Penrose tilings and noncommutative geometry

Penrose tilings are aperiodic tilings of the plane, made from 2 sort of tiles : kites and darts. It is well known (see for example the standard textbook tilings and patterns section 10.5) that one can describe a Penrose tiling around a given point in the plane as an infinite sequence of 0’s and 1’s, subject to the condition that no two consecutive 1’s appear in the sequence. Conversely, any such sequence is the sequence of a Penrose tiling together with a point. Moreover, if two such sequences are eventually the same (that is, they only differ in the first so many terms) then these sequences belong to two points in the same tiling,

Another remarkable feature of Penrose tilings is their local isomorphism : fix a finite region around a point in one tiling, then in any other Penrose tiling one can find a point having an isomorphic region around it. For this reason, the space of all Penrose tilings has horrible topological properties (all points lie in each others closure) and is therefore a prime test-example for the techniques of noncommutative geometry.

In his old testament, Noncommutative Geometry, Alain Connes associates to this space a $C^*$-algebra $Fib$ (because it is constructed from the Fibonacci series $F_0,F_1,F_2,…$) which is the direct limit of sums of two full matrix-algebras $S_n$, with connecting morphisms

$S_n = M_{F_n}(\mathbb{C}) \oplus M_{F_{n-1}}(\mathbb{C}) \rightarrow S_{n+1} = M_{F_{n+1}}(\mathbb{C}) \oplus M_{F_n}(\mathbb{C}) \qquad (a,b) \mapsto ( \begin{matrix} a & 0 \\ 0 & b \end{matrix}, a)$

As such $Fib$ is an AF-algebra (for approximately finite) and hence formally smooth. That is, $Fib$ would be the coordinate ring of a smooth variety in the noncommutative sense, if only $Fib$ were finitely generated. However, $Fib$ is far from finitely generated and has other undesirable properties (at least for a noncommutative algebraic geometer) such as being simple and hence in particular $Fib$ has no finite dimensional representations…

A couple of weeks ago, Paul Smith discovered a surprising connection between the noncommutative space of Penrose tilings and an affine algebra in the paper The space of Penrose tilings and the non-commutative curve with homogeneous coordinate ring $\mathbb{C} \langle x,y \rangle/(y^2)$.

Giving $x$ and $y$ degree 1, the algebra $P = \mathbb{C} \langle x,y \rangle/(y^2)$ is obviously graded and noncommutative projective algebraic geometers like to associate to such algebras their ‘proj’ which is the quotient category of the category of all graded modules in which two objects become isomorphisc iff their ‘tails’ (that is forgetting the first few homogeneous components) are isomorphic.

The first type of objects NAGers try to describe are the point modules, which correspond to graded modules in which every homogeneous component is 1-dimensional, that is, they are of the form

$\mathbb{C} e_0 \oplus \mathbb{C} e_1 \oplus \mathbb{C} e_2 \oplus \cdots \oplus \mathbb{C} e_n \oplus \mathbb{C} e_{n+1} \oplus \cdots$

with $e_i$ an element of degree $i$. The reason for this is that point-modules correspond to the points of the (usual, commutative) projective variety when the affine graded algebra is commutative.

Now, assume that a Penrose tiling has been given by a sequence of 0’s and 1’s, say $(z_0,z_1,z_2,\cdots)$, then it is easy to associate to it a graded vectorspace with action given by

$x.e_i = e_{i+1}$ and $y.e_i = z_i e_{i+1}$

Because the sequence has no two consecutive ones, it is clear that this defines a graded module for the algebra $P$ and determines a point module in $\pmb{proj}(P)$. By the equivalence relation on Penrose sequences and the tails-equivalence on graded modules it follows that two sequences define the same Penrose tiling if and only if they determine the same point module in $\pmb{proj}(P)$. Phrased differently, the noncommutative space of Penrose tilings embeds in $\pmb{proj}(P)$ as a subset of the point-modules for $P$.

The only such point-module invariant under the shift-functor is the one corresponding to the 0-sequence, that is, corresponds to the cartwheel tiling

Another nice consequence is that we can now explain the local isomorphism property of Penrose tilings geometrically as a consequence of the fact that the $Ext^1$ between any two such point-modules is non-zero, that is, these noncommutative points lie ‘infinitely close’ to each other.

This is the easy part of Paul’s paper.

The truly, truly amazing part is that he is able to recover Connes’ AF-algebra $Fib$ from $\pmb{proj}(P)$ as the algebra of global sections! More precisely, he proves that there is an equivalence of categories between $\pmb{proj}(P)$ and the category of all $Fib$-modules $\pmb{mod}(Fib)$!

In other words, the noncommutative projective scheme $\pmb{proj}(P)$ is actually isomorphic to an affine scheme and as its coordinate ring is formally smooth $\pmb{proj}(P)$ is a noncommutative smooth variety. It would be interesting to construct more such examples of interesting AF-algebras appearing as local rings of sections of proj-es of affine graded algebras.

changes (ahead)

In view or recents events & comments, some changes have been made or will be made shortly :

categories : Sanitized the plethora of wordpress-categories to which posts belong. At the moment there are just 5 categories : ‘stories’ and ‘web’ (for all posts with low math-content) and three categories ‘level1’, ‘level2’ and ‘level3’, loosely indicating the math-difficulty of a post.

MathJax : After years of using LatexRender and WP-Latex, we’ll change to MathJax from now on. I’ll try to convert older posts as soon as possible. (Update : did a global search and replace. ‘Most’ LaTeX works, major exceptions being matrices and xymatrix commands. I’ll try to fix those later with LatexRender.)

theme : The next couple of days, the layout of this site may change randomly as I’ll be trying out things with the Swift wordpress theme. Hopefully, this will converge to a new design by next week.

name : Neverendingbooks will be renamed to something more math-related. Clearly, the new name will depend on the topics to be covered. On the main index page a pop-up poll will appear in the lower right-hand corner after 10 seconds. Please fill in the topics you’d like us to cover (no name or email required).

This poll will close on friday 21st at 12 CET and its outcome will influence name/direction of this blog. Use it also if you have a killer newname-suggestion. Among the responses so far, a funnier one : “An intro to, or motivation for non-commutative geometry, aimed at undergraduates. As a rule, I’d take what you think would be just right for undergrads, and then trim it down a little more.”

guest-posts : If you’d like to be a guest-blogger here at irregular times, please contact me. The first guest-post will be on noncommutative topology and the interpretation of quantum physics, and will appear soon. So, stay tuned…

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.

Views of noncommutative spaces

The general public expects pictures from geometers, even from non-commutative geometers. Hence, it is important for researchers in this topic to make an attempt to convey the mental picture they have of their favourite noncommutative space, … somehow. Two examples :



This picture was created by Shahn Majid. It appears on his visions of noncommutative geometry page as well as in an extremely readable Plus-magazine article on Quantum geometry, written by Marianne Freiberger, explaining Shahn’s ideas. For more information on this, read Shahn’s SpaceTime blog.



This painting is Jackson Pollock‘s “Untitled N.3”. It depicts the way Matilde Marcolli imagines a noncommutative space. It is taken from her slides of her talk for a general audience Mathematicians look at particle physics.

F_un with Manin

Amidst all LHC-noise, Yuri I. Manin arXived today an interesting paper Cyclotomy and analytic geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1 $.

The paper gives a nice survey of the existent literature and focusses on the crucial role of roots of unity in the algebraic geometry over the non-existent field with one element $\mathbb{F}_1 $ (in French called ‘F-un’). I have tried to do a couple of posts on F-un some time ago but now realize, reading Manin’s paper, I may have given up way too soon…

At several places in the paper, Manin hints at a possible noncommutative geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1 $ :

This is the appropriate place to stress that in a wider context of Toen-Vaqui ‘Au-dessous de Spec Z’, or eventually in noncommutative $\mathbb{F}_1 $-geometry, teh spectrum of $\mathbb{F}_1 $ loses its privileged position as a final object of a geometric category. For example, in noncommutative geometry, or in an appropriate category of stacks, the quotient of this spectrum modulo the trivial action of a group must lie below this spectrum.

Soule’s algebras $\mathcal{A}_X $ are a very important element of the structure, in particular, because they form a bridge to Arakelov geometry. Soule uses concrete choices of them in order to produce ‘just right’ supply of morphisms, without a priori constraining these choices formally. In this work, we use these algebras and their version also to pave a way to the analytic (and possibly non-commutative) geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1 $.

Back when I was writing the first batch of F-un posts, I briefly contemplated the possibility of a noncommutative geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1 $, but quickly forgot about it because I thought it would be forced to reduce to commutative geometry.

Here is the quick argument : noncommutative geometry is really the study of coalgebras (see for example my paper or if you prefer more trustworthy sources the Kontsevich-Soibelman paper). Now, unless I made a mistake, I think all coalgebras over $\mathbb{F}_1 $ must be co-commutative (even group-like), so reducing to commutative geometry.

Surely, I’m missing something…

the Manin-Marcolli cave

Yesterday, Yuri Manin and Matilde Marcolli arXived their paper
Modular shadows and the Levy-Mellin infinity-adic transform which is a
follow-up of their previous paper Continued fractions, modular symbols, and non-commutative geometry.
They motivate the title of the recent paper by :

In
[MaMar2](http://www.arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0201036), these and similar
results were put in connection with the so called “holography”
principle in modern theoretical physics. According to this principle,
quantum field theory on a space may be faithfully reflected by an
appropriate theory on the boundary of this space. When this boundary,
rather than the interior, is interpreted as our observable
space‚Äìtime, one can proclaim that the ancient Plato’s cave metaphor
is resuscitated in this sophisticated guise. This metaphor motivated
the title of the present paper.

Here’s a layout of
Plato’s cave

Imagine prisoners, who have been chained since childhood deep inside an
cave: not only are their limbs immobilized by the chains; their heads
are chained as well, so that their gaze is fixed on a wall.
Behind
the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the
prisoners is a raised walkway, along which statues of various animals,
plants, and other things are carried by people. The statues cast shadows
on the wall, and the prisoners watch these shadows. When one of the
statue-carriers speaks, an echo against the wall causes the prisoners to
believe that the words come from the shadows.
The prisoners
engage in what appears to us to be a game: naming the shapes as they
come by. This, however, is the only reality that they know, even though
they are seeing merely shadows of images. They are thus conditioned to
judge the quality of one another by their skill in quickly naming the
shapes and dislike those who begin to play poorly.
Suppose a
prisoner is released and compelled to stand up and turn around. At that
moment his eyes will be blinded by the firelight, and the shapes passing
will appear less real than their shadows.

Right, now how
does the Manin-Marcolli cave look? My best guess is : like this
picture, taken from Curt McMullen’s Gallery

Imagine
this as the top view of a spherical cave. M&M are imprisoned in the
cave, their heads chained preventing them from looking up and see the
ceiling (where $PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) $ (or a cofinite subgroup of
it) is acting on the upper-half plane via
Moebius-transformations ). All they can see is the circular exit of the
cave. They want to understand the complex picture going on over their
heads from the only things they can observe, that is the action of
(subgroups of) the modular group on the cave-exit
$\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{R}) $. Now, the part of it consisting
of orbits of cusps
$\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{Q}) $ has a nice algebraic geometric
description, but orbits of irrational points cannot be handled by
algebraic geometry as the action of $PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) $ is
highly non-discrete as illustrated by another picture from McMullen’s
gallery

depicting the ill behaved topology of the action on the bottom real
axis. Still, noncommutative _differential_ geometry is pretty good at
handling such ill behaved quotient spaces and it turns out that as a
noncommutative space, this quotient
$\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{R})/PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) $ is rich enough
to recover many important aspects of the classical theory of modular
curves. Hence, they reverse the usual NCG-picture of interpreting
commutative objects as shadows of noncommutative ones. They study the
_noncommutative shadow_
$\mathbb{P}^1(\mathbb{R})/PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) $ of a classical
commutative object, the quotient of the action of the modular group (or
a cofinite subgroup of it) on the upper half-plane.

In our
noncommutative geometry course we have already
seen this noncommutative shadow in action (though at a very basic
level). Remember that we first described the group-structure of the
modular group $PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) = C_2 \ast C_3 $ via the
classical method of groups acting on trees. In particular, we
considered the tree

and
calculated the stabilizers of the end points of its fundamental domain
(the thick circular edge). But
later we were able to give a
much shorter proof (due to Roger Alperin) by looking only at the action
of $PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) $ on the irrational real numbers (the
noncommutative shadow). Needless to say that the results obtained by
Manin and Marcolli from staring at their noncommutative shadow are a lot
more intriguing…