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July 15, 2005

Talks in Hamburg, Lectures in Bad Honnef

Posted by urs

I had to interrupt my virtual Streetfest at home for a moment. Thursday I visited the Quantum Physics and Geometry Seminar in Hamburg. After that I travelled to Bad Honnef where today I gave the first of two parts of a mini-lecture on ‘nonabelian strings’ aka nonabelian gerbe holonomy. Here are some random notes.

In Hamburg I learned some elements of ‘HQFT’ (homotopy quantum field theory) from Jens Fjelstad. That’s a fun add-on to topological field theory studied in particular by Turaev, Moore and Segal.

Very roughly, consider the domain category of a TFT with

- objects based intervals and based oriented circles equipped with homotopy classes of maps to some pointed topological ‘target’ space

- and morphisms 2D cobordisms that know about these basepoints and which are, too, equipped with homotopy classes of maps to the target.

The base point always gets sent to the distingished point in the target.

Now consider the special case that the target is a K(G,1 ), i.e. a topological space which has fundamental group G and all other homotopy groups trivial.

In that case circle objects in the above category are nothing but circles colored by an element of G.

Now consider the pair-of pants cobordism on which the basepoint runs along a V-shaped diagram. Call the two group elements associated to the two ends of the V g and h.

It is then easy to see that the group element at the remaining end of the cobordism has to be the path gh in K(G,1 ) , where the order of the factors is determined by the orientation of the circles.

Now move the h-end around the g-end to the other side. Take care of what happens at the basepoint. Note that h picks up a ‘twist’. It gets conjugated by g and becomes ghg 1 . This way the product remains inavriant.

There would be much more to say, but I realize that without drawing diagrams this is not that much fun after all. I can’t do that here in the public computer pool at Bad Honnef Physik Zentrum. Maybe I’ll supply some diagrams and a little bit more of information and background later. (Or maybe Jens does, if he reads this.) See for instance

V. Turaev
Homotopy Field Theory in Dimension 2 and Group-Algebras

Sorry for this incomplete account, but I am getting tired. There is lots of interesting literature on this stuff that I should eventually read and which I note here just so that I don’t forget about these links myself.

For instance there is

U. Bunke, P. Turner & S. Willerton
Gerbes and Homotopy Quantum Field Theories
Algebraic & Geometric Topology 4 (2004) 407


For smooth finite dimensional manifolds, we characterise gerbes with connection as functors on a certain surface cobordism category. This allows us to relate gerbes with connection to Turaev’s 1+1-dimensional homotopy quantum field theories, and we show that flat gerbes are related to a specific class of rank one homotopy quantum field theories.

Now this sounds interesting! Too bad that the printer here has run out of paper…

While I was on the train to Hamburg I was reading the old

F. Gabbiani & J. Fröhlich
Operator Algebras and Conformal Field Theory
CMP 155 (1993) 569

in order to learn how type III 1 factors of von Neumann algebras arise in the representation theory of loop groups (and hence in order to better understand Stolz & Teichner).

This was coincidentally precisely the right introduction to Brunetti’s talk, which was a review of

R. Longo & K.-H. Rehren
Local Fields in Boundary Conformal Field Theory
RMP 16 (2004) 909

where this machinery is adapted to CFT with boundary. After the talk I was friendly scolded by R. Brunetti that I should also have read his et al.’s

R. Brunetti, D. Guido & R. Longo
Modular Structure and Duality in Conformal Quantum Field Theory
CMP 156 (1993) 201

Oh dear, I have to quit to catch some sleep. Tomorrow morning I am supposed to continue my mini-lecture.

Posted at July 15, 2005 9:22 PM UTC

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2 Comments & 1 Trackback

Re: Talks in Hamburg, Lectures in Bad Honnef


are you a slide person, or a board person. If the former - why not post your slides?

We just had two interesting talks here at the Streetfest (the first one I think I slept through) - one on Temperly-Lieb (spelling?) algebras and the other on Segal categories, simplicial monoids and algebraic theories. A review will be forthcoming…



Posted by: David Roberts on July 16, 2005 1:39 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Talks in Hamburg, Lectures in Bad Honnef

are you a slide person, or a board person

I started out as a board person a couple of years ago, then became a slide person and am now converted back to a board person. My last couple of talks I have all given in front of audiences that contained mathematicians and done them all on the blackboard.

Turns out, however, that when I discuss fairly large (2-)commuting diagrams on slides people will ask me to draw them on the blackboard instead, while when I draw them on the blackboard in the first place people ask for slides. I’ll have to find a better way to deal with that, maybe.

Anyway, what I said in Bad Honnef was essentially excerpts from part I of my thesis, which is supposed to be mixture of review of material well known to a few and unknown to most people (physicists), together with my new results presented in a friendly, informal way.

So the best I can do here is point you to that first part of my thesis.

I have however slides of older talks which contain some of the material that I have discussed yesterday and today. But I don’t think you should prefer them over what you can find in part I of my thesis.

Posted by: Urs on July 16, 2005 11:40 AM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Formal HQFT
Weblog: The String Coffee Table
Excerpt: Porter and Turaev on formal HQFT.
Tracked: May 4, 2006 9:14 PM

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