The martial art of giving talks

Last fall, Matilde Marcolli gave a course at CalTech entitled Oral Presentation: The (Martial) Art of Giving Talks. The purpose of this course was to teach students “how to effectively communicate their work in seminars and conferences and how to defend it from criticism from the audience”.

The lecture notes contain basic information on the different types of talks and how to prepare them. But they really shine when it comes to spotting the badasses in the public and how to respond to their interference. She identifies 5 badsass-types : the empreror and the hierophant (see below), the chariot (the one with a literal mind, asking continuously for details), the fool (the one who happens to sit in the talk but doesn’t belong there) and the magician (the quick smartass).

I’ll just quote here the description of, and most effective strategy against, the first two badass-types. Please have a look at the whole paper, it is a good read!

“The Emperor is the typical figure of power and authority in a given field. It refers to those people who have a tendency to think that the whole field is their own private property, and in particular that only what they do in the field is important, that the work of all others is derivative and that in any case they are not being quoted enough. These are typically pathological narcissists, so one needs to take this into account in interacting with them.
The trouble of having The Emperor in your audience is that he (it is rarely she) can very easily disrupt your presentation completely, by continuous interruptions, by running his own commentary while you are trying to stay focused on delivering your talk and by distracting the rest of the audience.
The Emperor is by far one of the most dangerous encounters you can make in the wilderness of the conference rooms.”

Counter-measure : “Keep in mind that the Emperor is a pathological narcissist: part of the reason why he keeps interrupting your talk is because he cannot stand the fact that, during those fifty minutes, the attention of the audience is focused on you and not on him. His continuous interruptions and complaints are a way to try to divert the attention of the audience back to him and away from you. That your talk gets disrupted in the process, he could not care the less.
A good way to try to avoid the worst case scenario is to make sure (if you know in advance you may be having the Emperor in the audience) that you arrange in your talk to make frequent references to him and his work. In this way, he will hopefully feel that his need to be at the center of attention is sufficiently satisfied that he can let you continue with your talk. Effectiveness: high.”

“The Hierophant represents a priestly figure. What this refers to here is the type of character who feels entitled to represent (and defend) a certain “orthodoxy”, a certain school of thought, or a certain group of people within the field.
Typically the hierophants are the minions and lackeys of the Emperor, his entourage and fan club, those who think that the Emperor represents the only and true orthodoxy in the field and that anything that is done in a different way should be opposed and suppressed.
These characters are generally less disruptive than the Emperor himself, as they are really only fighting you on someone else’s behalf. Nonetheless, they can sometime manage to seriously disrupt your presentation.”

Counter-measure : “This is essentially the same advise as in the case of the Emperor. To an objection that substantially is of the form: “This is not the right way to do things because this is not what what we do (= what the Emperor does)”, which is what you expect to hear from the Hierophant, you can reply along lines such as: “There is also another approach to this problem, developed by the Emperor and his school, which is a very interesting approach that gave nice and important results. However, this is not what I am talking about today: I am talking here about a different approach, and I will be focusing only on the specific features of this other approach…”
Something along these lines would recognize “their” work without having to make any concession on their approach being the only game in town.
Effectiveness: high (unless the Emperor is also present and is delegating to his hierophants the task of attacking you: in that case they won’t give up so easily and the effectiveness of this line of defense becomes medium/low).”

Art and the absolute point (3)

Previously, we have recalled comparisons between approaches to define a geometry over the absolute point and art-historical movements, first those due to Yuri I. Manin, subsequently some extra ones due to Javier Lopez Pena and Oliver Lorscheid.

In these comparisons, the art trend appears to have been chosen more to illustrate a key feature of the approach or an appreciation of its importance, rather than giving a visual illustration of the varieties over $\mathbb{F}_1$ the approach proposes.

Some time ago, we’ve had a couple of posts trying to depict noncommutative varieties, first the illustrations used by Shahn Majid and Matilde Marcolli, and next my own mental picture of it.

In this post, we’ll try to do something similar for affine varieties over the absolute point. To simplify things drastically, I’ll divide the islands in the Lopez Pena-Lorscheid map of $\mathbb{F}_1$ land in two subsets : the former approaches (all but the $\Lambda$-schemes) and the current approach (the $\Lambda$-scheme approach due to James Borger).

The former approaches : Francis Bacon “The Pope” (1953)

The general consensus here was that in going from $\mathbb{Z}$ to $\mathbb{F}_1$ one looses the additive structure and retains only the multiplicative one. Hence, ‘commutative algebras’ over $\mathbb{F}_1$ are (commutative) monoids, and mimicking Grothendieck’s functor of points approach to algebraic geometry, a scheme over $\mathbb{F}_1$ would then correspond to a functor

$h_Z~:~\mathbf{monoids} \longrightarrow \mathbf{sets}$

Such functors are described largely by combinatorial data (see for example the recent blueprint-paper by Oliver Lorscheid), and, if the story would stop here, any Rothko painting could be used as illustration.

Most of the former approaches add something though (buzzwords include ‘Arakelov’, ‘completion at $\infty$’, ‘real place’ etc.) in order to connect the virtual geometric object over $\mathbb{F}_1$ with existing real, complex or integral schemes. For example, one can make the virtual object visible via an evaluation map $h_Z \rightarrow h_X$ which is a natural transformation, where $X$ is a complex variety with its usual functor of points $h_X$ and to connect both we associate to a monoid $M$ its complex monoid-algebra $\mathbb{C} M$. An integral scheme $Y$ can then be said to be ‘defined over $\mathbb{F}_1$’, if $h_Z$ becomes a subfunctor of its usual functor of points $h_Y$ (again, assigning to a monoid its integral monoid algebra $\mathbb{Z} M$) and $Y$ is the ‘best’ integral scheme approximation of the complex evaluation map.

To illustrate this, consider the painting Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Francis Bacon (right-hand painting above) which is a distorded version of the left-hand painting Portrait of Innocent X by Diego Velázquez.

Here, Velázquez’ painting plays the role of the complex variety which makes the combinatorial gadget $h_Z$ visible, and, Bacon’s painting depicts the integral scheme, build up from this combinatorial data, which approximates the evaluation map best.

All of the former approaches more or less give the same very small list of integral schemes defined over $\mathbb{F}_1$, none of them motivically interesting.

The current approach : Jackson Pollock “No. 8” (1949)

An entirely different approach was proposed by James Borger in $\Lambda$-rings and the field with one element. He proposes another definition for commutative $\mathbb{F}_1$-algebras, namely $\lambda$-rings (in the sense of Grothendieck’s Riemann-Roch) and he argues that the $\lambda$-ring structure (which amounts in the sensible cases to a family of endomorphisms of the integral ring lifting the Frobenius morphisms) can be viewed as descent data from $\mathbb{Z}$ to $\mathbb{F}_1$.

The list of integral schemes of finite type with a $\lambda$-structure coincides roughly with the list of integral schemes defined over $\mathbb{F}_1$ in the other approaches, but Borger’s theory really shines in that it proposes long sought for mystery-objects such as $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) \times_{\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1)} \mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z})$. If one accepts Borger’s premise, then this object should be the geometric object corresponding to the Witt-ring $W(\mathbb{Z})$. Recall that the role of Witt-rings in $\mathbb{F}_1$-geometry was anticipated by Manin in Cyclotomy and analytic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$.

But, Witt-rings and their associated Witt-spaces are huge objects, so one needs to extend arithmetic geometry drastically to include such ‘integral schemes of infinite type’. Borger has made a couple of steps in this direction in The basic geometry of Witt vectors, II: Spaces.

To depict these new infinite dimensional geometric objects I’ve chosen for Jackson Pollock‘s painting No. 8. It is no coincidence that Pollock-paintings also appeared in the depiction of noncommutative spaces. In fact, Matilde Marcolli has made the connection between $\lambda$-rings and noncommutative geometry in Cyclotomy and endomotives by showing that the Bost-Connes endomotives are universal for $\lambda$-rings.

Art and the absolute point (2)

Last time we did recall Manin’s comparisons between some approaches to geometry over the absolute point $\pmb{spec}(\mathbb{F}_1)$ and trends in the history of art.

In the comments to that post, Javier Lopez-Pena wrote that he and Oliver Lorscheid briefly contemplated the idea of extending Manin’s artsy-dictionary to all approaches they did draw on their Map of $\mathbb{F}_1$-land.

So this time, we will include here Javier’s and Oliver’s insights on the colored pieces below in their map : CC=Connes-Consani, Generalized torified schemes=Lopez Pena-Lorscheid, Generalized schemes with 0=Durov and, this time, $\Lambda$=Manin-Marcolli.

Durov : romanticism

In his 568 page long Ph.D. thesis New Approach to Arakelov Geometry Nikolai Durov introduces a vast generalization of classical algebraic geometry in which both Arakelov geometry and a more exotic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ fit naturally. Because there were great hopes and expectations it would lead to a big extension of algebraic geometry, Javier and Oliver associate this approach to romantism. From wikipedia : “The modern sense of a romantic character may be expressed in Byronic ideals of a gifted, perhaps misunderstood loner, creatively following the dictates of his inspiration rather than the standard ways of contemporary society.”

Manin and Marcolli : impressionism

Yuri I. Manin in Cyclotomy and analytic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ and Matilde Marcolli in Cyclotomy and endomotives develop a theory of analytic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ based on analytic functions ‘leaking out of roots of unity’. Javier and Oliver depict such functions as ‘thin, but visible brush strokes at roots of 1’ and therefore associate this approach to impressionism. Frow wikipedia : ‘Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include: relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes; open composition; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time); common, ordinary subject matter; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; and unusual visual angles.’

Connes and Consani : cubism

In On the notion of geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ Alain Connes and Katia Consani develop their extension of Soule’s approach. A while ago I’ve done a couple of posts on this here, here and here. Javier and Oliver associate this approach to cubism (a.o. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque) because of the weird juxtapositions of the simple monoidal pieces in this approach.

Lopez-Pena and Lorscheid : deconstructivism

Torified varieties and schemes were introduced by Javier Lopez-Pena and Oliver Lorscheid in Torified varieties and their geometries over $\mathbb{F}_1$ to get lots of examples of varieties over the absolute point in the sense of both Soule and Connes-Consani. Because they were fragmenting schemes into their “fundamental pieces” they associate their approach to deconstructivism.

Another time I’ll sketch my own arty-farty take on all this.

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.