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PIMS Network-Wide Colloquium

Thu., Sep. 21, 2023 2:30 p.m.

Speaker: Ravi Vakil (Stanford University)

Title: Understanding arithmetic and geometry through cutting and pasting

Registration in advance and details at: 


Euler’s famous formula tells us that (with appropriate caveats), a map on the sphere with f countries (faces), e borders (edges), and v border-ends (vertices) will satisfy v-e+f=2. And more generally, for a map on a surface with g holes, v-e+f=2-2g. Thus we can figure out the genus of a surface by cutting it into pieces (faces, edges, vertices), and just counting the pieces appropriately. This is an example of the topological maxim “think globally, act locally”. A starting point for modern algebraic geometry can be understood as the realization that when geometric objects are actually algebraic, then cutting and pasting tells you far more than it does in “usual” geometry. I will describe some easy-to-understand statements (with hard-to-understand proofs), as well as easy-to-understand conjectures (some with very clever counterexamples, by M. Larsen, V. Lunts, L. Borisov, and others). I may also discuss some joint work with Melanie Matchett Wood.