Ringed Spaces (2)


Let |M| be a topological space. A presheaf of commutative algebras F on X is an assignment

U ↦ F(U), U open in |M|, F(U) is a commutative algebra, such that the following holds,

(1) If U ⊂ V are two open sets in |M|, ∃ a morphism rV, U: F(V) → F(U), called the restriction morphism and often denoted by rV, U(ƒ) = ƒ|U, such that

(i) rU, U = id,

(ii) rW, U = rV, U ○ rW, V

A presheaf ƒ is called a sheaf if the following holds:

(2) Given an open covering {Ui}i∈I of U and a family {ƒi}i∈I, ƒi ∈ F(Ui) such that ƒi|Ui ∩ Uj = ƒj|Ui ∩ Uj ∀ i, j ∈ I, ∃ a unique ƒ ∈ F(U) with ƒ|Ui = ƒi

The elements in F(U) are called sections over U, and with U = |M|, these are termed global sections.

The assignments U ↦ C(U), U open in the differentiable manifold M and U ↦ OX(U), U open in algebraic variety X are examples of sheaves of functions on the topological spaces |M| and |X| underlying the differentiable manifold M and the algebraic variety X respectively.

In the language of categories, the above definition says that we have defined a functor, F, from top(M) to (alg), where top(M) is the category of the open sets in the topological space |M|, the arrows given by the inclusions of open sets while (alg) is the category of commutative algebras. In fact, the assignment U ↦ F(U) defines F on the objects while the assignment

U ⊂ V ↦ rV, U: F(V) → F(U)

defines F on the arrows.

Let |M| be a topological space. We define a presheaf of algebras on |M| to be a functor

F: top(M)op → (alg)

The suffix “op” denotes as usual the opposite category; in other words, F is a contravariant functor from top(M) to (alg). A presheaf is a sheaf if it satisfies the property (2) of the above definition.

If F is a (pre)sheaf on |M| and U is open in |M|, we define F|U, the (pre)sheaf F restricted to U, as the functor F restricted to the category of open sets in U (viewed as a topological space itself).

Let F be a presheaf on the topological space |M| and let x be a point in |M|. We define the stalk Fx of F, at the point x, as the direct limit

lim F(U)

where the direct limit is taken ∀ the U open neighbourhoods of x in |M|. Fx consists of the disjoint union of all pairs (U, s) with U open in |M|, x ∈ U, and s ∈ F(U), modulo the equivalence relation: (U, s) ≅ (V, t) iff ∃ a neighbourhood W of x, W ⊂ U ∩ V, such that s|W = t|W.

The elements in Fx are called germs of sections.

Let F and G be presheaves on |M|. A morphism of presheaves φ: F → G, for each open set U in |M|, such that ∀ V ⊂ U, the following diagram commutes


Equivalently and more elegantly, one can also say that a morphism of presheaves is a natural transformation between the two presheaves F and G viewed as functors.

A morphism of sheaves is just a morphism of the underlying presheaves.

Clearly any morphism of presheaves induces a morphism on the stalks: φx: Fx → Gx. The sheaf property, i.e., property (2) in the above definition, ensures that if we have two morphisms of sheaves φ and ψ, such that φx = ψx ∀ x, then φ = ψ.

We say that the morphism of sheaves is injective (resp. surjective) if x is injective (resp. surjective).

On the notion of surjectivity, however, one should exert some care, since we can have a surjective sheaf morphism φ: F → G such that φU: F(U) → G(U) is not surjective for some open sets U. This strange phenomenon is a consequence of the following fact. While the assignment U ↦ ker(φ(U)) always defines a sheaf, the assignment

U ↦ im( φ(U)) = F(U)/G(U)

defines in general only a presheaf and not all the presheaves are sheaves. A simple example is given by the assignment associating to an open set U in R, the algebra of constant real functions on U. Clearly this is a presheaf, but not a sheaf.

We can always associate, in a natural way, to any presheaf a sheaf called its sheafification. Intuitively, one may think of the sheafification as the sheaf that best “approximates” the given presheaf. For example, the sheafification of the presheaf of constant functions on open sets in R is the sheaf of locally constant functions on open sets in R. We construct the sheafification of a presheaf using the étalé space, which we also need in the sequel, since it gives an equivalent approach to sheaf theory.

Let F be a presheaf on |M|. We define the étalé space of F to be the disjoint union ⊔x∈|M| Fx. Let each open U ∈ |M| and each s ∈ F(U) define the map šU: U ⊔x∈|U| Fx, šU(x) = sx. We give to the étalé space the finest topology that makes the maps š continuous, ∀ open U ⊂ |M| and all sections s ∈ F(U). We define Fet to be the presheaf on |M|:

U ↦ Fet(U) = {šU: U → ⊔x∈|U| Fx, šU(x) = sx ∈ Fx}

Let F be a presheaf on |M|. A sheafification of F is a sheaf F~, together with a presheaf morphism α: F → Fsuch that

(1) any presheaf morphism ψ: F → G, G a sheaf factors via α, i.e. ψ: F →α F~ → G,

(2) F and Fare locally isomorphic, i.e., ∃ an open cover {Ui}i∈I of |M| such that F(Ui) ≅ F~(Ui) via α.

Let F and G be sheaves of rings on some topological space |M|. Assume that we have an injective morphism of sheaves G → F such that G(U) ⊂ F(U) ∀ U open in |M|. We define the quotient F/G to be the sheafification of the image presheaf: U ↦ F(U)/G(U). In general F/G (U) ≠ F(U)/G(U), however they are locally isomorphic.

Ringed space is a pair M = (|M|, F) consisting of a topological space |M| and a sheaf of commutative rings F on |M|. This is a locally ringed space, if the stalk Fx is a local ring ∀ x ∈ |M|. A morphism of ringed spaces φ: M = (|M|, F) → N = (|N|, G) consists of a morphism |φ|: |M| → |N| of the topological spaces and a sheaf morphism φ*: ON → φ*OM, where φ*OM is a sheaf on |N| and defined as follows:

*OM)(U) = OM-1(U)) ∀ U open in |N|

Morphism of ringed spaces induces a morphism on the stalks for each

x ∈ |M|: φx: ON,|φ|(x) → OM,x

If M and N are locally ringed spaces, we say that the morphism of ringed spaces φ is a morphism of locally ringed spaces if φx is local, i.e. φ-1x(mM,x) = mN,|φ|(x), where mN,|φ|(x) and mM,x are the maximal ideals in the local rings ON,|φ|(x) and OM,x respectively.

Concepts – Intensional and Extensional.


Let us start in this fashion: objects to which concepts apply (or not). The first step in arriving at a theory for this situation is, to assume that the objects in question are completely arbitrary (as urelements in set theory). This assumption is evidently wrong in empirical experience as also in mathematics itself, e.g., in function theory. So to admit this assumption forces us to build our own theory of sets to take care of the case of complex objects later on.

Concepts are normally given to us by linguistic expressions, disregarding by abstraction the origin of languages or signals or what have you. Now we can develop a theory of concepts as follows. We idealize our language by fixing a vocabulary together with logical operators and formulate expressions for classes, functions, and relations in the way of the λ-calculus. Here we have actually a theory of concepts, understood intensionally. Note that the extensional point of view is by no means lost, since we read for e.g., λx,yR(x,y) as the relation R over a domain of urelements; but either R is in the vocabulary or given by a composed expression in our logical language; equality does not refer to equal extensions but to logical equivalence and reduction processes. By the way, there is no hindrance to apply λ-expressions again to λ-expressions so that hierarchies of concepts can be included.

Another approach to the question of obtaining a theory of concepts is the algebraic one. Here introducing variables for extensions over a domain of urelements, and calling them classes helps develop the axiomatic class calculus. Adding (two-place) relations again with axioms, and we can obtain the relation calculus. One could go a step further to polyadic algebra. These theories do not have a prominent role nowadays, if one compares them with the λ-calculus or set theory. This is probably due to the circumstance that it seems difficult, not to say actually against the proper idea behind these theories, to allow iteration in the sense of classes of classes, etc.

For the mathematical purposes and for the use of logics, the appropriate way is to restrict a theory of concepts to a theory of their extensions. This has a good reason, since in an abstract theory we are interested in being as neutral as possible with respect to a description or factual theory given beforehand. There is a philosophical principle behind this, namely that logical (and in this case set theoretical) assumptions should be as far as possible distinguishable from any factual or descriptive assumption.

Abelian Categories, or Injective Resolutions are Diagrammatic. Note Quote.


Jean-Pierre Serre gave a more thoroughly cohomological turn to the conjectures than Weil had. Grothendieck says

Anyway Serre explained the Weil conjectures to me in cohomological terms around 1955 – and it was only in these terms that they could possibly ‘hook’ me …I am not sure anyone but Serre and I, not even Weil if that is possible, was deeply convinced such [a cohomology] must exist.

Specifically Serre approached the problem through sheaves, a new method in topology that he and others were exploring. Grothendieck would later describe each sheaf on a space T as a “meter stick” measuring T. The cohomology of a given sheaf gives a very coarse summary of the information in it – and in the best case it highlights just the information you want. Certain sheaves on T produced the Betti numbers. If you could put such “meter sticks” on Weil’s arithmetic spaces, and prove standard topological theorems in this form, the conjectures would follow.

By the nuts and bolts definition, a sheaf F on a topological space T is an assignment of Abelian groups to open subsets of T, plus group homomorphisms among them, all meeting a certain covering condition. Precisely these nuts and bolts were unavailable for the Weil conjectures because the arithmetic spaces had no useful topology in the then-existing sense.

At the École Normale Supérieure, Henri Cartan’s seminar spent 1948-49 and 1950-51 focussing on sheaf cohomology. As one motive, there was already de Rham cohomology on differentiable manifolds, which not only described their topology but also described differential analysis on manifolds. And during the time of the seminar Cartan saw how to modify sheaf cohomology as a tool in complex analysis. Given a complex analytic variety V Cartan could define sheaves that reflected not only the topology of V but also complex analysis on V.

These were promising for the Weil conjectures since Weil cohomology would need sheaves reflecting algebra on those spaces. But understand, this differential analysis and complex analysis used sheaves and cohomology in the usual topological sense. Their innovation was to find particular new sheaves which capture analytic or algebraic information that a pure topologist might not focus on.

The greater challenge to the Séminaire Cartan was, that along with the cohomology of topological spaces, the seminar looked at the cohomology of groups. Here sheaves are replaced by G-modules. This was formally quite different from topology yet it had grown from topology and was tightly tied to it. Indeed Eilenberg and Mac Lane created category theory in large part to explain both kinds of cohomology by clarifying the links between them. The seminar aimed to find what was common to the two kinds of cohomology and they found it in a pattern of functors.

The cohomology of a topological space X assigns to each sheaf F on X a series of Abelian groups HnF and to each sheaf map f : F → F′ a series of group homomorphisms Hnf : HnF → HnF′. The definition requires that each Hn is a functor, from sheaves on X to Abelian groups. A crucial property of these functors is:

HnF = 0 for n > 0

for any fine sheaf F where a sheaf is fine if it meets a certain condition borrowed from differential geometry by way of Cartan’s complex analytic geometry.

The cohomology of a group G assigns to each G-module M a series of Abelian groups HnM and to each homomorphism f : M →M′ a series of homomorphisms HnF : HnM → HnM′. Each Hn is a functor, from G-modules to Abelian groups. These functors have the same properties as topological cohomology except that:

HnM = 0 for n > 0

for any injective module M. A G-module I is injective if: For every G-module inclusion N M and homomorphism f : N → I there is at least one g : M → I making this commute


Cartan could treat the cohomology of several different algebraic structures: groups, Lie groups, associative algebras. These all rest on injective resolutions. But, he could not include topological spaces, the source of the whole, and still one of the main motives for pursuing the other cohomologies. Topological cohomology rested on the completely different apparatus of fine resolutions. As to the search for a Weil cohomology, this left two questions: What would Weil cohomology use in place of topological sheaves or G-modules? And what resolutions would give their cohomology? Specifically, Cartan & Eilenberg defines group cohomology (like several other constructions) as a derived functor, which in turn is defined using injective resolutions. So the cohomology of a topological space was not a derived functor in their technical sense. But a looser sense was apparently current.

Grothendieck wrote to Serre:

I have realized that by formulating the theory of derived functors for categories more general than modules, one gets the cohomology of spaces at the same time at small cost. The existence follows from a general criterion, and fine sheaves will play the role of injective modules. One gets the fundamental spectral sequences as special cases of delectable and useful general spectral sequences. But I am not yet sure if it all works as well for non-separated spaces and I recall your doubts on the existence of an exact sequence in cohomology for dimensions ≥ 2. Besides this is probably all more or less explicit in Cartan-Eilenberg’s book which I have not yet had the pleasure to see.

Here he lays out the whole paper, commonly cited as Tôhoku for the journal that published it. There are several issues. For one thing, fine resolutions do not work for all topological spaces but only for the paracompact – that is, Hausdorff spaces where every open cover has a locally finite refinement. The Séminaire Cartan called these separated spaces. The limitation was no problem for differential geometry. All differential manifolds are paracompact. Nor was it a problem for most of analysis. But it was discouraging from the viewpoint of the Weil conjectures since non-trivial algebraic varieties are never Hausdorff.

Serre replied using the same loose sense of derived functor:

The fact that sheaf cohomology is a special case of derived func- tors (at least for the paracompact case) is not in Cartan-Sammy. Cartan was aware of it and told [David] Buchsbaum to work on it, but he seems not to have done it. The interest of it would be to show just which properties of fine sheaves we need to use; and so one might be able to figure out whether or not there are enough fine sheaves in the non-separated case (I think the answer is no but I am not at all sure!).

So Grothendieck began rewriting Cartan-Eilenberg before he had seen it. Among other things he preempted the question of resolutions for Weil cohomology. Before anyone knew what “sheaves” it would use, Grothendieck knew it would use injective resolutions. He did this by asking not what sheaves “are” but how they relate to one another. As he later put it, he set out to:

consider the set13 of all sheaves on a given topological space or, if you like, the prodigious arsenal of all the “meter sticks” that measure it. We consider this “set” or “arsenal” as equipped with its most evident structure, the way it appears so to speak “right in front of your nose”; that is what we call the structure of a “category”…From here on, this kind of “measuring superstructure” called the “category of sheaves” will be taken as “incarnating” what is most essential to that space.

The Séminaire Cartan had shown this structure in front of your nose suffices for much of cohomology. Definitions and proofs can be given in terms of commutative diagrams and exact sequences without asking, most of the time, what these are diagrams of.  Grothendieck went farther than any other, insisting that the “formal analogy” between sheaf cohomology and group cohomology should become “a common framework including these theories and others”. To start with, injectives have a nice categorical sense: An object I in any category is injective if, for every monic N → M and arrow f : N → I there is at least one g : M → I such that


Fine sheaves are not so diagrammatic.

Grothendieck saw that Reinhold Baer’s original proof that modules have injective resolutions was largely diagrammatic itself. So Grothendieck gave diagrammatic axioms for the basic properties used in cohomology, and called any category that satisfies them an Abelian category. He gave further diagrammatic axioms tailored to Baer’s proof: Every category satisfying these axioms has injective resolutions. Such a category is called an AB5 category, and sometimes around the 1960s a Grothendieck category though that term has been used in several senses.

So sheaves on any topological space have injective resolutions and thus have derived functor cohomology in the strict sense. For paracompact spaces this agrees with cohomology from fine, flabby, or soft resolutions. So you can still use those, if you want them, and you will. But Grothendieck treats paracompactness as a “restrictive condition”, well removed from the basic theory, and he specifically mentions the Weil conjectures.

Beyond that, Grothendieck’s approach works for topology the same way it does for all cohomology. And, much further, the axioms apply to many categories other than categories of sheaves on topological spaces or categories of modules. They go far beyond topological and group cohomology, in principle, though in fact there were few if any known examples outside that framework when they were given.

Of Topos and Torsors

Let X be a topological space. One goal of algebraic topology is to study the topology of X by means of algebraic invariants, such as the singular cohomology groups Hn(X;G) of X with coefficients in an abelian group G. These cohomology groups have proven to be an extremely useful tool, due largely to the fact that they enjoy excellent formal properties, and the fact that they tend to be very computable. However, the usual definition of Hn(X;G) in terms of singular G-valued cochains on X is perhaps somewhat unenlightening. This raises the following question: can we understand the cohomology group Hn(X;G) in more conceptual terms?

As a first step toward answering this question, we observe that Hn(X;G) is a representable functor of X. That is, there exists an Eilenberg-MacLane space K(G,n) and a universal cohomology class η ∈ Hn(K(G,n);G) such that, for any topological space X, pullback of η determines a bijection

[X, K(G, n)] → Hn(X; G)

Here [X,K(G,n)] denotes the set of homotopy classes of maps from X to K(G,n). The space K(G,n) can be characterized up to homotopy equivalence by the above property, or by the the formula πkK(G,n)≃ ∗ if k̸ ≠ n


G if k = n.

In the case n = 1, we can be more concrete. An Eilenberg MacLane space K(G,1) is called a classifying space for G, and is typically denoted by BG. The universal cover of BG is a contractible space EG, which carries a free action of the group G by covering transformations. We have a quotient map π : EG → BG. Each fiber of π is a discrete topological space, on which the group G acts simply transitively. We can summarize the situation by saying that EG is a G-torsor over the classifying space BG. For every continuous map X → BG, the fiber product X~ : EG × BG X has the structure of a G-torsor on X: that is, it is a space endowed with a free action of G and a homeomorphism X~/G ≃ X. This construction determines a map from [X,BG] to the set of isomorphism classes of G-torsors on X. If X is a well-behaved space (such as a CW complex), then this map is a bijection. We therefore have (at least) three different ways of thinking about a cohomology class η ∈ H1(X; G):

(1) As a G-valued singular cocycle on X, which is well-defined up to coboundaries.

(2) As a continuous map X → BG, which is well-defined up to homotopy.

(3) As a G-torsor on X, which is well-defined up to isomorphism.

The singular cohomology of a space X is constructed using continuous maps from simplices ∆k into X. If there are not many maps into X (for example if every path in X is constant), then we cannot expect singular cohomology to tell us very much about X. The second definition uses maps from X into the classifying space BG, which (ultimately) relies on the existence of continuous real-valued functions on X. If X does not admit many real-valued functions, then the set of homotopy classes [X,BG] is also not a very useful invariant. For such spaces, the third approach is the most powerful: there is a good theory of G-torsors on an arbitrary topological space X.

There is another reason for thinking about H1(X;G) in the language of G-torsors: it continues to make sense in situations where the traditional ideas of topology break down. If X is a G-torsor on a topological space X, then the projection map X → X is a local homeomorphism; we may therefore identify X with a sheaf of sets F on X. The action of G on X determines an action of G on F. The sheaf F (with its G-action) and the space X (with its G-action) determine each other, up to canonical isomorphism. Consequently, we can formulate the definition of a G-torsor in terms of the category ShvSet(X) of sheaves of sets on X without ever mentioning the topological space X itself. The same definition makes sense in any category which bears a sufficiently strong resemblance to the category of sheaves on a topological space: for example, in any Grothendieck topos. This observation allows us to construct a theory of torsors in a variety of nonstandard contexts, such as the étale topology of algebraic varieties.

Describing the cohomology of X in terms of the sheaf theory of X has still another advantage, which comes into play even when the space X is assumed to be a CW complex. For a general space X, isomorphism classes of G-torsors on X are classified not by the singular cohomology H1sing(X;G), but by the sheaf cohomology H1sheaf(X; G) of X with coefficients in the constant sheaf G associated to G. This sheaf cohomology is defined more generally for any sheaf of groups G on X. Moreover, we have a conceptual interpretation of H1sheaf(X; G) in general: it classifies G-torsors on X (that is, sheaves F on X which carry an action of G and locally admit a G-equivariant isomorphism F ≃ G) up to isomorphism. The general formalism of sheaf cohomology is extremely useful, even if we are interested only in the case where X is a nice topological space: it includes, for example, the theory of cohomology with coefficients in a local system on X.

Let us now attempt to obtain a similar interpretation for cohomology classes η ∈ H2 (X ; G). What should play the role of a G-torsor in this case? To answer this question, we return to the situation where X is a CW complex, so that η can be identified with a continuous map X → K(G,2). We can think of K(G,2) as the classifying space of a group: not the discrete group G, but instead the classifying space BG (which, if built in a sufficiently careful way, comes equipped with the structure of a topological abelian group). Namely, we can identify K(G, 2) with the quotient E/BG, where E is a contractible space with a free action of BG. Any cohomology class η ∈ H2(X;G) determines a map X → K(G,2), and we can form the pullback X~ = E × BG X. We now think of X as a torsor over X: not for the discrete group G, but instead for its classifying space BG.

To complete the analogy with our analysis in the case n = 1, we would like to interpret the fibration X → X as defining some kind of sheaf F on the space X. This sheaf F should have the property that for each x ∈ X, the stalk Fx can be identified with the fiber X~x ≃ BG. Since the space BG is not discrete (or homotopy equivalent to a discrete space), the situation cannot be adequately described in the usual language of set-valued sheaves. However, the classifying space BG is almost discrete: since the homotopy groups πiBG vanish for i > 1, we can recover BG (up to homotopy equivalence) from its fundamental groupoid. This suggests that we might try to think about F as a “groupoid-valued sheaf” on X, or a stack (in groupoids) on X.

Time-Evolution in Quantum Mechanics is a “Flow” in the (Abstract) Space of Automorphisms of the Algebra of Observables

Spiral of life

In quantum mechanics, time is not a geometrical flow. Time-evolution is characterized as a transformation that preserves the algebraic relations between physical observables. If at a time t = 0 an observable – say the angular momentum L(0) – is defined as a certain combination (product and sum) of some other observables – for instance positions X(0), Y (0) and momenta PX (0), PY (0), that is to say

L(0) = X (0)PY (0) − Y (0)PX (0) —– (1)

then one asks that the same relation be satisfied at any other instant t (preceding or following t = 0),

L(t) = X (t)PY (t) − Y (t)PX (t) —– (2)

The quantum time-evolution is thus a map from an observable at time 0 to an observable at time t that preserves the algebraic form of the relation between observables. Technically speaking, one talks of an automorphism of the algebra of observables.

At first sight, this time-evolution has nothing to do with a flow. However there is still “something flowing”, although in an abstract mathematical space. Indeed, to any value of t (here time is an absolute parameter, as in Newton mechanics) is associated an automorphism αt that allows to deduce the observables at time t from the knowledge of the observables at time 0. Mathematically, one writes

L(t) = αt(L(0)), X(t) = αt(X(0)) —– (3)

and so on for the other observables. The term “group” is important for it precisely explains why it still makes sense to talk about a flow. Group refers to the property of additivity of the evolution: going from t to t′ is equivalent to going from t to t1, then from t1 to t′. Considering small variations of time (t′−t)/n where n is an integer, in the limit of large n one finds that going from t to t′ consists in flowing through n small variations, exactly as the geometric flow consists in going from a point x to a point y through a great number of infinitesimal variations (x−y)/n. That is why the time-evolution in quantum mechanics can be seen as a “flow” in the (abstract) space of automorphisms of the algebra of observables. To summarize, in quantum mechanics time is still “something that flows”, although in a less intuitive manner than in relativity. The idea of “flow of time” makes sense, as a flow in an abstract space rather than a geometrical flow.