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Tag: rationality

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.


the crypto lattice

Last time we have seen that tori are dual (via their group of characters) to lattices with a Galois action. In particular, the Weil descent torus $R_n=R^1_{\mathbb{F}_{p^n}/\mathbb{F}_p} \mathbb{G}_m $ corresponds to the permutation lattices $R_n^* = \mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^n-1) $. The action of the generator $\sigma $ (the Frobenius) of the Galois group $Gal(\mathbb{F}_{p^n}/\mathbb{F}_p) $ acts on the lattice by multiplication with $x $.

An old result of Masuda (1955), using an even older lemma by Speiser (1919), asserts than whenever the character-lattice $T^* $ of a torus $T $ is a permutation-lattice, the torus is rational, that is, the function-field
of the torus $\mathbb{F}_p(T) $ is purely trancendental

$\mathbb{F}_p(y_1,\ldots,y_d) = \mathbb{F}_p(T) = (\mathbb{F}_{q^n}(T^*))^{Gal} $

(recall from last time that the field on the right-hand side is the field of fractions of the $Gal $-invariants of the group-algebra of the free Abelian group $T^* = \mathbb{Z} \oplus \ldots \oplus \mathbb{Z} $ where the rank is equal to the dimension $d $ of the torus).

The basic observation made by Rubin and Silverberg was that the known results on crypto-compression could be reformulated in the language of algebraic tori as : the tori $T_2 $ (LUC-system) and $T_6 $ (CEILIDH-system) are rational! So, what about the next cryptographic challenges? Are the tori $T_{30} $, $T_{210} $ etc. also rational varieties?

Recall that as a group, the $\mathbb{F}_p $-points of the torus $T_n $, is the subgroup of $\mathbb{F}_{p^n}^* $ corresponding to the most crypto-challenging cyclic subgroup of order $\Phi_n(p) $ where $\Phi_n(x) $ is the n-th cyclotomic polynomial. The character-lattice of this crypto-torus $T_n $ we call the crypto-lattice and it is

$T_n^* = \mathbb{Z}[x]/(\Phi_n(x)) $

(again the action of the Frobenius is given by multiplication with $x $) and hence has rank $\phi(n) $, explaining that the torus $T_n $ has dimension $\phi(n) $ and hence that we can at best expect a compression from $n $-pits to $\phi(n) $-pits. Note that the lattice $T_n^* $ is no longer a permutation lattice, so we cannot use the Masuda-Speiser result to prove rationality of $T_n $.

What have mathematicians proved on $T_n $ before it became a hot topic? Well, there is an old conjecture by V. E. Voskresenskii asserting that all $T_n $ should be rational! Unfortunately, he could prove this only when $n $ is a prime power. Further, he proved that for all $n $, the lattice $T_n $ is at least stably-rational meaning that it is rational upto adding free parameters, that is

$\mathbb{F}_p(T_n)(z_1,\ldots,z_l) = \mathbb{F}_p(y_1,\ldots,y_{d+l}) $

which, sadly, is only of cryptographic-use if $l $ is small (see below). A true rationality result on $T_n $ was proved by A.A. Klyashko : $T_n $ is rational whenever $n=p^a.q^b $ a product of two prime powers.But then, $30=2 \times 3 \times 5 $ the first unknown case…

At Crypto 2004, Marten van Dijk and David Woodruff were able to use an explicit form of Voskresenskii stable rationality result to get an asymptotic optimal crypto-compression rate of $n/\phi(n) $, but their method was of little practical use in the $T_{30} $, for what their method gave was a rational map

$T_{30} \times \mathbb{A}^{32}_{\mathbb{F}_p} \rightarrow \mathbb{A}^{40}_{\mathbb{F}_p} $

and the number of added parameters (32) is way too big to be of use.

But then, one can use century-old results on cyclotomic polynomials to get a much better bound, as was shown in the paper Practical cryptography in high dimensional tori by the collective group of all people working (openly) on tori-cryptography. The idea is that whenever q is a prime and a is an integer not divisible by q, then on the level of cyclotomic polynomials we have the identity

$\Phi_{aq}(x) \Phi_a(x) = \Phi_a(x^q) $

On the level of tori this equality implies (via the character-lattices) an ismorphism (with same assumptions)

$T_{aq}(\mathbb{F}_p) \times T_a(\mathbb{F}_p) \simeq (R^1_{\mathbb{F}_{p^q}/\mathbb{F}_p} T_a)(\mathbb{F}_p) = T_a(\mathbb{F}_{p^q}) $

whenever aq is not divisible by p. Apply this to the special case when $q=5,a=6 $ then we get

$T_{30}(\mathbb{F}_p) \times T_6(\mathbb{F}_p) \simeq R^1_{\mathbb{F}_{p^5}/\mathbb{F}_p} T_6(\mathbb{F}_p) $

and because we know that $T_6 $ is a 2-dimensional rational torus we get, using Weil descent, a rational map

$T_{30} \times \mathbb{A}^2_{\mathbb{F}_p} \rightarrow \mathbb{A}^{10}_{\mathbb{F}_p} $

which can be used to get better crypto-compression than the CEILIDH-system!

This concludes what I know of the OPEN state of affairs in tori-cryptography. I’m sure ‘people in hiding’ know a lot more at the moment and, if not, I have a couple of ideas I’d love to check out. So, when I seem to have disappeared, you know what happened…

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tori & crypto : Diffie-Hellman or GCHQ?

Boris Kunyavskii arXived the paper Algebraic tori – thirty years after dedicated to the 80th anniversary of V. E. Voskresenskii. The goal is to give an overview of results of V. E. Voskresenskii on arithmetic and birational properties of algebraic tori which culminated in his monograph “Algebraic Tori” published in Russian 30 years ago. As Ive worked on this stuff a long time ago I glanced through the paper and it contains a nice summary of the work of V.E. Voskresenskii, and later of Jean-Louis Colliot-Thelene, Jean-Jacques Sansuc and David Saltman. To my surprise I also made a guest-appearance and even seem to have a conjecture (??!!). Fortunately the ‘conjecture’ turned out to be correct as was proved by Nicole Lemire and Martin Lorenz. But a much bigger surprise (at least to me) is contained in the final section of the paper where applications of (stable) rationality of certain tori are given to primality testing and public key cryptography!

In [GPS]
the authors propose to use a similar idea of compression for using tori
in an even more recent cryptographic protocol (so-called pairing-based
cryptography). It is interesting to note that the efficiency (compression factor) of the above mentioned cryptosystems heavily depends on
rationality of tori under consideration (more precisely, on an explicit
rational parameterization of the underlying variety). As the tori used
by Rubin and Silverberg are known to be stably rational, the seemingly abstract question on rationality of a given stably rational torus
is moving to the area of applied mathematics. The first challenging
problem here is to obtain an explicit rational parameterization of the
8-dimensional torus $T_{30} $ , deïfined over a finite field k and splitting over
its cyclic extension L of degree 30.

This is a particular case of a problem posed by Voskresenskii [Vo77,
Problem 5.12] 30 years ago. Let us hope that we will not have to wait
another 30 years for answering this question on a degree 30 extension.

That’s all it takes to get me seriously side-tracked… so the last couple of hours I’ve been reading up on this connection between tori and cryptography. I will spend a couple of posts on these beautiful results. The latest seems to be that, while rationality of $T_{30} $ is still unknown, one can use an explicit stable-rationality description of it to get a better bound than the XTR-system (the system corresponding to the torus $T_{6} $) which in turn is better than the LUC-system (corresponding to $T_2 $), which is turn is twice as efficient as the Diffie-Hellman key exchange system… So let us start gently with the latter one…

Whitfield Diffie (r.) and Martin Hellman (m.) published in 1976 their public key-exchange system. Take a large prime power $q=p^N $, make it public and consider the finite field $\mathbb{F}_q $ which is known to have a cyclic group of units $\mathbb{F}^*_q $ of order $q-1 $. Now, take $g $ to be an element in it of large order (preferable a generator but that isnt necessary) and also make this element public.

Now choose a random integer $a $ (your hidden secret) and compute the element $g^a \in \mathbb{F}_q $ and publicize this element. Suppose someone else published his/her element $g^b $ constructed from his/her secret integer $b $ then both you and this other person can compute from the published data and their secret numbers the element (the shared key)

$g^{ab}=(g^b)^a = (g^a)^b $

(because you know $a $ and the published $g^b $ and your correspondent knows $b $ and the published $g^a $) but nobody else can compute it from the public-available data only because discrete logarithms cannot be feasibly computed in the group $\mathbb{F}_q^* $. Hellman suggests to call this system the Diffie-Hellman-Merkl key-exchange (via this link)

The first researchers to discover and publish the concepts of PKC were Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman from Stanford University, and Ralph Merkle from the University of California at Berkeley. As so often happens in the scientific world, the two groups were working independently on the same problem — Diffie and Hellman on public key cryptography and Merkle on public key distribution — when they became aware of each other’s work and realized there was synergy in their approaches. In Hellman’s words: “We each had a key part of the puzzle and while it’s true one of us first said X, and another of us first said Y, and so on, it was the combination and the back and forth between us that allowed the discovery.”

And that was the full story until 1997. In December, 1997, it was revealed that researchers at the GCHQ organization did some work in the early 1970’s in the field of “non-secret encryption”. The people involved are James Ellis, Clifford Cocks and Malcolm Williamson (r.).

Here is a note by Ellis on his recollection of the history of ‘Non-secret encryption” :

Cryptography is a most unusual science. Most professional scientists aim to be the first to publish their work,
because it is through dissemination that the work realises its value. In contrast, the fullest value of cryptography
is realised by minimising the information available to potential adversaries. Thus professional cryptographers
normally work in closed communities to provide sufficient professional interaction to ensure quality while
maintaining secrecy from outsiders. Revelation of these secrets is normally only sanctioned in the interests
of historical accuracy after it has been demonstrated clearly that no further benefit can be obtained from
continued secrecy.
In keeping with this tradition it is now appropriate to tell the story of the invention and development within
CESG of non-secret encryption (NSE) which was our original name for what is now called PKC. The task of writing
this paper has devolved on me because NSE was my idea and I can therefore describe these early developments from
personal experience. No techniques not already public knowledge, or specific applications of NSE will be mentioned…

The once secret notes of Williamson are also available. NON-SECRET ENCRYPTION USING A FINITE FIELD
by M J Williamson, 21 January 1974
M J Williamson, 10 August 1976


down with determinants

The categorical cafe has a guest post by Tom Leinster Linear Algebra Done Right on the book with the same title by Sheldon Axler. I haven’t read the book but glanced through his online paper Down with determinants!. Here is ‘his’ proof of the fact that any n by n matrix A has at least one eigenvector. Take a vector $v \in \mathbb{C}^n $, then as the collection of vectors ${ v,A.v,A^2.v,\ldots,A^n.v } $ must be linearly dependent, there are complex numbers $a_i \in \mathbb{C} $ such that $~(a_0 + a_1 A + a_2 A^2 + \ldots + a_n A^n).v = \vec{0} \in \mathbb{C}^n $ But then as $\mathbb{C} $ is algebraically closed the polynomial on the left factors into linear factors $a_0 + a_1 x + a_2 x^2 + \ldots + a_n x^n = c (x-r_1)(x-r_2) \ldots (x-r_n) $ and therefore as $c(A-r_1I_n)(A-r_2I_n) \ldots (A-r_nI_n).v = \vec{0} $ from which it follows that at least one of the linear transformations $A-r_j I_n $ has a non-trivial kernel, whence A has an eigenvector with eigenvalue $r_j $. Okay, fine, nice even, but does this simple minded observation warrant the extreme conclusion of his paper (on page 18) ?

As mathematicians, we often read a nice new proof of a known theorem, enjoy the different approach, but continue to derive our internal understanding from the method we originally learned. This paper aims to change drastically the way mathematicians think about and teach crucial aspects of linear algebra.

The simple proof of the existence of eigenvalues given in Theorem 2.1 should be the one imprinted in our minds, written on our blackboards, and published in our textbooks. Generalized eigenvectors should become a central tool for the understanding of linear operators. As we have seen, their use leads to natural definitions of multiplicity and the characteristic polynomial. Every mathematician and every linear algebra student should at least remember that the generalized eigenvectors of an operator always span the domain (Proposition 3.4)—this crucial result leads to easy proofs of upper-triangular form (Theorem 6.2) and the Spectral Theorem (Theorems 7.5 and 8.3).

Determinants appear in many proofs not discussed here. If you scrutinize such proofs, you’ll often discover better alternatives without determinants. Down with Determinants!

I welcome all new proofs of known results as they allow instructors to choose the one best suited to their students (and preferable giving more than one proof showing that there is no such thing as ‘the best way’ to prove a mathematical result). What worries me is Axler’s attitude shared by extremists and dogmatics world-wide : they are so blinded by their own right that they impoverish their own lifes (and if they had their way, also that of others) by not willing to consider other alternatives. A few other comments :

  1. I would be far more impressed if he had given a short argument for the one line he skates over in his proof, that of $\mathbb{C} $ being algebraically closed. Does anyone give a proof of this fact anymore or is this one of the few facts we expect first year students to accept on faith?

    1. I dont understand this aversity to the determinant (probably because of its nonlinear character) but at the same time not having any problems with successive powers of matrices. Surely he knows that the determinant is a fixed $~\mathbb{Q}~ $-polynomial in the traces (which are linear!) of powers of the matrix.

    2. The essense of linear algebra is that by choosing a basis cleverly one can express a linear operator in a extremely nice matrix form (a canonical form) so that all computations become much more easy. This crucial idea of considering different bases and their basechange seems to be missing from Axler’s approach. Moreover, I would have thought that everyone would know these days that ‘linear algebra done right’ is a well developed topic called ‘representation theory of quivers’ but I realize this might be viewed as a dogmatic statement. Fortunately someone else is giving the basic linear algebra courses here in Antwerp so students are spared my private obsessions (at least the first few years…). In [his post]( linear_algebra_done_right.html) Leistner askes “What are determinants good for?” I cannot resist mentioning a trivial observation I made last week when thinking once again about THE rationality problem and which may be well known to others. Recall from the previous post that rationality of the quotient variety of matrix-couples $~(A,B) \in M_n(\mathbb{C}) \oplus M_n(\mathbb{C}) / GL_n $ under _simultaneous conjugation_ is a very hard problem. On the other hand, the ‘near miss’ problem of the quotient variety of matrix-couples $ { (A,B)~|~det(A)=0~} / GL_n $ is completely trivial. It is rational for all n. Here is a one-line proof. Consider the quiver $\xymatrix{\vtx{} \ar@/^2ex/[rr] & & \vtx{} \ar@(ur,dr) \ar@/^2ex/[ll]} $ then the dimension vector (n-1,n) is a Schur root and the first fundamental theorem of $GL_n $ (see for example Hanspeter Krafts excellent book on invariant theory) asserts that the corresponding quotient variety is the one above. The result then follows from Aidan Schofield’s paper Birational classification of moduli spaces of representations of quivers. Btw. in this special case one does not have to use the full force of Aidan’s result. Zinovy Reichstein, who keeps me updated on events in Atlanta, emailed the following elegant short proof Here is an outline of a geometric proof. Let $X = {(A, B) : det(A) = 0} \subset M_n^2 $ and $Y = \mathbb{P}^{n-1} \times M_n $. Applying the no-name lemma to the $PGL_n $-equivariant dominant rational map $~X \rightarrow Y $ given by $~(A, B) \rightarrow (Ker(A), B) $ (which makes X into a vector bundle over a dense open $PGL_n $-invariant subset of Y), we see that $X//PGL_n $ is rational over $Y//PGL_n $ On the other hand, $Y//PGLn = M_n//PGL_n $ is an affine space. Thus $X//PGL_n $ is rational. The moment I read this I knew how to do this quiver-wise and that it is just another Brauer-Severi type argument so completely inadequate to help settling the genuine matrix-problem. Update on the paper by Esther Beneish : Esther did submit the paper in february.

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THE rationality problem

This morning, Esther Beneish
arxived the paper The center of the generic algebra of degree p that may contain the most
significant advance in my favourite problem for over 15 years! In it she
claims to prove that the center of the generic division algebra of
degree p is stably rational for all prime values p. Let me begin by
briefly explaining what the problem is all about. Consider one n by n
matrix A which is sufficiently general, then it will have all its
eigenvalues distinct, but then it is via the Jordan normal form theorem uniquely
determined upto conjugation (that is, base change) by its
characteristic polynomial. In
other words, the conjugacy class of a sufficiently general n by n matrix
depends freely on the coefficients of the characteristic polynomial
(which are the n elementary symmetric functions in the eigenvalues of
the matrix). Now what about couples of n by n matrices (A,B) under
simultaneous conjugation (that is all couples of the form $~(g A
g^{-1}, g B g^{-1}) $ for some invertible n by n matrix g) ??? So,
does there exist a sort of Jordan normal form for couples of n by n
matrices which are sufficiently general? That is, are there a set of
invariants for such couples which determine it is freely upto
simultaneous conjugation?

For couples of 2 by 2 matrices, Claudio Procesi rediscovered an old
result due to James Sylvester saying
that this is indeed the case and that the set of invariants consists of
the five invariants Tr(A),Tr(B),Det(A),Det(B) and Tr(AB). Now, Claudio
did a lot more in his paper. He showed that if you could prove this for
couples of matrices, you can also do it for triples, quadruples even any
k-tuples of n by n matrices under simultaneous conjugation. He also
related this problem to the center of the generic division algebra of
degree n (which was introduced earlier by Shimshon Amitsur in a rather
cryptic manner and for a while he simply refused to believe Claudio’s
description of this division algebra as the one generated by two
_generic_ n by n matrices, that is matrices filled with independent
variables). Claudio also gave the description of the center of this
algebra as a field of lattice-invariants (over the symmetric group S(n)
) which was crucial in subsequent investigations. If you are interested
in the history of this problem, its connections with Brauer group
problems and invariant theory and a short description of the tricks used
in proving the results I’ll mention below, you might have a look at the
talk Centers of Generic Division Algebras, the rationality problem 1965-1990
I gave in Chicago in 1990.

The case of couples of 3 by 3 matrices was finally
settled in 1979 by Ed Formanek and a
year later he was able to solve also the case of couples of 4 by 4
matrices in a fabulous paper. In it, he used solvability of S(4) in an
essential way thereby hinting at the possibility that the problem might
no longer have an affirmative answer for larger values of n. When I read
his 4×4 paper I believed that someone able to prove such a result must
have an awesome insight in the inner workings of matrices and decided to
dedicate myself to this problem the moment I would get a permanent
job… . But even then it is a reckless thing to do. Spending all of
your time to such a difficult problem can be frustrating as there is no
guarantee you’ll ever write a paper. Sure, you can find translations of
the problem and as all good problems it will have connections with other
subjects such as moduli spaces of vectorbundles and of quiver
representations, but to do the ‘next number’ is another matter.

Fortunately, early 1990, together with
Christine Bessenrodt we were
able to do the next two ‘prime cases’ : couples of 5 by 5 and couples of
7 by 7 matrices (Katsylo and Aidan Schofield had already proved that if
you could do it for couples of k by k and l by l matrices and if k and l
were coprime then you could also do it for couples of kl by kl matrices,
so the n=6 case was already done). Or did we? Well not quite, our
methods only allowed us to prove that the center is stably rational
that is, it becomes rational by freely adjoining extra variables. There
are examples known of stably rational fields which are NOT rational, but
I guess most experts believe that in the case of matrix-invariants
stable rationality will imply rationality. After this paper both
Christine and myself decided to do other things as we believed we had
reached the limits of what the lattice-method could do and we thought a
new idea was required to go further. If today’s paper by Esther turns
out to be correct, we were wrong. The next couple of days/weeks I’ll
have a go at her paper but as my lattice-tricks are pretty rusty this
may take longer than expected. Still, I see that in a couple of weeks
there will be a meeting in
Atlanta were Esther
and all experts in the field will be present (among them David Saltman
and Jean-Louis Colliot-Thelene) so we will know one way or the other
pretty soon. I sincerely hope Esther’s proof will stand the test as she
was the only one courageous enough to devote herself entirely to the
problem, regardless of slow progress.

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noncommutative topology (4)

For a
qurve (aka formally smooth algebra) A a *block* is a (possibly infinite
dimensional over the basefield) left A-module X such that its
endomorphism algebra $D = End_A(X)$ is a division algebra and X
(considered as a right D-module) is finite dimensional over D. If a
block X is finite dimensional over the basefield, we call it a *brick*
(aka a *Schur representation*). We want to endow the set of all blocks
with a topology and look at the induced topology on the subset of
bricks. It is an old result due to Claus Ringel
that there is a natural one-to-one correspondence between blocks of A
and algebra epimorphisms (in the categorical sense meaning that identify
equality of morphisms to another algebra) $A \rightarrow M_n(D) =
End_D(X_D)$. This result is important as it allows us to define a
partial order on teh set of all A-blocks via the notion of
*specialization*. If X and Y are two A-blocks with corresponding
epimorphisms $A \rightarrow M_n(D),~A \rightarrow M_m(E)$ we say that Y
is a specialization of X and we denote $X \leq Y$ provided there is an
epimorphism $A \rightarrow B$ making the diagram below commute

$\xymatrix{& M_n(D) \\\ A \ar[ru] \ar[r] \ar[rd] & B \ar[u]^i
\ar[d]^p \\\ & M_m(E)} $

where i is an inclusion and p is a
onto. This partial ordering was studied by Paul Cohn, George Bergman and
Aidan Schofield who use
the partial order to define the _closed subsets_ of blocks to be
those closed under specialization.

There are two important
constructions of A-blocks for a qurve A. One is Aidan’s construction of
a universal localization wrt. a *Sylvester rank function* (and which
should be of use in noncommutative rationality problems), the other
comes from invariant theory and is related to Markus Reineke’s monoid in
the special case when A is the path algebra of a quiver. Let X be a
GL(n)-closed irreducible subvariety of an irreducible component of
n-dimensional A-representations such that X contains a brick (and hence
a Zariski open subset of bricks), then taking PGL(n)-equivariant maps
from X to $M_n(\mathbb{C})$ determines a block (by inverting all central
elements). Now, take a *sensible* topology on the set of all A-bricks.
I would go for defining as the open wrt. a block X, the set of all
A-bricks which become simples after extending by the epimorphism
determined by a block Y such that $Y \leq X$. (note that this seems to
be different from the topology coming from the partial ordering…).
Still, wrt. this topology one can then again define a *noncommutative
topology* on the Abelian category $\mathbf{rep}~A$ of all finite
dimensional A-representations
but this time using filtrations with successive quotients being bricks
rather than simples.

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noncommutative topology (3)

finite dimensional hereditary algebras, one can describe its
noncommutative topology (as developed in part 2)
explicitly, using results of Markus
in The monoid
of families of quiver representations
. Consider a concrete example,

$A = \begin{bmatrix} \mathbb{C} & V \\ 0 & \mathbb{C}
\end{bmatrix}$ where $V$ is an n-dimensional complex vectorspace, or
equivalently, A is the path algebra of the two point, n arrow quiver
$\xymatrix{\vtx{} \ar@/^/[r] \ar[r] \ar@/_/[r] & \vtx{}} $
Then, A has just 2 simple representations S and T (the vertex reps) of
dimension vectors s=(1,0) and t=(0,1). If w is a word in S and T we can
consider the set $\mathbf{r}_w$ of all A-representations having a
Jordan-Holder series with factors the terms in w (read from left to
right) so $\mathbf{r}_w \subset \mathbf{rep}_{(a,b)}~A$ when there are a
S-terms and b T-terms in w. Clearly all these subsets can be given the
structure of a monoid induced by concatenation of words, that is
$\mathbf{r}_w \star \mathbf{r}_{w’} = \mathbf{r}_{ww’}$ which is
Reineke’s *composition monoid*. In this case it is generated by
$\mathbf{r}_s$ and $\mathbf{r}_t$ and in the composition monoid the
following relations hold among these two generators
$\mathbf{r}_t^{\star n+1} \star \mathbf{r}_s = \mathbf{r}_t^{\star n}
\star \mathbf{r}_s \star \mathbf{r}_t \quad \text{and} \quad
\mathbf{r}_t \star \mathbf{r}_s^{\star n+1} = \mathbf{r}_s \star
\mathbf{r}_t \star \mathbf{r}_s^{\star n}$ With these notations we can
now see that the left basic open set in the noncommutative topology
(associated to a noncommutative word w in S and T) is of the form
$\mathcal{O}^l_w = \bigcup_{w’} \mathbf{r}_{w’}$ where the union is
taken over all words w’ in S and T such that in the composition monoid
the relation holds $\mathbf{r}_{w’} = \mathbf{r}_w \star \mathbf{r}_{u}$
for another word u. Hence, each op these basic opens hits a large number
of $~\mathbf{rep}_{\alpha}$, in fact far too many for our purposes….
So, what do we want? We want to define a noncommutative notion of
birationality and clearly we want that if two algebras A and B are
birational that this is the same as saying that some open subsets of
their resp. $\mathbf{rep}$’s are homeomorphic. But, what do we
understand by *noncommutative birationality*? Clearly, if A and B are
prime Noethrian, this is clear. Both have a ring of fractions and we
demand them to be isomorphic (as in the commutative case). For this
special subclass the above noncommutative topology based on the Zariski
topology on the simples may be fine.

However, most qurves don’t have
a canonical ‘ring of fractions’. Usually they will have infinitely
many simple Artinian algebras which should be thought of as being
_a_ ring of fractions. For example, in the finite dimensional
example A above, if follows from Aidan Schofield‘s work Representations of rings over skew fields that
there is one such for every (a,b) with gcd(a,b)=1 and (a,b) satisfying
$a^2+b^2-n a b < 1$ (an indivisible Shur root for A).

what is the _noncommutative birationality result_ we are aiming
for in each of these cases? Well, the inspiration for this comes from
another result by Aidan (although it is not stated as such in the
paper…) Birational
classification of moduli spaces of representations of quivers
. In
this paper Aidan proves that if you take one of these indivisible Schur
roots (a,b) above, and if you look at $\alpha_n = n(a,b)$ that then the
moduli space of semi-stable quiver representations for this multiplied
dimension vector is birational to the quotient variety of
$1-(a^2+b^2-nab)$-tuples of $ n \times n $-matrices under simultaneous

So, *morally speaking* this should be stated as the
fact that A is (along the ray determined by (a,b)) noncommutative
birational to the free algebra in $1-(a^2+b^2-nab)$ variables. And we
want a noncommutative topology on $\mathbf{rep}~A$ to encode all these
facts… As mentioned before, this can be done by replacing simples with
bricks (or if you want Schur representations) but that will have to wait
until next week.

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noncommutative topology (1)

A couple of days ago Ars Mathematica had a post Cuntz on noncommutative topology pointing to a (new, for me) paper by Joachim Cuntz

A couple of years ago, the Notices of the AMS featured an article on noncommutative geometry a la Connes: Quantum Spaces and Their Noncommutative Topology by Joachim Cuntz. The hallmark of this approach is the heavy reliance on K theory. The first few pages of the article are fairly elementary (and full of intriguing pictures), before the K theory takes over.

A few comments are in order. To begin, the paper is **not** really about noncommutative geometry a la Connes, but rather about noncommutative geometry a la Cuntz&Quillen (based on quasi-free algebras) or, equivalently, a la Kontsevich (formally smooth algebras) or if I may be so bold a la moi (qurves).

About the **intruiging pictures** : it seems to be a recent trend in noncommutative geometry research papers to include meaningless pictures to lure the attention of the reader. But, unlike aberrations such as the recent pastiche by Alain Connes and Mathilde Marcolli A Walk in the Noncommutative Garden, Cuntz is honest about their true meaning

I am indebted to my sons, Nicolas and Michael,
for the illustrations to the examples above. Since
these pictures have no technical meaning, they
are only meant to provide a kind of suggestive
visualization of the corresponding quantum spaces.

As one of these pictures made it to the cover of the **Notices** an explanation was included by the cover-editor

About the Cover :

The image on this month’s cover arose from
Joachim Cuntz’s effort to render into visible art
his own internal vision of a noncommutative
torus, an object otherwise quite abstract. His
original idea was then implemented by his son
Michael in a program written in Pascal. More
explicitly, he says that the construction started
out with a triangle in a square, then translated
the triangle by integers times a unit along a line
with irrational slope; plotted the images thus
obtained in a periodic manner; and stopped
just before the figure started to seem cluttered.
Many mathematicians carry around inside
their heads mental images of the abstractions
they work with, and manipulate these objects
somehow in conformity with their mental imagery. They probably also make aesthetic judgements of the value of their work according to
the visual qualities of the images. These presumably common phenomena remain a rarely
explored domain in either art or psychology.

—Bill Casselman(

There can be no technical meaning to the pictures as in the Connes and Cuntz&Quillen approach there is only a noncommutative algebra and _not_ an underlying geometric space, so there is no topology, let alone a noncommutative topology. Of course, I do understand why Cuntz&others name it as such. They view the noncommutative algebra as the ring of functions on some virtual noncommutative space and they compute topological invariants (such as K-groups) of the algebras and interprete them as information about the noncommutative topology of these virtual and unspecified spaces.

Still, it is perfectly possible to associate to a qurve (aka quasi-free algebra or formally smooth algebra) a genuine noncommutative topological space. In this series of posts I’ll explain the little I know of the history of this topic, the thing I posted about it a couple of years ago, why I abandoned the project and the changes I made to it since and the applications I have in mind, both to new problems (such as the birational_classification of qurves) as well as classical problems (such as rationality problems for $PGL_n $ quotient spaces).

Although others have tried to define noncommutative topologies before, I learned about them from Fred Van Oystaeyen. Fred spend the better part of his career constructing structure sheaves associated to noncommutative algebras, mainly to prime Noetherian algebras (the algebras of preference for the majority of non-commutative algebraists). So, suppose you have an ordinary (meaning, the usual commutative definition) topological space X associated to this algebra R, he wants to define an algebra of sections on every open subset $X(\sigma) $ by taking a suitable localization of the algebra $Q_{\sigma}(R) $. This localization is taken with respect to a suitable filter of left ideals $\mathcal{L}(\sigma) $ of R and is defined to be the subalgebra of the classiocal quotient ring $Q(R) $ (which exists because $R$ is prime Noetherian in which case it is a simple Artinian algebra)

$Q_{\sigma}(R) = { q \in Q(R)~|~\exists L \in \mathcal{L}(\sigma)~:~L q \subset R } $

(so these localizations are generalizations of the usual Ore-type rings of fractions). But now we come to an essential point : if we want to glue this rings of sections together on an intersection $X(\sigma) \cap X(\tau) $ we want to do this by ‘localizing further’. However, there are two ways to do this, either considering $~Q_{\sigma}(Q_{\tau}(R)) $ or considering $Q_{\tau}(Q_{\sigma}(R)) $ and these two algebras are only the same if we impose fairly heavy restrictions on the filters (or on the algebra) such as being compatible.

As this gluing property is essential to get a sheaf of noncommutative algebras we seem to get stuck in the general (non compatible) case. Fred’s way out was to make a distinction between the intersection $X_{\sigma} \cap X_{\tau} $ (on which he put the former ring as its ring of sections) and the intersection $X_{\tau} \cap X_{\sigma} $ (on which he puts the latter one). So, the crucial new ingredient in a noncommutative topology is that the order of intersections of opens matter !!!

Of course, this is just the germ of an idea. He then went on to properly define what a noncommutative topology (and even more generally a noncommutative Grothendieck topology) should be by using this localization-example as guidance. I will not state the precise definition here (as I will have to change it slightly later on) but early version of it can be found in the Antwerp Ph.D. thesis by Luc Willaert (1995) and in Fred’s book Algebraic geometry for associative algebras.

Although _qurves_ are decidedly non-Noetherian (apart from trivial cases), one can use Fred’s idea to associate a noncommutative topological space to a qurve as I will explain next time. The quick and impatient may already sneak at my old note a non-commutative topology on rep A but please bear in mind that I changed my mind since on several issues…

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25 years monstrous moonshine

Writing a survey paper is a highly underestimated task. I once
tried it out with \’Centers of generic division algebras : the
rationality problem 1965-1990\’ and it took me a lot of time and that
was on a topic with only 10 to 15 key papers to consider… The task of
writing a survey paper on a topic with any breadth must be much more
difficult. Last week, Terry Gannon posted a survey paper on the arXiv :
Monstrous Moonshine : The first twenty-five years
which gives a very readable introduction to this exciting topic. It has
a marvelous opening line :

It has been approximately
twenty-five years since John McKay remarked that

196 884 = 196 883 +

Anyone who is puzzled by this line (“So what?”)
should definitely have a go at this paper! Still not convinced? Here is
the second sentence :

That time has seen the discovery of
important structures, the establishment of another deep connection
between number theory and algebra, and a reinforcement of a new era of
cooperation between pure mathematics and mathematical

For the remaining sentences (quite a few, the paper
is 33 pages long) I happily refer you to the paper.

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