Snow leopard + wordpress + latex problem

Ever since I’ve upgraded to Snow Leopard I’ve been having problems with the webserver.

At first there were the ‘obvious’ problems : mysql-connection lost and php-error message. These were swiftly dealt with using the excellent Snow Leopard, Apache, PHP, MySQL and WordPress! advice from ‘tady’.

Right now, access to this blog is extremely slow (and often impossible), certainly via the admin-page. The problem appears to be that most of my CPU is used by lots of pdfetex-processes owned by www. Hence the conjecture that it is a problem with either LaTeXRender or WP LaTeX.

Anyone experiencing a similar problem, or knowing a trick to resolve it? Takk.

Grothendieck’s functor of points

A comment-thread well worth following while on vacation was Algebraic Geometry without Prime Ideals at the Secret Blogging Seminar. Peter Woit became lyric about it :

My nomination for the all-time highest quality discussion ever held in a blog comment section goes to the comments on this posting at Secret Blogging Seminar, where several of the best (relatively)-young algebraic geometers in the business discuss the foundations of the subject and how it should be taught.

I follow far too few comment-sections to make such a definite statement, but found the contributions by James Borger and David Ben-Zvi of exceptional high quality. They made a case for using Grothendieck’s ‘functor of points’ approach in teaching algebraic geometry instead of the ‘usual’ approach via prime spectra and their structure sheaves.

The text below was written on december 15th of last year, but never posted. As far as I recall it was meant to be part two of the ‘Brave New Geometries’-series starting with the Mumford’s treasure map post. Anyway, it may perhaps serve someone unfamiliar with Grothendieck’s functorial approach to make the first few timid steps in that directions.

Allyn Jackson’s beautiful account of Grothendieck’s life “Comme Appele du Neant, part II” (the first part of the paper can be found here) contains this gem :

“One striking characteristic of Grothendieck’s
mode of thinking is that it seemed to rely so little
on examples. This can be seen in the legend of the
so-called “Grothendieck prime”.

In a mathematical
conversation, someone suggested to Grothendieck
that they should consider a particular prime number.
“You mean an actual number?” Grothendieck
asked. The other person replied, yes, an actual
prime number. Grothendieck suggested, “All right,
take 57.”

But Grothendieck must have known that 57 is not
prime, right? Absolutely not, said David Mumford
of Brown University. “He doesn’t think concretely.””

We have seen before how Mumford’s doodles allow us to depict all ‘points’ of the affine scheme $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $, that is, all prime ideals of the integral polynomial ring $\mathbb{Z}[x] $.
Perhaps not too surprising, in view of the above story, Alexander Grothendieck pushed the view that one should consider all ideals, rather than just the primes. He achieved this by associating the ‘functor of points’ to an affine scheme.

Consider an arbitrary affine integral scheme $X $ with coordinate ring $\mathbb{Z}[X] = \mathbb{Z}[t_1,\ldots,t_n]/(f_1,\ldots,f_k) $, then any ringmorphism
$\phi~:~\mathbb{Z}[t_1,\ldots,t_n]/(f_1,\ldots,f_k) \rightarrow R $
is determined by an n-tuple of elements $~(r_1,\ldots,r_n) = (\phi(t_1),\ldots,\phi(t_n)) $ from $R $ which must satisfy the polynomial relations $f_i(r_1,\ldots,r_n)=0 $. Thus, Grothendieck argued, one can consider $~(r_1,\ldots,r_n) $ an an ‘$R $-point’ of $X $ and all such tuples form a set $h_X(R) $ called the set of $R $-points of $X $. But then we have a functor

$h_X~:~\mathbf{commutative rings} \rightarrow \mathbf{sets} \qquad R \mapsto h_X(R)=Rings(\mathbb{Z}[t_1,\ldots,t_n]/(f_1,\ldots,f_k),R) $

So, what is this mysterious functor in the special case of interest to us, that is when $X = \mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $?
Well, in that case there are no relations to be satisfied so any ringmorphism $\mathbb{Z}[x] \rightarrow R $ is fully determined by the image of $x $ which can be any element $r \in R $. That is, $Ring(\mathbb{Z}[x],R) = R $ and therefore Grothendieck’s functor of points
$h_{\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]} $ is nothing but the forgetful functor.

But, surely the forgetful functor cannot give us interesting extra information on Mumford’s drawing?
Well, have a look at the slightly extended drawing below :



What are these ‘smudgy’ lines and ‘spiky’ points? Well, before we come to those let us consider the easier case of identifying the $R $-points in case $R $ is a domain. Then, for any $r \in R $, the inverse image of the zero prime ideal of $R $ under the ringmap $\phi_r~:~\mathbb{Z}[x] \rightarrow R $ must be a prime ideal of $\mathbb{Z}[x] $, that is, something visible in Mumford’s drawing. Let’s consider a few easy cases :

For starters, what are the $\mathbb{Z} $-points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $? Any natural number $n \in \mathbb{Z} $ determines the surjective ringmorphism $\phi_n~:~\mathbb{Z}[x] \rightarrow \mathbb{Z} $ identifying $\mathbb{Z} $ with the quotient $\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x-n) $, identifying the ‘arithmetic line’ $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}) = { (2),(3),(5),\ldots,(p),\ldots, (0) } $ with the horizontal line in $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ corresponding to the principal ideal $~(x-n) $ (such as the indicated line $~(x) $).

When $\mathbb{Q} $ are the rational numbers, then $\lambda = \frac{m}{n} $ with $m,n $ coprime integers, in which case we have $\phi_{\lambda}^{-1}(0) = (nx-m) $, hence we get again an horizontal line in $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $. For $ \overline{\mathbb{Q}} $, the algebraic closure of $\mathbb{Q} $ we have for any $\lambda $ that $\phi_{\lambda}^{-1}(0) = (f(x)) $ where $f(x) $ is a minimal integral polynomial for which $\lambda $ is a root.
But what happens when $K = \mathbb{C} $ and $\lambda $ is a trancendental number? Well, in that case the ringmorphism $\phi_{\lambda}~:~\mathbb{Z}[x] \rightarrow \mathbb{C} $ is injective and therefore $\phi_{\lambda}^{-1}(0) = (0) $ so we get the whole arithmetic plane!

In the case of a finite field $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $ we have seen that there are ‘fat’ points in the arithmetic plane, corresponding to maximal ideals $~(p,f(x)) $ (with $f(x) $ a polynomial of degree $n $ which remains irreducible over $\mathbb{F}_p $), having $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $ as their residue field. But these are not the only $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $-points. For, take any element $\lambda \in \mathbb{F}_{p^n} $, then the map $\phi_{\lambda} $ takes $\mathbb{Z}[x] $ to the subfield of $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $ generated by $\lambda $. That is, the $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $-points of $\mathbf{spec}(\mathbb{Z}[x]) $ consists of all fat points with residue field $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $, together with slightly slimmer points having as their residue field $\mathbb{F}_{p^m} $ where $m $ is a divisor of $n $. In all, there are precisely $p^n $ (that is, the number of elements of $\mathbb{F}_{p^n} $) such points, as could be expected.

Things become quickly more interesting when we consider $R $-points for rings containing nilpotent elements.

Gina says (continued)

Via the Arcadian functor I’ve grabbed the full text of Gil Kalai’s book Gina Says: Adventures in the Blogsphere String War (part 1 and part 2) and read it on a lazy sunny afternoon.

Arguably the best paragraph is the final one, and, it might be sensible to start the book by reading it first as it clarifies Kalai’s point in collecting these comment-threads from a number of popular blogs (including not even wrong, the n-category cafe and asymptotia) :

This book is not about string theory. It is more about delicate boundaries
between greatness and megalomania, between humility and arrogance,
between fantasy and reality, between wisdom and bullshit, between
people of different stature and standing, between skepticism and
harassment, between sanity and its loss, and between truths and fallacies.
These are delicate boundaries that we witness in academics and in science
and even in blog discussions. This story offers a little salute to people’s
passion for understanding their logical and physical reality, as well as for
understanding themselves.

introducing : the n-geometry cafe

It all started with this comment on the noncommutative geometry blog by “gabriel” :

Even though my understanding of noncommutative geometry is limited, there are some aspects that I am able to follow.
I was wondering, since there are so few blogs here, why don’t you guys forge an alliance with neverending books, you blog about noncommutative geometry anyways. That way you have another(n-category cafe) blogspot and gives well informed views(well depending on how well defined a conversational-style blog can be).

The technology to set up a ‘conversational-style blog’, where anyone can either leave twitter-like messages or more substantial posts, is available thanks to the incredible people from Automattic.

For starters, they have the sensational p2 wordpress theme : “blogging at the speed of thought”



A group blog theme for short update messages, inspired by Twitter. Featuring: Hassle-free posting from the front page. Perfect for group blogging, or as a liveblog theme. Dynamic page updates. Threaded comment display on the front page. In-line editing for posts and comments. Live tag suggestion based on previously used tags. A show/hide feature for comments, to keep things tidy. Real-time notifications when a new comment or update is posted. Super-handy keyboard shortcuts.

Next, any lively online community is open for intense debate : “supercharge your community”



Fire up the debate with commenter profiles, reputation scores, and OpenID. With IntenseDebate you’ll tap into a whole new network of sites with avid bloggers and commenters. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

And finally, as we want to talk math, both in posts and comments, they provide us with the WP-LaTeX plugin.

All these ingredients make up the n-geometry cafe ((with apologies to the original cafe but I simply couldn’t resist…)) to be found at noncommutative.org (explaining the ‘n’).



Anyone can walk into a Cafe and have his/her say, that’s why you’ll get automatic author-privileges if you register.

Fill in your nick and email (please take your IntenseDebate setting and consider signing up with Gravator.com to get a nice image next to your contributions), invent your own password, show that you’re human by answering the reCapcha question and you’ll get a verification email within minutes ((if you don’t get an email within the hour, please notify me)). This will take you to your admin-page, allowing you to start blogging. For more info, check out the FAQ-pages.

I’m well aware of the obvious dangers of non-moderated sites, but also a strong believer in any Cafe’s self-regulating powers…

If you are interested in noncommutative geometry, and feel like sharing, please try it out.