Posts tagged ‘topology’

Ten constructions of the cohomology of varieties

When talking about “the” cohomology of mathematical objects, we do not always explicitly mention which cohomology is used, because it is obvious (in cases there is only one possible definition), or because we really don’t care (since as we will see, it is frequent that different definitions lead to equivalent results). The case of differentiable manifolds or algebraic varieties is particularly impressive, since there were a lot of equivalent cohomology theories defined during last century in order to simplify proofs or allow generalisations. Most cohomology theories, if not all, are defined as the cohomology of a complex : i.e. a sequence of vector spaces or modules (V_n) with a boundary map d. The kernel of d is called the set of cycles, while the images by d are called boundaries : the cohomology H^n is then the quotient of cycles in V_n by the subspace of boundaries.

Classical topologists, for example, will use preferably (see MacLane, Homology or the book of Allen Hatcher) :

  • simplicial (co)homology : it is defined for a triangulated space, i.e. the manifold is cut by curves, surfaces, etc. which make it isomorphic to a sort of polyhedron (a complex); simplicial homology describe non-triviality (holes) in the combinatorial structure of this polyhedron; here the boundary map is really the boundary map.
  • singular (co)homology : a more abstract version of simplicial homology; now we consider the set of all possible simplexes (curves, polygons, polyhedra, and their generalisations…) drawn on the manifold; this definition was given by Eilenberg; I don’t know who first defined simplicial homology, but MacLane mentions that Poincaré and Noether gaves important contributions to this theory.

Then come sheaves, which were explicitly defined by Leray (tales for young mathematicians help remember that Leray made considerable efforts as a prisoner in concentration camps to focus his work on especially “useless” subjects to avoid helping Nazis). (more…)

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14 February 2009 at 11:50 pm 4 comments


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