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March 7, 2006

Hilbert Uniformization of Moduli Space

Posted by Urs Schreiber

Currently I am staying at the Weizmann Institute where I am visiting Ofer Aharony and Micha Berkooz (I had reported about their last visit to Hamburg here). But at the moment I am still occupied with the internal mental post-production of the elliptic workshop. Here I want to list some literature on an interesting result by C. Bödigheimer which could be relevant for the program of realizing elliptic objects in terms of transport 2-functors.

At that workshop, Prof. Bödigheimer made me tell him about our construction of the String group in terms of the nerve of a 2-group and how that gives rise to a notion of surface transport in String(n)-bundles (or rather in a corresponding 2-bundle with connection).

In that approach, as in the Stolz/Teichner conception of elliptic objects, you want to be able to compose the (Riemann) surface over which the transport takes place out of many topologically disk-shaped little pieces, using composition and identification of boundaries. For bare surfaces this is more or less straightforward, for conformal surfaces, however, this is subtle.

Stolz/Teichner suggest to handle this issue by equipping every little piece of conformal surface suitably with “collars” along which gluing can be performed. While straightforward, the resulting construction might seem a little intricate.

Prof. Bödigheimer pointed out a result he has been working on over the years, which may suggest a rather elegant way to handle this issue, one that should seamlessly lend itself to incorporation in 2-functorial transport over Riemann surfaces.

The idea is to find something like a “normal form” of a representative for an equivalence class of Riemann surfaces obtained by piecing together trivial (“uniform”) surfaces using appropriate combinatorics.

The approach goes back to

D. Hilbert
Zur Theorie der konformen Abbildungen
Nachr. Königl. Ges. Wiss. Göttingen,
math.-phys. Klasse, 314-323 (1909)

and is hence called Hilbert Uniformization.

Bödigheimer’s contribution to this approach is summarized in the ultra-short letter

C.-F. Bödigheimer
Hilbert uniformaization of Riemann surfaces: I

A more detailed description can be found in the preprint

C.-F. Bödigheimer
Moduli Spaces of Riemann Surfaces with Boundary

An improved version of this has been announed to appear within weeks. Check this website for more. On that site one in particular finds a series of files containing a scanned-in version of

C.-F. Bödigheimer
On the topology of moduli spaces, Part I: Hilbert uniformization
Math. Göttingensis
Heft 7+8 (1990).

(I haven’t seen this one, though. For some strange reason my current equipment does not allow me to view these files.)

In this approach, one builds all Riemann surfaces (possibly with some restriction on the number of boundaries etc.) by choosing a couple of annuli, cutting radial slits into them and identifying left and right sides of these slits among each other.

Alternativley, one can think of the wedges obtained by slicing these annuli, after a conformal transformation, as a collection of standard rectangles in the complex plane, with certain combinatorial prescription for how to glue them. From this point of view the “normal form” for Riemann surfaces becomes particularly nice, being more or less just an n×m array of standard conformal rectangles with combinatoric data describing their composition along horizontal and vertical boundaries. No auxiliary collars are needed, gluing is exactly along the rectangle’s boundaries.

Every Riemann manifold with at least one (marked) ingoing and at least one outgoing boundary circle can be represented this way.

There is a particularly nice procedure for decomposing any given conformal surface (with at least two boundary circles) canonically into a collection of conformal rectangles with combinatoric identifications (section 6 in the above linked document):

On every such surface, there is precisely one real-valued function Φ which

is harmonic

has no singularities or critical points on the boundary

takes the value 0 on all boundary curves labelled “incoming”

takes the value 1 on all boundary curves labelled “outgoing”.

Using any representative of the conformal metric on the surface, we can form the gradient of that function and consider the flow induced by that gradient. Flow lines will

start either at an incoming boundary or at at critical point of Φ


end either at an outgoing boundary or at at critical point of Φ.

The critical points of Φ together with the set of flow lines which start or end at any critial point form a graph, and this graph, one can show, partitions the Riemann surface into regions which are conformally equivalent to rectangles [0,1 ]×[a,b].

There are a couple of results concerning the nature of the space of these “normal forms” for Riemann surfaces by students of Bödigheimer. For instance the recent

Johannes F. Ebert, Roland M. Friedrich
The Hilbert-uniformization is real-analytic
math.DG/0601378 .

Posted at March 7, 2006 4:00 PM UTC

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Re: Hilbert Uniformization of Moduli Space

I have nothing much to say except that it’s great how you’re marching forwards, tying together our String(n) stuff with our 2-connection stuff and Stolz and Teichner’s work on elliptic cohomology! Getting a really nice bicategory of Riemann surfaces with corners is probably part of what’s needed.

I’ve been working on something superficially quite different - a paper with Alissa Crans and Derek Wise on Exotic Statistics for Loops in 4d BF Theory. This paper will appear on the arXiv soon. If you think about it, you’ll see that it’s secretly about the 2-category whose 2-morphisms are 2-tangles: surfaces in 4d spacetime. And, as you know, a solution of 4d BF theory automatically gives a 2-connection (A,B). So, it’s probably just another aspect of the same big picture… though I’ve been too busy with the details to think much about how it fits into the big picture!

Posted by: john baez on March 21, 2006 4:35 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Hilbert Uniformization of Moduli Space

a paper with Alissa Crans and Derek Wise

Thanks! I’ll have a look at it.

Posted by: urs on March 28, 2006 10:31 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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