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February 9, 2007

Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Posted by John Baez

Vasiliy Dolgushev gave a nice talk here at UCR today. He started by explaining how the usual concepts of calculus must be infinitely categorified to apply to noncommutative geometry!

\infty-categories are pretty scary. But, they’re less scary when they’re strict: when all the laws holds as equations instead of ‘up to isomorphism’. And they’re even less scary when they’re also linear: when they’ve got a vector space of objects, a vector space of morphisms, a vector space of 2-morphisms and so on, with all the operations being linear. It turns out that a strict linear \infty-category is just a chain complex of vector spaces!

If you already know and love chain complexes, this revelation might leave you unmoved. But it really does explain a lot about what people do with chain complexes.

In particular, when people start taking ordinary concepts from linear algebra, replacing all the vector spaces in sight by chain complexes, and making all the usual axioms hold ‘up to coherent homotopy’, they’re really \infty-categorifying these concepts.

Here’s what happens to some familiar concepts when we do this:

  • associative algebras become A A_\infty-algebras
  • Lie algebras become L L_\infty-algebras
  • commutative algebras become E E_\infty-algebras

Now, calculus on a manifold is really just a heavy-duty version of linear algebra: we’ve got differential forms, and vector fields, and so on, and a bunch of linear operations. Recently the whole lot have been formalized into a single mathematical gadget called — boldly but aptly — a ‘calculus’.

We can get a calculus not just from a smooth manifold but from any commutative algebra. When we use the algebra of smooth functions on a smooth manifold, we’re back where we started — but it’s really a vast generalization.

What if we start with a noncommutative algebra? Here it turns out we just get a ‘Calc Calc_\infty algebra’: in other words, an infinitely categorified calculus!

Let me start by saying what a ‘calculus’ is.

To motivate the definition, suppose MM is a smooth manifold. Let

Ω=Γ(ΛT *M)\Omega = \Gamma(\Lambda T^* M)

be the vector space of differential forms on MM — the funny notation on the right-hand side mean ‘the space of smooth sections of the exterior algebra of the cotangent bundle of MM’, which is nothing but the space of differential forms on MM.

Similarly, let

V=Γ(ΛTM)V = \Gamma(\Lambda TM)

be the vector space of multivector fields on MM. Multivector fields are a bit less famous than differential forms, but they’re also very important. We define them just like differential forms, but starting with the tangent bundle instead of the cotangent bundle.

Both Ω\Omega and VV have a lot of extra structure which we use all the time in differential geometry. This structure becomes the definition of a ‘calculus’.

What is this structure? For starters, Ω\Omega is a supercommutative differential graded algebra. This is a quick way of summarizing the familiar properties of the exterior derivative

d:ΩΩd: \Omega \to \Omega

and wedge product

:ΩΩΩ. \wedge : \Omega \otimes \Omega \to \Omega.

What about VV? This is also a supercommutative graded algebra, with its own wedge product:

:VVV. \wedge : V \otimes V \to V.

But, there’s no ‘exterior derivative’ of multivector fields. As a consolation prize, there’s a bracket operation, the Schouten bracket:

[,]:VVV. [\cdot, \cdot]: V \otimes V \to V.

You can define this by saying it’s the unique linear map extending the usual Lie bracket of vector fields in a way that makes the graded algebra VV into a graded Poisson algebra — but be careful: since the bracket of vector fields (aka ‘1-vector fields’) is another vector field instead of a 2-vector field, this is a funny sort of graded Poisson algebra where the bracket has degree 1-1. This sort of thing is called a Gerstenhaber algebra.

So, we’ve got a supercommutative differential graded algebra Ω\Omega and a Gerstenhaber algebra VV. But there’s more, because these two structures interact in a nice way!

For starters, the usual ‘Lie derivative’ operation where vector fields act on differential forms extends to an action

L:VΩΩL : V \otimes \Omega \to \Omega

making Ω\Omega into a module of VV, thought of as a graded Lie algebra with bracket of degree 1-1. The usual ‘interior product’ operation of vector fields on differential forms also extends to an operation

i:VΩΩ.i: V \otimes \Omega \to \Omega .

And, a bunch of identities hold for all multivector fields v,wVv,w \in V:

[L v,L w]=L [v,w] [L_v, L_w] = L_{[v,w]}

[i v,L w]=i [v,w] [i_v, L_w] = i_{[v,w]}

L vw=i vL w+(1) degvi wL v L_{v \wedge w} = i_v L_w + (-1)^{deg v} i_w L_v

[L v,d]=0[L_v, d] = 0

i vi w=i vwi_v i_w = i_{v \wedge w}

The brackets here, except for the bracket in VV, are supercommutators.

Taking this all together, we get the definition of a calculus: a supercommutative differential graded algebra Ω\Omega and a Gerstenhaber algebra VV together with actions LL, ii where LL makes Ω\Omega into a module of VV and the above identities hold.

(I hope I have everything here! What happened to the Weil identity L v=[d,i v]L_v = [d, i_v], familiar for vector fields vv?)

Now the fun starts…

For any associative algebra AA we can define a chain complex of Hochschild chains:

C (A,A)=AA C_{\bullet}(A,A) = A \otimes A^{\otimes \bullet}

and a cochain complex of Hochschild cochains:

C (A,A)=hom(A ,A) C^{\bullet}(A,A) = hom(A^{\otimes \bullet}, A)

Taking homology and cohomology, respectively, we get Hochschild homology:

H (A,A) H_{\bullet}(A,A)

and Hochschild cohomology:

H (A,A) H^{\bullet}(A,A)

It turns out that if AA is the algebra of smooth functions on a compact manifold, the Hochschild homology gives the differential forms on MM:

H (A,A)Ω H_{\bullet}(A,A) \cong \Omega

while the Hochschild cohomology gives the multivector fields:

H (A,A)V. H^{\bullet}(A,A) \cong V .

So, in this case H (A,A)H_{\bullet}(A,A) and H (A,A)H^{\bullet}(A,A) form a calculus. But it’s always better to do things at the level of co/chains instead of just at the level of co/homology, whenever possible. So, this raises the question of whether C (A,A)C_{\bullet}(A,A) and C (A,A)C^{\bullet}(A,A) form a calculus as well, in a way that reduces to our familiar calculus on Ω\Omega and VV when we take co/homology.

And, since Hochschild co/chains make sense for any associative algebra, not just any commutative one, we should wonder if we also get a calculus in the noncommutative case!

The answer, in short, is yes, if we are willing to infinitely categorify the concept of calculus!

In other words, there’s a concept of Calc Calc_\infty-algebra, which is like a calculus but where all the usual laws hold up to chain homotopy — and these chain homotopies themselves satisfy all the right laws up to chain homotopy, ad infinitum. And, we have:

Theorem. For any associative algebra AA, the Hochschild chains C (A,A)C_{\bullet}(A,A) and Hochschild cochains C (A,A)C^{\bullet}(A,A) naturally form a Calc Calc_\infty-algebra. This in turn makes H (A,A)H_{\bullet}(A,A) and H (A,A)H^{\bullet}(A,A) into a calculus, in such a way that when AA is the algebra of smooth functions on a compact manifold, we recover the usual calculus of differential forms and multivector fields.

A lot of work by a lot of people went into proving this result. For example, the differential

d:C p(A,A)C p+1(A,A)d: C_p(A,A) \to C_{p+1}(A,A)

is the ‘BB’ operator invented by Connes in his work on noncommutative geometry. Tamarkin later showed that C (A,A)C^{\bullet}(A,A) is a G G_\infty-algebra, which is the infinitely categorified version of a Gerstenhaber algebra. (In fact, in this case all the differential graded Lie algebra axioms hold ‘on the nose’, as equations — it’s the other rules that hold only up to coherent homotopy.) The proof of this was deep: it used the Deligne’s conjecture (first proved by Kontsevich) and the formality of the little discs operad (first proved by Tarmakin himself). For more see this:

But, apparently this paper pulled it all together:


By the way — in case you’re curious, the boundary map in Hochschild homology is given by:

d(ba 1a n)= d(b \otimes a_1 \otimes \cdots \otimes a_n) = ba 1a 2a nba 1a 2a n++(1) n1ba 1a n1a n+b a_1 \otimes a_2 \cdots \otimes a_n - b \otimes a_1 a_2 \otimes \cdots \otimes a_n + \cdots + (-1)^{n-1} b \otimes a_1 \otimes \cdots a_{n-1} a_n + (1) na nba 1a n1 (-1)^n a_n b \otimes a_1 \otimes \cdots \otimes a_{n-1}

while the coboundary map in Hochschild cohomology is given by:

(δf)(a 1,,a n)= (\delta f)(a_1, \dots, a_n) = a 1f(a 2,,a n)f(a 1a 2,,a n)++(1) n1f(a 1,,a n1a n)+ a_1 f(a_2, \dots, a_n) - f(a_1 a_2, \dots, a_n) + \cdots + (-1)^{n-1} f(a_1, \dots, a_{n-1} a_n) + (1) nf(a 1,,a n1)a n.(-1)^n f(a_1, \dots, a_{n-1}) a_n .

I should also correct a slight oversimplification above. When AA is the algebra of algebraic functions on a smooth affine variety, H (A,A)H_\bullet(A,A) is isomorphic to the space of differential forms on MM, while H (A,A)H^\bullet(A,A) is isomorphic to the space of multivector fields. A similar thing holds when AA is the algebra of smooth functions on a compact manifold, but apparently some analysis intervenes, and we need to use ‘continuous’ Hochschild co/homology to make these statements hold.

Posted at February 9, 2007 12:17 AM UTC

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58 Comments & 1 Trackback

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

making Ω into a module of the differential graded Lie algebra V.

But V is not a differential graded Lie algebra!

The proof of this was deep: it used Deligne’s conjecture and the formality of the little discs operad.

If the proof uses a conjecture, does this mean that it hasn’t actually been proved? Or is this the proved one? (Wikipedia says that there are about 7 Deligne’s Conjectures, one of which has been proved.)

Posted by: Toby Bartels on February 9, 2007 4:31 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

The conjecture in this case is that Hochschild cochains are an algebra over the singular chains on the little discs operad. It’s been proven any number of times, like, for example, in the paper that JB links to :).

The way I like to think of it is that the little discs operad is just multiplication of string states which are (dual to) Hochschild cohomology. This follows from Costello’s work.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman on February 9, 2007 4:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

The conjecture in this case is that Hochschild cochains are an algebra over the singular chains on the little discs operad. It’s been proven any number of times, like, for example, in the paper that JB links to :).

Yes, this is the one that Wikipedia said is proved. I should have noticed:

It is now regarded as proved, by Kontsevich and others. [strong emphasis added]

Posted by: Toby Bartels on February 9, 2007 5:37 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Hochschild and closed strings

The way I like to think of it is that the little discs operad is just multiplication of string states which are (dual to) Hochschild cohomology. This follows from Costello’s work.

Each time Aaron says things like that, I am feeling bad for still not understanding these connections deeply.

Somehow it secretly all revolves around the observation by Kapranov and Ganter (example 3.5, p. 7) that Hochschild cohomology is the trace of 2-linear maps – and remembering how tracing makes open strings glue to closed strings.

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 8:34 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Hochschild and closed strings

Somehow it secretly all revolves around the observation by Kapranov and Ganter (example 3.5, p. 7) that Hochschild cohomology is the trace of 2-linear maps – and remembering how tracing makes open strings glue to closed strings.

I argued that the plain open string looking like ab a \to b and propagating on a space XX is, if we think of it in terms of extended QFT, labeled by the 2-linear map Mod C(X)? C(X)C(PX)Mod C(X) \mathrm{Mod}_{C(X)} \stackrel{? \otimes_{C(X)}C(P X)}{\to} \mathrm{Mod}_{C(X)} which is a 1-morphism in Bim2Vect, \mathrm{Bim} \hookrightarrow 2\mathrm{Vect} \,, i.e. by the bimodule C(PX)C(P X) of functions on path space in XX, with the obvious left and right action by function C(X)C(X) on XX itself.

Remark 1:

A C(X)C(X)-module (at least when projective and finitely generated) is nothing but a vector bundle on XX – so this is to be thought of as the open string being something that stretches between two vector bundles.

Remark 2: If you are puzzled about what the assignment (ab)(C(X)C(PX)C(X)) (a\to b) \mapsto (C(X)\stackrel{C(P X)}{\to} C(X)) is supposed to mean, notice that it is to be thought of as a categorification of the assignment ()HVect (\bullet) \mapsto H \in \mathrm{Vect} which assigns to a point particle looking like \bullet its Hilbert space HH of states.

Anyway: if we now take the Kapranov-Ganter 2-trace of this (thinking of BimDBim\mathrm{Bim} \hookrightarrow \mathrm{DBim} as sitting in the corresponding derived 2-category – this is example 2.4 b), p. 5 in Kapranov-Ganter) then we get (according to example 3.5, p. 7 mentioned before) Tr(C(X)C(PX)C(X))=H C(X) (C(PX)), \mathrm{Tr}(C(X)\stackrel{C(P X)}{\to} C(X)) = H^\bullet_{C(X)}(C(P X)) \,, the Hochschild cohomology of the C(X)C(X)-bimodule C(PX)C(P X).

Hm. What is this H C(X) (C(PX)) H^\bullet_{C(X)}(C(P X)) like?

Does anyone know?

(As I said, C(X)C(X) is supposed to be functions on XX and C(PX)C(P X) functions on free paths in XX, with the obvious C(X)C(X) bimodule structure , and please feel free to assume that everything is taken to be suitably well-behaved, if that makes it easier to answer the question.)

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 9:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

There is another type of calculus, i.e. the one Urs and I worked on which was motivated by stuff by Dimakis and Mueller-Hoissen, where the algebra is associative and the degree 0 sub-algebra is commutative, but noncommutativity enters between 0-forms and 1-forms.

Interestingly, this algebra leads to stochastic calculus when

[dx,x] = dt

and Schrodinger QM when

[dx,x] = i*dt.

Given an associative, but noncommutative algrebra, you can obtain a nonassociative, but commutative algebra. Sullivan’s student worked on the commutative/nonassociative version, which I think leads to an E E_\infty-algebra, but I don’t know if our noncommutative/associative version leads to an A A_\infty-algebra.

I was pretty sure that there was a no-go theorem that said something along the lines that a discrete calculus could not be both associative and (skew) commutative.

I don’t really know what this means, but I thought I would throw some words out there and see if anything sticks. I’ve come across this E E_\infty and A A_\infty stuff many times back when I was actively working on discrete calculus, but never could get a good enough grasp to make any connection explicit myself.

Posted by: Eric on February 9, 2007 5:08 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I was thinking about your work with Urs when I wrote this blog entry — but I knew I could count on one of you to make the connection, so I didn’t mention it myself.

Urs has tried to explain your work on discrete differential forms to me, and at the time he made a big deal of the relationship to noncommutative geometry. So, right now I’m hoping that your work is closely related to this more general work that applies to any associative algebra.

And, there may also be a relation to Leinster’s Euler characteristic of a category. After all, any category XX gives rise to an associative algebra [X]\mathbb{C}[X] and thus a theory of differential forms and multivector fields satisfying all the usual rules up to coherent chain homotopy! So, why shouldn’t we be able to compute the Euler characteristic of XX using differential forms, just as in ordinary differential geometry?

Calculus on a category!

Posted by: John Baez on February 9, 2007 5:45 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

In various other contexts, I believe Hochschild homology is supposed to be the analog of differerntial forms. Of course, to compute something like an Euler characteristic, you could also use de Rham cohomology which would correspond to something like periodic cyclic homology. My copy of Loday’s book is at work, but I think there’s only two of those corresponding to even and odd de Rham which would nicely give you an Euler characteristic.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman on February 9, 2007 6:27 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I suppose it helps to read the post before responding so as to not repeat stuff.

Anyways, doesn’t the association with noncommutative algebras only work for small categories? Most of this Hochschild and cyclic stuff can be defined more generally, I think. Hochschild cohomology, at least, has a nice categorical interpretation in terms of natural transformations, but Hochcshild homology is still somewhat puzzling to me (although it has an intrinsic formulation too, as I understand it).

Posted by: Aaron Bergman on February 9, 2007 6:37 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

spectral geometry

he made a big deal of the relationship to noncommutative geometry

Yes. I made a big deal of the fact that what I considered with Eric Forgy was an example of a spectral triple.

In a way, it was a particularly simple example, in that the underlying algebra was commutative, and only its differentials were slightly non-(graded-)commutative.

On the other hand, as Eric keeps emphasizing, it was very interesting in that it had a “universal” touch to it: everything was naturally encoded in a graph which played a role essentially of the graph of infinitesimal neighbours in synthetic differential geometry.

We had lots of fun playing around with it. And in particular with taking the spectral triple idea seriously and investigating the metric aspects of this, which, somewhat amazingly, had not been considered before, apparently.

Now, from time to time Eric anxiously wonders if I have all forgotten about how fond we were of all these ideas, given that I seem to be talking about everything except this kind of differential geometry.

While I do wish I had been a little more mathematically mature at the time we thought about this stuff, I am still very fond of these ideas.

Actually, even if it is not always obvious, most everything I have done since revolves around this kind of thing:

I believe the notion of spectral triple has not even be fully appreciated yet, generally. It really comes from taking the relation between quantum mechanics and geometry serious:

A spectral triple is the quantum mechanics of a supersymmetric point particle. Geometry is realized as the effective target space that this point particle probes.

(I say some things about this general idea at the beginning of Connes on Spectral Geometry of the Standard Model, I).

Apart from Connes’ own work, one place where this is really taken seriously and applied to great effect is in the description of K-theory in terms of supersymmetric quantum mechanics by Stolz and Teichner. I tried to extract the key ideas at the end of Seminar on 2-Vector Bundles and Elliptic Cohomology, V (scroll down about half-way, right after the example discussing the Euler characteristic).

Spectral geometry, quantum mechanics, it’s in a way the same thing.

Early on – heavily influenced by John Baez – I began fantasizing about categorifying spectral triples and relating that to the geometry as seen not by point particles, but by strings, even though this idea came to me at a point when I was clearly not yet up to do it any justice at all.

I have some remarks of this “2-spectral triple” idea and its possible relation to stringy geometry, in Connes on Spectral Geometry of the Standard Model, II.

I believe there has been progress since then. The definition of the “globular extended quantum nn-particle” that I discussed is supposed to be a step in the direction of nn-spectral triples that describe geometry as seen by nn-particles.

Of course, as I point out there, so far this concentrates mostly on only two thirds of a spectral triple, namely the kinematical part.

1-Kinematics (first two thirds of an ordinary spectral triple) is

- a Hilbert space HH (“of states”)

- an algebra AA (“of observables”) acting by bounded operators on HH .

The remaining ingredient (specifying the dynamics of the quantum particle) is

- an odd graded operator DD on HH (the “supercharge” defining the “Hamiltonian” Δ=D 2\Delta = D^2).

Categorfying this last part I find much harder than categorifying the two kinematical parts. But chances are that we are making progress.

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 10:27 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

calculus on a category

Calculus on a category!

I guess one could interpret calculus “on a category” in several different ways.

But one way is this: regard the objects of the category as points in a space and the morphisms as paths in that space.

This is of course the point of view that many of our discussions here at the nn-Café revolve around anyway.

Just for the record, I note that a discussion of vector fields on a category (with “on a category” in the above sense) can be found in the post

Isham on Arrow Fields

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 10:39 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

You made an interesting point about trying to stay as long as possible at the co/chain level instead of immediately passing to co/holomogy. For my purposes, i.e. building a discrete calculus for use in scientific computation, that is what I wanted. Our differential graded algebra is associative at all degrees and commutative only at degree zero, but one thing we didn’t look at is how commutativity fails.

When you look at how Sullivan’s stuff fails associativity, you end up with A A_\infty-algebras (unless I’m totally confused, which is likely, but never stops me from blabbering). If you were to look at how our stuff “fails” commutativity, I am willing to bet you get something interesting, e.g. maybe E E_\infty-algebras or something.

In the simple (but pervasive) examples I gave

[dx,x] = dt

amd

[dx,x] = i*dt

the way commutativity “fails” is a exact 1-form. Is that a general result? It shouldn’t be too difficult to prove. Tempted…

Thinking…

Oh well! Let me try.

In this paper…

Noncommutative Geometry and Stochastic Calculus: Applications in Mathematical Finance

I think I laid out most of the work. Let’s see…

At least in the case where you can define a coordinate basis, Equation (20) denotes the commutator of a general 0- and 1-form. It is not even obvious to me that it is closed. I give up! :)

Urs has tried to explain your work on discrete differential forms to me, and at the time he made a big deal of the relationship to noncommutative geometry. So, right now I’m hoping that your work is closely related to this more general work that applies to any associative algebra.

I think it should be. I’ve always thought (which is why I keep bringing it up) that the stuff Urs and I did is somehow very deep and even he and I don’t fully understand it yet. It is a little bit interesting that what motivated the work in the first place was an attempt to “discretize” Maxwell’s equation in a fundamentally rigorous manner. Electromagnetic theory has been the root of most fundamental ideas in physics. Ok. I’m getting melodramatic :)

So, why shouldn’t we be able to compute the Euler characteristic of X using differential forms, just as in ordinary differential geometry?

I think you should! :)

Calculus on a category!

Yes!

Let me blabber philosophically for a little bit…

What is vaccuum?

What is spacetime?

I am a dork with only a fraction of the brain capacity that most others have, but I spent a minimum 100 hrs/week for 6 years thinking about these questions in grad school. The end result was the work that Urs and I did. It was not a coincidence that I ended up driving several hours on several occasions to listen to you talk about spin networks, spin foams, etc. :)

Over the years I think making a statement like “spacetime is a Feynman diagram” has probably become less contraversial even if not universally accepted :)

With string theory and spin foams, the concept of a Feynman diagram has been generalized to include Feynman tubes, etc. Urs is working on categorifying point QM to study string theory as point QM on loop space. These concepts are obviously all related somehow. Throw in Connes work and we can include noncommutative geometry in the mix and it becomes part of the big picture.

I am pretty sure you have thought it, but I haven’t heard anybody say it out loud, so let me say it and see what happens.

Spacetime is an n-category

When we can logically relate Feynman diagrams, n-categories, and noncommutative geometry, I think that statement will begin to make sense.

Unfortunately, I lack that brain power to do more than speculate about the future :)

Anyway, I think taking the idea of calculus on a category will go a long way toward unifying the concepts I mentioned above. So good luck!

Now, I need to work on categorifying mathematical finance. Think I’m joking?!? My coworker is a category theorist from Australia and is close friends with Ross Street (he attended Street Fest and the recent thing in Toronto).

It might sound strange, but mathematical finance is not so different than quantum mechanics BUT HARDER! :)

Cheers! Enough senseless ranting for one morning :)

Eric

Posted by: Eric on February 9, 2007 2:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

how Sullivan’s stuff fails associativity, you end up with E E_\infty-algebras (unless I’m totally confused, which is likely, but never stops me from blabbering). If you were to look at how our stuff “fails” commutativity, I am willing to bet you get something interesting, e.g. maybe A A_\infty-algebras or something.

Hi Eric,

interesting point. I haven’t thought about it from this perspective.

Hm…

(By the way, I think you have those letters the wrong way around. “A A_\infty” is for “associative up to …” while E E_\infty is for “commutative up to”.)

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 3:15 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Eric wrote:

Spacetime is an nn-category.

I prefer to think about an nn-category where spacetimes are the nn-morphisms — I’ve been trying to work out the details for the last decade or so.

Posted by: John Baez on February 11, 2007 2:54 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I prefer to think about an nn-category where spacetimes are the nn-morphisms — I’ve been trying to work out the details for the last decade or so.

Ok, but what are the spaces then? :)

Smooth manifolds? Noncommutative manifolds? Spin networks? (n-1)-categories? Directed (n-1)-graphs? Oh my! :)

Posted by: Eric on February 11, 2007 3:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Eric wrote:

Ok, but what are the spaces then? :)

(n1)(n-1)-morphisms. Try this for more details.

Posted by: John Baez on February 12, 2007 2:58 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

John Baez wrote:

Eric wrote:

Ok, but what are the spaces then? :)

(n1)(n-1)-morphisms. Try this for more details.

I had a feeling you were going to say that! :)

These papers were written back when I was actually trying to do research! :) I think I understand the very basic concept of TQFT (but not much more). Still, you begin with objects being (n1)(n-1)-dimensional smooth manifolds and morphisms being the cobordisms connecting them. Or something like that…

This is the first time I heard you say that space was an (n1)(n-1)-morphism. I haven’t been listening for a while though. Is that new? Does this approach preclude the possibility that space is something besides a smooth (n1)(n-1)-manifold?

To my naive eye, if you look at the pictures of some n-categories and start taking them seriously as representing space and/or spacetime, then it is not obvious that space(time) can be necessarily modelled as a smooth manifold. Maybe “piecewise smooth”?

I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about. Another exhausting day as Mr Mom and I am totally uncaffeinated :)

Posted by: Eric on February 12, 2007 6:40 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

extended cobordisms: local and global

Eric boldly claimed:

Spacetime is an nn-category. #

John replied:

I prefer to think about an nn-category where spacetimes are the nn-morphisms – I’ve been trying to work out the details for the last decade or so.#

But Eric still feels that at least something along the lines of “spacetime is an nn-category” should make sense – and now is trying to figure out how # that can be compatible with the Wizard’s replies.

I believe there is a very interesting issue lurking here.

In one way or another, this issue was brought up already several times here in the nn-Café (for instance here or here (notice also Bruce Bartlett’s correction # of my attribution of an idea to Stolz&Teichner which has actually not been expressed by them)): it’s about

global and local notions of “extended” cobordisms.

Given some nn-dimensional something with boundary, chances are that we are able to interpret it, in its entirety, as a morphisms between its (n1)(n-1)-dimensional boundaries.

If so, we are tempted to hit everything in sight with some funky nn-functor and say: see, it’s an extended nn-dimensional quantum field theory! (Or an “nn-tiered” one.)

But – doing so may be very hard. Too hard, even.

What might be easier is to follow a different strategy: instead of hitting the entire nn-morphisms with our functor, we first cut it into many small pieces. And since it’s nn-dimensional and since we are at at the nn-Café we will make all these little pieces into little nn-morphisms, too.

If we do this, and if we do it right, then, indeed, as Eric suspected, we realize the former global nn-morphism as an nn-category itself: the nn-category of nn-paths inside it.

John reminds us that he has

been trying to work out the details for the last decade or so. #

and is, apparently, referring to the global notion. But in fact, he has also been working on the local notion for quite a while.

For instance, take 2-dimensional quantum field theory, where “space” is one-dimensional.

The simplest examples of such “QFTs” are (these are really “classical” QFTs in a sense) are those coming from parallel transport in an nn-vector bundle with connection (in the old paper by Segal on elliptic cohomology you can read that the parallel transport in a 1-vector bundle was the very motivation for his functorial defintion of 2-dimensional conformal field theory).

So, given a gerbe with connection, we may try to label 2-dimensional surfaces with something like a “surface holonomy”.

This has been done in the “global” fashion, for instance by Bunke, Turner & Willerton.

But it may also be done “locally”: instead of assigning a parallel transport to an entire 2-dimensional cobordism going between a set of circles, we may try to cut out just a small disk-shaped piece of the cobordism and do the parallel transport only over that.

This is the big idea in Higher Yang-Mills theory, of course.

While the “local” picture in its explicit form is still not that common, you can see that it is more or less implicitly persued in many areas: for instance AQFT with its diamond-shaped subsets of space is certainly an approach to nn-dimensional QFT which tries to build the entire field theory from it behaviour on local patches.

(I have recently remarked # that this should essentially be the “Heisenberg picture” version of the “Schrödinger picture” of nn-functorial transport over little nn-morphsims. With a little luck, we might be able to make this precise one day.)

But maybe the most developed incarnation of this global/local issue of functorial QFT is in the context of state sum models of 2-dimensional QFT.

As you are certainly all getting tired of seeing me say, I think that these state sum models can be understood as arising from locally trivializing 22-functors of the local sort that act on little 2-cobordisms cut out of big global surfaces.

I first noticed that here. I think that the reason this simple fact is so easy to overlook, is that local trivialization of parallel surface transport in 2-bundles (as opposed to quantum transport in 2dQFT), while also giving rise to Frobenius algebras, and hence to “state sum models”, does so in a degenerate form, which makes us miss that there is a Frobenius structure in the game at all #.

Anyway. Once I tried to compile some of the aspects of this global/local issue of quantum fields theory in this table:

Posted by: urs on February 12, 2007 8:10 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: extended cobordisms: local and global

If we do this, and if we do it right, then, indeed, as Eric suspected, we realize the former global nn-morphism as an nn-category itself: the nn-category of nn-paths inside it.

There you go again with that uncanny ability to take some wild and whacky thing I say and turn it into something that actually seems to make sense :)

That is what I had in mind (I think) although I could never actually do it myself and certainly could not describe it as clearly as you just did :)

If you begin the process with a smooth manifold representing spacetime, and “discretize” it with a sampling of nodes as “objects” and morphisms connecting objects and 2-morphisms connecting morphisms, etc etc then you’ve essentially got some kind of n-graph representing spacetime at which point you can forget that you actually started with a continuum manifold in the first place.

That is, if you could somehow define calculus on n-categories.

Oh yeah… :)

While the “local” picture in its explicit form is still not that common, you can see that it is more or less implicitly persued in many areas: for instance AQFT with its diamond-shaped subsets of space is certainly an approach to nn-dimensional QFT which tries to build the entire field theory from it behaviour on local patches.

I’m sure you know you cannot use the word “diamond” in this context without raising my interest :)

Posted by: Eric on February 12, 2007 9:04 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

John pretended to shout:

PARTICLES ARE (n-2)-MORPHISMS!!!

Urs wrote:

That would be (n2)(n−2)-particles, (i.e. (n3)(n−3)-branes) wouldn’t it?

Right.

I mean, for n=3n=3 the mechanism that you are thinking of here yields particles, while for n=4n=4 it yields string-like objects, as you describe in your work on BF theory.

No?

You’re right. Sorry. I was oversimplifying and dramatizing things to get Eric interested.

Last time I read something about this in your TWFs (if I remember correctly), I got the impression that this kind of “matter” is rather naturally interpreted as what in other circles would be addressed as “solitonic (n3)(n−3)-branes”, in that it arises in terms of certain extended singularities of certain fields in certain gauge theories.

That’s right: for ordinary 1-group gauge theory, these singularities give us a nontrivial holonomy when we walk around a loop that wraps around an (n2)(n-2)-dimensional submanifold on which the gauge field is singular. That submanifold is what string theorists might call an ‘(n3)(n-3)-brane’, thanks to an awkward numbering scheme. I like your term ‘(n2)(n-2)-particle’ better.

It’s just when n=3n = 3 that these (n2)(n-2)-particles act like particles in the usual sense.

For a 2-group gauge theory we could also see nontrivial holonomies when we wrap a 2-sphere around an (n3)(n-3)-dimensional submanifold… and so on.

Posted by: John Baez on February 14, 2007 9:39 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Eric wrote:

This is the first time I heard you say that space was an (n1)(n−1)-morphism. I haven’t been listening for a while though. Is that new?

No, it’s far from new. I said it first back in 1995, in that paper I just referred you to. I’ve been working on the ‘details’ ever since.

‘Details’ like: what’s the definition of nn-category?

Of course in the paper I didn’t come out and simply scream:

SPACETIME IS AN nn-MORPHISM!!!

SPACE IS AN (n1)(n-1)-MORPHISM!!!

Maybe I should have.

I said there’s an nn-category called nCobn Cob where:

  • objects are 0d manifolds,
  • 1-morphisms are 1d cobordisms going between 0d manifolds,
  • 2-morphisms are 2d cobordisms going between 1d cobordisms going between 0d manifolds,
  • … and so on up to dimension nn.

In the basic definition of ‘topological quantum field theory’ we only consider the last two levels. We consider cobordisms of dimension nn, called spacetimes, going between manifolds of dimension (n1)(n-1), called spaces.

But these are just the nn-morphisms and (n1)(n-1)-morphisms in nCobn Cob.

In extended topological quantum field theory, people realized that the lower-dimensional stuff is very important too. In fact, it lets us conjecture a purely algebraic description of nCobn Cob: the Cobordism Hypothesis. Read the paper if you want to know what this says.

Mathematically, the Cobordism Hypothesis is nice because it gives a purely algebraic description of a large hunk of differential geometry.

Physically, it shows how we might someday get ahold of extended TQFTs in a very simple way — simple if we understood nn-categories well enough.

It also shows we should broaden our horizons and build physical theories based on nn-categories other than nCobn Cob. So, the answer to this:

Does this approach preclude the possibility that space is something besides a smooth (n1)(n−1)-manifold?

is no. Instead, I’m trying to find a nice framework to generalize the concept of space and spacetime, so it doesn’t need to be a manifold. That’s what ‘spin foams’ are all about: they are top-dimensional morphisms in some other nn-category.

More recently, I noticed a very vivid physical significance to the (n2)(n-2)-morphisms in nCobn Cob. In certain topological quantum field theories, at least, these describe particles. So, if I wanted to sound like a crackpot, I would also shout:

PARTICLES ARE (n2)(n-2)-MORPHISMS!!!

But alas, it seems to be true only in special cases.

Anyway, this stuff is the topic of my student Jeff Morton’s thesis. So, the details are top secret, except for what he’s already published. But, I already gave the big picture away in “week242”. In fact, I drew this chart there just for you:

(n-2)-dimensional manifolds: MATTER

(n-1)-dimensional manifolds with boundary: SPACE

n-dimensional manifolds with corners: SPACETIME

and I added, just to ham it up:

I like this a lot: it reminds me of the title of Weyl’s famous book “Raum, Zeit, Materie”, meaning “Space, Time, Matter”. He never guessed this trio was related to the objects, morphisms and 2-morphisms in a weak 2-category! It’s too bad we can’t seem to get something like this to work for full-fledged quantum gravity.

So, you can’t deny that I’ve been trying my best to explain this idea to you for the last decade.

Of course in “week242” I only spoke about 2-categories, not nn-categories. But that’s mainly because I was trying to keep things simple. Also, because Jeff Morton’s thesis only works out the details down to (n2)(n-2)-manifolds, not all the way down to 00-manifolds.

I also gave a talk about this stuff at the Perimeter Institute. Try it:

Posted by: John Baez on February 12, 2007 11:26 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

matter, space, time

PARTICLES ARE (n−2)-MORPHISMS!!!

That would be (n2)(n-2)-particles, (i.e. (n3)(n-3)-branes) wouldn’t it?

I mean, for n=3n=3 the mechanism that you are thinking of here yields particles, while for n=4n=4 it yields string-like objects, as you describe in your work on BF theory #.

No?

Last time I read something about this in your TWFs (if I remember correctly), I got the impression that this kind of “matter” is rather naturally interpreted as what in other circles would be addressed as “solitonic (n3)(n-3)-branes”, in that it arises in terms of certain extended singularities of certain fields in certain gauge theories.

Of course this is not to say that it is inconceivable that there are gauge theories such that this kind of “solitonic excitation” reproduce the behaviour of the kind of matter we observe in nature.

Posted by: urs on February 13, 2007 10:16 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Hi Eric — what’s a good reference for “Sullivan’s stuff” “fail”ing associativity? Thanks!

Posted by: Allan E on February 11, 2007 6:33 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Hi Allan,

The best place to look is probably Scott Wilson’s dissertation:

On the Algebra and Geometry of a Manifold’s Chains and Cochains

Posted by: Eric on February 11, 2007 3:24 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Oh yeah, and I summarized what I thought was the main difference on the String Coffee Table here and the posts leading up to it.

Keep in mind that I am pretty cavalier with statements, which are often only partially correct (or just plain wrong). Urs has learned to adapt to my complete lack of rigor, but I feel the need to give that disclaimer to others now and then (if it isn’t already obvious) :)

Posted by: Eric on February 11, 2007 3:41 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Thanks Eric! I wouldn’t worry about being cavalier (not that you seem to!)… people who shoot from the hip often make great expositors, so who cares if they miss and kill the wrong guy occasionally? :-)

Not to mention, this stuff is way above my head, so it *is* exposition I’m looking for… I’d been re-reading week 169 and about alternative algebras recently, so really I’m just on the sniff for new situations where associativity fails to give me a better feel for the ones I’d just been thinking about. Thanks for the links!

Posted by: Allan E on February 12, 2007 5:19 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Well if you’re interested in places where associativity doesn’t hold there’s always “shelf coalgebras”, where the multiplication distributes over itself.

It might just be inexperience, but I’ve only seen three things to do with three-element compositions that occur “in the wild”: associativity, Jacobi identity, and self-distributivity. And Alissa Crans sez that the latter two are “really” the same thing. So are there only two natural things to do with three-element compositions, other than no relation at all?

Posted by: John Armstrong on February 12, 2007 5:51 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

What timing! John, I was just now looking at
Carter, Crans, Elhamdadi and Saito: Cohomology of categorical self-distributivity
math.GT/0607417
(how do i make that into a link?)

where does she make that remark about only
two possibilites for 3 variable relations?
jim

Posted by: jim stasheff on February 13, 2007 1:48 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I meant that I’ve only ever seen the three conditions imposed – associativity, Jacobi identity, and self-distributivity. From talking with her and from that paper it seems clear that the latter two are really the same thing. In particular, when you categorify there’s a deep relation between the “self-distributor” and the “Jacobiator”. I think that relation is in her dissertation.

Anyhow, I’m not asserting that those are the only two. I’m saying that those are the only two I’ve seen “in the wild”. Maybe other conditions arise naturally, but I haven’t seen them. I’d love to see others, of course.

Posted by: John Armstrong on February 13, 2007 4:16 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

hyperlinks

(how do i make that into a link?)

Hyperlinks are entered as in standard HTML.

When you type

<a href=”http://here.edu/and/there.pdf”>try this link!</a>

into a comment, you’ll get

try this link!

For more on this and related questions, see John’s entry TeXnical issues!

Posted by: urs on February 13, 2007 10:28 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I wrote:

making Ω\Omega into a module of the differential graded Lie algebra VV.

Toby wrote:

But VV is not a differential graded Lie algebra!

Right — I’ll fix that.

As I explained, VV has a Lie bracket extending the usual Lie bracket of vector fields to multivector fields. It satisfies all the Lie algebra axioms in a graded sense, but it’s a bracket of degree 1-1. There’s no differential on VV.

So, I should have said Ω\Omega is a module of VV, thought of as a graded Lie algebra with bracket of degree 1-1. And, I’ll change my blog entry so it says that. Thanks!

John wrote:

The proof of this was deep: it used Deligne’s conjecture and the formality of the little discs operad.

If the proof uses a conjecture, does this mean that it hasn’t actually been proved?

Deligne’s conjecture was already proved — first by Kontsevich but then in other ways by other folks — by the time Tamarkin used it to show Hochschild cochains form a homotopy Gerstenhaber algebra. There’s a link to a proof in my blog entry.

People still like to call it ‘Deligne’s conjecture’.

Posted by: John Baez on February 9, 2007 5:34 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

People still like to call it ‘Deligne’s conjecture’.

So Fermat’s Last Theorem was a theorem before it was proved, and Deligne’s Conjecture is a conjecture after it’s been proved. No wonder people think math is hard.

Posted by: John Armstrong on February 9, 2007 6:09 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Something about the history of Deligne’s conjecture. As far as I know it was first proved by Tamarkin as a consequence of the formality theorem for little disks operads. One year later on Berger-Fress and McClure-Smith gave the proofs which were independent of the formality result.

Kontsevich-Soibelman published a sketch of a proof of Deligne’s conjecture for Aalgebras one year later. The details (sometimes very hard) were left to the reader. In the paper cited by John, Kontsevich and Soibelman claimed that they proved Deligne’s conjecture for the configuration of disks a cylinder with marked points on the boundary. The proof is very short: the same method as for the Deligne conjecture for A-algebra.

I think there are at least two reasons to call Deligne’s conjecture a conjecture rather then Theorem. First, there are many intersting generalisations of it, like higher dimensional Deligne’s conjecture or the version I mentioned above, which are not proved yet. The second reason is that all the proof are quite difficult and not conceptual. I hope that the latest proof of Tamarkin is conceptually quite satisfactory (see my lecture notes). The problem is to do the same for the generalised Deligne’s conjecture.

Posted by: Michael on February 9, 2007 8:14 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

As far as I understand, higher dimensional versions of Deligne’s conjecture, aka Kontsevich’s conjecture, have already been proved (I don’t know if this is the one you mean) – by Tamarkin in a “linear” context and by Hu-Kriz-Voronov (or some subset) in a homotopic context. One thing I really liked in Hu’s paper on the subject is the whole Deligne conjecture story appears like an easy tautology from the right point of view — it all boils down to the principle (Eckmann-Hilton argument? I think that’s how Batanin refers to it) that higher homotopy groups are commutative – more formally if you carry an n-fold loop space structure (En product) and a commuting m fold loop space structure (Em product) then you’re actually an n+m fold loop space (En+m).

The Hochschild chains are given by taking loops in an appropriate sense, so if you’re already En then your Hochschild is En+1.

Deligne’s conjecture is the case n=1: for an associative (or A = E1) algebra, i.e. a linear version of a loop space, its Hochschild chains are a (linear version of) a double loop space, i.e. E2, i.e. carry little discs structure, aka homotopy Gerstenhaber algebra etc etc. (This btw is the same exact argument that says the Drinfeld double of a group is a braided tensor category – again group=loop space, braided=E2…)

Posted by: David Ben-Zvi on February 9, 2007 6:08 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

hmm…it would be useful to look first
at who’s comments I’m responding to :-)

Posted by: David Ben-Zvi on February 9, 2007 6:14 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Michael and David: if you guys want to include TeX in your posts — as you are already doing (Michael), or almost doing (David) — just pick a text filter like ‘Markdown with itex to html” or ‘itex to MathML with parbreaks’, and the TeX will actually show up as it should, as beautiful math symbols.

The choice of ‘text filters’ is offered to you whenever you post a comment.

Choosing one of those text filters should also cure the ragged right margins that currently afflict your posts — or did, before I polished them up as best I could.

There can be a little bit of a learning curve to posting in TeX — see the TeXnical tips or ask me if you have problems — but if you keep things simple it should often just work without any trouble.

If you don’t want to worry about this stuff, that’s fine too: your mathematical erudition is far more important to me than your typographical skill. Thanks for the history of Deligne’s conjecture, etc!

Posted by: John Baez on February 9, 2007 9:38 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

If you want to know more about this material and its connections with higher categories look at
http://www.math.mq.edu.au/~street/BataninMPW.pdf

this is my lecture in Canberra for a general audience so quite informal in places but I hope gives some impression about the subject.

Posted by: Michael on February 9, 2007 7:07 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

A reaction to the first, introductory part of this post - possibly giving ideas for the rest:

If we view Associative/Commutative/Lie/whatever-algebras as representations of the corresponding operads, then we may find the infinite categorification as just the process of finding a free resolution, as operads, of the corresponding operad; with for instance, for AssAss, we will have a free resolution given as a free dg-operad with a single corolla in each degree, and with the differential mapping that corolla to quadratic expressions, corresponding closely to the Stasheff identities for A A_\infty-algebras.

Similarily, from resolving the Lie operad, we find the L L_\infty-operad, and from resolving the commutative, we find the E E_\infty operad.

So, for a calculus, we seem to have an intimately coupled pair of algebraic structures: do we get what we want by looking at the resolution of the operad controlling Gerstenhaber algebras, coupled with ‘just’ the graded E E_\infty? Or is it more subtle than that?

Posted by: Mikael Johansson on February 9, 2007 9:01 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I don’t know how these guys define Calc Calc_\infty algebras, but I know how I’d do it.

Unlike a Lie algebra or associative algebra, a calculus consists of two vector spaces equipped with some algebraic structure, but that’s not really a problem: you can describe it as algebra of a ‘typed’ or ‘colored’ linear operad. (A simpler example would be the operad whose algebras consist of an associative algebra together with a representation of that algebra.)

Just as with the usual untyped linear operads, there’s a bar construction that takes any typed linear operad OO and spits out its ‘homotopy-coherent version’ or (as you accurately put it) ‘free resolution’, O O_\infty. This is a typed operad in the category of chain complexes of vector spaces.

So, if we take the type linear operad CalcCalc whose algebras are ‘calculi’, we automatically get an operad Calc Calc_\infty whose algebras are ‘homotopy-coherent calculi’.

On the other hand, as Jim Stasheff points out, only certain bits of the operad CalcCalc need to be weakened to handle the main example at hand here. So, it may be more convenient to use a different version of the bar construction that weakens only the laws that need weakening. You can weaken whatever amount of structure you like by choosing an appropriate comonad to define your bar construction.

But again: I haven’t looked yet to see what these guys actually do…

Posted by: John Baez on February 10, 2007 4:01 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Right, so instead of an operad, we’re really looking at a 2-object multicategory? With the coherence axioms between the objects?

The free resolution terminology is very much due to the fact that I learned about operads and the bar construction from Sergei Merkulov in Stockholm; in a crowd that’s VERY heavy on homological algebra. Since we’re doing free resolutions of rings, modules, and what not already; the bar construction on operads/PROPs/Properads/et.c. was quickly recognized to be just one more instance of constructing free resolutions of objects.

The terminology just stuck with me after that. :)

Posted by: Mikael Johansson on February 10, 2007 10:46 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

As those famous pioneers once said (p. 12):

to properly categorify subtraction, we need to categorify not just once but infinitely many times!

Now,

the usual concepts of calculus must be infinitely categorified to apply to noncommutative geometry!

Aside from the continuity provided by the choice of punctuation mark, is there anything linking the statements? Is there anything general to say about when nothing short of infinte categorification will do?

Posted by: David Corfield on February 9, 2007 9:03 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

David said, “Is there anything general to say about when nothing short of infinte categorification will do?”

My humble opinion would be that that’s what you always want to do, unless you have good reason to do otherwise. For example, if we’re in the linear situation and talking about complexes of modules instead of higher categories, an analogous question is When do you want to consider all the higher derived functors of a given functor? I think that everyone’s answer would be Always, unless you can prove that the cohomology vanishes beyond a certain point, in which case you can safely truncate there.

In other words, for the general theoretical set up you’d want to go all the way to the top. But the interesting theorems would be those that say that for particular examples, there is nothing interesting beyond a certain point.

Posted by: James on February 9, 2007 11:57 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

David said, “Is there anything general to say about when nothing short of infinte categorification will do?”

We should also keep in mind that the reason for going all the way to \infty-categories in the case where everything is linear is that we are able to do it. So of course we do it.

If we could handle (or even define) general \infty-categories with similar ease, everybody would be working with \infty-categories all the time.

As James says, restriction to finite nn would then be a noteworthy observation, not an assumption.

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 12:16 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

David wrote:

Is there anything general to say about when nothing short of infinite categorification will do?

To amplify on some points other people made…

Even the lowly 2-sphere has nonvanishing π n\pi_n for arbitrarily high nn. So, if we want to treat it as some sort of nn-groupoid without damaging it, we really need to treat it as an \infty-groupoid.

This suggests that in applications to homotopy theory, any sort of nn-categories short of \infty-groupoids are really insufficient. So, homotopy theorists developed the theory of \infty-groupoids quite a while ago. They thought of them as simplicial sets with a certain nice property, and they called them ‘Kan complexes’.

Now, what about categorifying subtraction? A strict abelian group object in the category of simplicial sets is automatically a Kan complex. But of course it’s something much more special than that: it’s the same as a simplicial object in the category of abelian groups, also known as a chain complex!

(Of course this is not how chain complexes were first discovered; it was only later, with the Dold–Kan theorem, that they were revealed to be simplicial abelian groups. My story here is not faithful to the actual history, but I hope it illuminates the mathematics.)

Chain complexes are a tractable framework for a lot of categorified linear algebra, and this is secretly why homological algebra is so handy.

But, topologists really needed to go beyond strict infinitely categorified abelian groups: they needed weak ones! So, they developed the theory of infinite loop spaces, E E_\infty spaces, and ultimately spectra — where we allow nonvanishing π n\pi_n for nn arbitarily large and negative, as well as positive.

\mathbb{Z}-graded chain complexes can be seen as spectra, but only of the most boring sort. In chain complexes the laws governing addition and subtraction have not been weakened, so we miss out on a lot of interesting phenomena. If we really want to do linear algebra in a fully general way, we should use not chain complexes but spectra as our substitute for abelian groups.

Similarly, instead of mere associative algebras, or even A A_\infty-algebras in the world of chain complexes, we should really use fully general ‘ring spectra’.

And instead of mere commutative rings, or even E E_\infty-algebras in the world of chain complexes, we should really use fully general ‘E E_\infty ring spectra’.

When we do all this, we’re doing ‘brave new algebra’. The dictionary on the first page of this paper explains in a bit more detail how this works:

Of course nobody should be offended when I say we ‘should’ do this or that — there are lots of good things to do, I’m just sketching out the path that takes categorification really seriously. Unfortunately this is a highly macho path that I’m not actually up to following myself!

But anyway, while getting the Hochschild co/chain complex to form a calculus requires that we infinitely categorify some of the laws of calculus, we’re not weakening the basic laws of linear algebra, like the laws governing addition and multiplication by scalars — because we’re still working with a chain complex.

But, if we wanted to get a calculus out of topological Hochschild homology, we’d probably need to use more ideas from ‘brave new algebra’.

Posted by: John Baez on February 10, 2007 4:51 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

In the post you mention both Kontesevich and Connes. But, as explained in many posts by Lieven le Bruyn, theirs are rather different conceptions of noncommutative geometry. In fact, le Bruyn takes up a suggestion of Kontsevich to call the latter’s version non-geometry.

You can read more in entries from June and September 2006.

Posted by: David Corfield on February 9, 2007 9:26 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

non-geometry

to call the latter’s version non-geometry

Can anyone say in two sentences what the idea of “non-geometry” actually is?

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 9:44 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: non-geometry

Non-geometry could also be called “noncommutative algebraic geometry in the large”. The concept stands for considering a formally smooth algebra AA as a “machine” for producing an infinite number of (classical, smooth) algebraic manifolds (the representation spaces rep n(A)\rep_n(A)). The extension of a classical geometrical concept to this framework should be one that boils down to the same concept in the corresponding representation spaces. For instance, since the free product A*BA*B of two formally smooth algebras is again formally smooth, and we have rep(A*B)rep(A)×rep(B)rep(A*B) \cong rep(A)\times rep(B), the free product of algebras stands in nongeometry as the natural replacement for the cartesian product. Much more detailed information about this can be found in Lieven’s weblog.

Posted by: Javier Lopez on February 9, 2007 10:49 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: non-geometry

Non-geometry could also be called “noncommutative algebraic geometry in the large”.

Thanks!

Do you know in which sense this does or does not go beyond what one would (probably?) get if one were to regard Connes’ NCG framework (maybe ignoring its metric aspects for a moment) as the “affine” version of something “non-affine”?

Posted by: urs on February 9, 2007 11:39 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: non-geometry

Urs said:

Do you know in which sense this does or does not go beyond what one would (probably?) get if one were to regard Connes’ NCG framework (maybe ignoring its metric aspects for a moment) as the ”affine” version of something ”non-affine”?

I am not quite sure of what you mean, but in principle, the two approaches are very different, so I wouldn’t try to think about one of them “going beyond” the other one… Maybe the most important diference is the fact that nongeometry does not generalize classical geometry (whilst differential, spin cspin^c, manifolds can be recovered in Connes formalism). Actually, the only coordinate rings of algebraic varieties that are formally smooth are the ones corresponding to (unions of) curves and points. So I’d take these two theories as different ones that incidentally got similar names at their origins.

However, there is a number of examples where both formalisms fit at the same time, perhaps one of the most surprising being the study of the action of the modular group PSL 2()PSL_2(\mathbb{Z}) on the complex upper half-plane (cf. Marcolli’s “Noncommutative Arithmetic Geometry”). Again, there is a more detailed discussion on this topic:

algebraic vs differential NOG

Posted by: Javier Lopez on February 9, 2007 4:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: non-geometry

Again, there is a more detailed discussion on this topic:

algebraic vs differential NOG

Thanks again!

One minor comment: I am not quite sure I see the point about connection that Lieven Le Bruyn makes there. Certainly, the notion of connection is naturally contained in Connes’s framework quite generally: the Dirac operator (one part of a spectral triple) is nothing but the “quantized connection”: that’s how it is defined in the ordinary geometric context: covariant derivative composed with “symbol map”.

Posted by: urs on February 10, 2007 11:26 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Fun! Yet one more reason to study Hochschild cohomology (if there were few). Is there any relation between this calculus built through Hochschild cohomology (btw, it seems that ‘homology’ and ‘cohomology’ are interchanged in the post. Cohomology is an algebra, via the Cup-product, whilst homology isn’t) and the universal differential calculus? And how are exactly other notions translated to this framework? For instance, what about the notion of a connection \nabla over a module EE, seen as

(1):EE AΩ \nabla: E\rightarrow E\otimes_A \Omega

for the DC Ω\Omega?

It is somehow funny that only HH with coefficients over the algebra is used. If we take an algebra with trivial HH over itself (but not necessarily being separable, nor formally smooth) we should get a very simple calculus. Does this fact have any physical or homological interpretation?

There are several interesting post on the Kontsevich-Soibelman paper in Lieven Le Bruyn’s weblog:

Coalgebras and nongeometry I

Coalgebras and nongeometry II

Coalgebras and nongeometry III

Posted by: Javier Lopez on February 9, 2007 10:34 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I indeed had ‘homology’ and ‘cohomology’ interchanged in a lot of places in my original post. I think I’ve fixed them all now. Thanks, Javier!

But, contrary to what you seem to be saying, it’s the Hochschild homology H (A,A)H_{\bullet}(A,A) that’s isomorphic to the usual algebra of differential forms when AA is the algebra of regular functions on a smooth affine variety. This is a theorem of Hochschild, Kostant and Rosenberg — see page 49 here:

A similar statement holds when AA is the algebra of smooth functions on a compact manifold, but apparently we need to work with ‘continuous’ Hochschild homology, which takes the topology of AA into account.

(Frankly I find it a bit hard to believe we need this continuity condition when the manifold is compact, since in this case Kähler differentials for AA are precisely the same as 1-forms on MM. When the manifold is noncompact this may fail to be true.)

Posted by: John Baez on February 11, 2007 6:07 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Good grief! posted today and already 26 comments!! So my comments are to several of those.

Infinitely categorified is ambiguous - as John says, we could be talking about strict ∞-cats or the corresponding notions explained by examples, e.g. A.

So I would urge some other term - perhaps homotopy coherent categorification.

Notice also homotopy coherent (n-)categories aka Fukaya cats.

Since the calculus in question is that of diff geom, how about referring to it as Cartan calculus - I think H. Cartan was among the earliest if not the earliest to formalize it purely as algebra.

And YES he would include the definition of LX as [d,iX].

Yes, C*(A,A) are cochains.

The little disks operad is just for CLOSED strings - n-little disks in one big disk = a sphere with n+1 holes.

For open strings, you need disks with 2k arcs on the boundary.

And for open-closed… which is where the trace and the Cardy contion finally kick in…

Eric mentions: our noncomm/assoc version -what and where?

Hochschild categorified as natural transformation - meaning Hochschild of a cat or …?

Michael: configuration of disks a cylinder
?? should read: ???

Mikael: the free res gives precisely my identities - or are you worried about the identities?

Homotopy Gerstenhaber algebra is in itself ambiguous - how much do you wnat to relax up to homotopy? G of Gerstenhaber-Voronov-… is a specific choice and apparently the only one of interest now.

David: less than infinite categorification was of considerable interest in topology without having an operad that quit e.g Slifker’s exotic multiplications on S3 shows some of the homtopy associative ones (discovered by I.M. James) are A4 but not all of these, some but not all are A5

Posted by: jim stasheff on February 9, 2007 3:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

I know that the free resolution of Ass gives A A_\infty straight off. I was trying to phrase the construction of Calc Calc_\infty in my own words, so as to verify whether I read it correctly.

Posted by: Mikael Johansson on February 9, 2007 3:59 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Hi Jim,

You asked:

Eric mentions: our noncomm/assoc version -
what and where?

Probably a good informal place to start is this thread on the String Coffee Table

The search for discrete differential geometry

Then, if you are still interested enough you can take a look at our preprint

Discrete Differential Geometry on Causal Graphs
Eric Forgy and Urs Schreiber

Calling them “Causal Graphs” was a last minute idea based on some interesting stuff I was reading about posets. A more general term could have (should have?) been simply “Directed Graphs”.

Posted by: Eric on February 9, 2007 5:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

This posting reminded me of Breen’s talk at the Jim-Murray Fest about Kock’s so-called combinatorial diff forms, which are not combinatorial in the PL sense nor do they require smoothness. They do however have a strict `Cartan’ calculus.

Any relation to your discrete version?

Posted by: jim stasheff on February 9, 2007 10:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Hi Jim,

I wasn’t ignoring your question, I was just hoping to give it the thought it deserved. It is not easy for me to grab sufficient blocks of 15 minute intervals to try to answer properly these days, so a partial response is better than nothing (I hope!). Hopefully Urs can say something about the relation to our work.

In the meantime, here is a pointer to some of our earlier discussions over at the String Coffee Table on the subject so you can get an idea of the limits of my understanding :)

Synthetic Differential Geometry and Surface Holonomy

So, yes we have thought about it. Urs more than me. In fact, it would be hard to find any material ever discussed in the history of the written word (up until 2002) that involves “discrete” stuff in some way or another that I haven’t at least looked at and tried to understand :)

Posted by: Eric on February 13, 2007 7:39 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Infinitely Categorified Calculus

Jim Stasheff writes:

Infinitely categorified is ambiguous - as John says, we could be talking about strict \infty-cats or the corresponding notions explained by examples, e.g. A A_\infty.

In case anyone gets mixed up: chain complexes are linear strict \infty-categories — so when those operadchiks talk about A A_\infty algebras, L L_\infty algebras, E E_\infty algebras and so on, they’re really talking about strict \infty-categories equipped with extra structure. It’s only the extra structure that’s been weakened!

It’s this balance between strict and weak that makes this particular subject — homotopy coherent linear algebra — so tractable yet exciting. For any linear operad OO, we can just turn a certain crank and get its homotopy coherent version O O_\infty, which is an operad in the category of chain complexes. Then we can discuss O O_\infty-algebras, or ‘homotopy coherent OO-algebras’. A lot of basic theorems have already been proved for arbitrary OO. So, compared to most forms of categorification, homotopy coherent linear algebra is very well advanced, and people can tackle quite deep questions.

The operad CalcCalc, whose algebras are ‘calculi’ as defined above, fits into this framework. So, the concept of ‘Calc Calc_\infty-algebra’ didn’t need to be hand-crafted: we can just pull it off the shelf!

I agree that ‘infinitely categorified’ is ambiguous; I would never use it as a technical term. In my post I was using it as a term of advertisement: not everyone instantly realizes that homotopy coherent linear algebra is all about infinitely categorifying ordinary linear algebra! Some people would not find this viewpoint attraction, but Café regulars surely will.

Posted by: John Baez on February 9, 2007 6:23 PM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Noncommutative Geometry Blog
Weblog: The n-Category Café
Excerpt: A new blog Noncommutative geometry has begun, which appears to be of the Connesian variety. (Connes himself has already commented there.) We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there are different flavours of noncommutative geometry. The Kontsevichian...
Tracked: February 21, 2007 4:24 PM

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