that arise in the field of algebraic geometry. In his response upon receiving the prize, Mumford recalled that some of his drawings from The Red Book were included in a collection called Five Centuries of French Mathematics. This seemed fitting, he noted: “After all, it was the French who started impressionist painting and isn’t this just an impressionist scheme for rendering geometry?””

These days it is perfectly possible to get a good grasp on difficult concepts from algebraic geometry by reading blogs, watching YouTube or plugging in equations to sophisticated math-programs. In the early seventies though, if you wanted to know what Grothendieck’s scheme-revolution was all about you had no choice but to wade through the EGA’s and SGA’s and they were notorious for being extremely user-unfriendly regarding illustrations…

So the few depictions of schemes available, drawn by people sufficiently fluent in Grothendieck’s new geometric language had no less than treasure-map-cult-status and were studied in minute detail. Mumford’s red book was a gold mine for such treasure maps. Here’s my favorite one, scanned from the original mimeographed notes (it looks somewhat tidier in the Springer-version)



It is the first depiction of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $, the affine scheme of the ring $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ of all integral polynomials. Mumford calls it the”arithmetic surface” as the picture resembles the one he made before of the affine scheme $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{C}[x,y]) $ corresponding to the two-dimensional complex affine space $\mathbb{A}^2_{\mathbb{C}} $. Mumford adds that the arithmetic surface is ‘the first example which has a real mixing of arithmetic and geometric properties’.

Let’s have a closer look at the treasure map. It introduces some new signs which must have looked exotic at the time, but have since become standard tools to depict algebraic schemes.

For starters, recall that the underlying topological space of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ is the set of all prime ideals of the integral polynomial ring $\mathbb{Z}[x] $, so the map tries to list them all as well as their inclusions/intersections.

The doodle in the right upper corner depicts the ‘generic point’ of the scheme. That is, the geometric object corresponding to the prime ideal $~(0) $ (note that $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ is an integral domain). Because the zero ideal is contained in any other prime ideal, the algebraic/geometric mantra (“inclusions reverse when shifting between algebra and geometry”) asserts that the gemetric object corresponding to $~(0) $ should contain all other geometric objects of the arithmetic plane, so it is just the whole plane! Clearly, it is rather senseless to depict this fact by coloring the whole plane black as then we wouldn’t be able to see the finer objects. Mumford’s solution to this is to draw a hairy ball, which in this case, is sufficiently thick to include fragments going in every possible direction. In general, one should read these doodles as saying that the geometric object represented by this doodle contains all other objects seen elsewhere in the picture if the hairy-ball-doodle includes stuff pointing in the direction of the smaller object. So, in the case of the object corresponding to $~(0) $, the doodle has pointers going everywhere, saying that the geometric object contains all other objects depicted.

Let’s move over to the doodles in the lower right-hand corner. They represent the geometric object corresponding to principal prime ideals of the form $~(p(x)) $, where $p(x) $ in an irreducible polynomial over the integers, that is, a polynomial which we cannot write as the product of two smaller integral polynomials. The objects corresponding to such prime ideals should be thought of as ‘horizontal’ curves in the plane.

The doodles depicted correspond to the prime ideal $~(x) $, containing all polynomials divisible by $x $ so when we divide it out we get, as expected, a domain $\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x) \simeq \mathbb{Z} $, and the one corresponding to the ideal $~(x^2+1) $, containing all polynomials divisible by $x^2+1 $, which can be proved to be a prime ideals of $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ by observing that after factoring out we get $\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^2+1) \simeq \mathbb{Z}[i] $, the domain of all Gaussian integers $\mathbb{Z}[i] $. The corresponding doodles (the ‘generic points’ of the curvy-objects) have a predominant horizontal component as they have the express the fact that they depict horizontal curves in the plane. It is no coincidence that the doodle of $~(x^2+1) $ is somewhat bulkier than the one of $~(x) $ as the later one must only depict the fact that all points lying on the straight line to its left belong to it, whereas the former one must claim inclusion of all points lying on the ‘quadric’ it determines.

Apart from these ‘horizontal’ curves, there are also ‘vertical’ lines corresponding to the principal prime ideals $~(p) $, containing the polynomials, all of which coefficients are divisible by the prime number $p $. These are indeed prime ideals of $\mathbb{Z}[x] $, because their quotients are
$\mathbb{Z}[x]/(p) \simeq (\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z})[x] $ are domains, being the ring of polynomials over the finite field $\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z} = \mathbb{F}_p $. The doodles corresponding to these prime ideals have a predominant vertical component (depicting the ‘vertical’ lines) and have a uniform thickness for all prime numbers $p $ as each of them only has to claim ownership of the points lying on the vertical line under them.

Right! So far we managed to depict the zero prime ideal (the whole plane) and the principal prime ideals of $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ (the horizontal curves and the vertical lines). Remains to depict the maximal ideals. These are all known to be of the form
$\mathfrak{m} = (p,f(x)) $
where $p $ is a prime number and $f(x) $ is an irreducible integral polynomial, which remains irreducible when reduced modulo $p $ (that is, if we reduce all coefficients of the integral polynomial $f(x) $ modulo $p $ we obtain an irreducible polynomial in $~\mathbb{F}_p[x] $). By the algebra/geometry mantra mentioned before, the geometric object corresponding to such a maximal ideal can be seen as the ‘intersection’ of an horizontal curve (the object corresponding to the principal prime ideal $~(f(x)) $) and a vertical line (corresponding to the prime ideal $~(p) $). Because maximal ideals do not contain any other prime ideals, there is no reason to have a doodle associated to $\mathfrak{m} $ and we can just depict it by a “point” in the plane, more precisely the intersection-point of the horizontal curve with the vertical line determined by $\mathfrak{m}=(p,f(x)) $. Still, Mumford’s treasure map doesn’t treat all “points” equally. For example, the point corresponding to the maximal ideal $\mathfrak{m}_1 = (3,x+2) $ is depicted by a solid dot $\mathbf{.} $, whereas the point corresponding to the maximal ideal $\mathfrak{m}_2 = (3,x^2+1) $ is represented by a fatter point $\circ $. The distinction between the two ‘points’ becomes evident when we look at the corresponding quotients (which we know have to be fields). We have

$\mathbb{Z}[x]/\mathfrak{m}_1 = \mathbb{Z}[x]/(3,x+2)=(\mathbb{Z}/3\mathbb{Z})[x]/(x+2) = \mathbb{Z}/3\mathbb{Z} = \mathbb{F}_3 $ whereas $\mathbb{Z}[x]/\mathfrak{m}_2 = \mathbb{Z}[x]/(3,x^2+1) = \mathbb{Z}/3\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^2+1) = \mathbb{F}_3[x]/(x^2+1) = \mathbb{F}_{3^2} $

because the polynomial $x^2+1 $ remains irreducible over $\mathbb{F}_3 $, the quotient $\mathbb{F}_3[x]/(x^2+1) $ is no longer the prime-field $\mathbb{F}_3 $ but a quadratic field extension of it, that is, the finite field consisting of 9 elements $\mathbb{F}_{3^2} $. That is, we represent the ‘points’ lying on the vertical line corresponding to the principal prime ideal $~(p) $ by a solid dot . when their quotient (aka residue field is the prime field $~\mathbb{F}_p $, by a bigger point $\circ $ when its residue field is the finite field $~\mathbb{F}_{p^2} $, by an even fatter point $\bigcirc $ when its residue field is $~\mathbb{F}_{p^3} $ and so on, and on. The larger the residue field, the ‘fatter’ the corresponding point.

In fact, the ‘fat-point’ signs in Mumford’s treasure map are an attempt to depict the fact that an affine scheme contains a lot more information than just the set of all prime ideals. In fact, an affine scheme determines (and is determined by) a “functor of points”. That is, to every field (or even every commutative ring) the affine scheme assigns the set of its ‘points’ defined over that field (or ring). For example, the $~\mathbb{F}_p $-points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ are the solid . points on the vertical line $~(p) $, the $~\mathbb{F}_{p^2} $-points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ are the solid . points and the slightly bigger $\circ $ points on that vertical line, and so on.

This concludes our first attempt to decypher Mumford’s drawing, but if we delve a bit deeper, we are bound to find even more treasures… (to be continued).