A Mind for Madness

Musings on art, philosophy, mathematics, and physics


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Volumes of p-adic Schemes

I came across this idea a long time ago, but I needed the result that uses it in its proof again, so I was curious about figuring out what in the world is going on. It turns out that you can make “{p}-adic measures” to integrate against on algebraic varieties. This is a pretty cool idea that I never would have guessed possible. I mean, maybe complex varieties or something, but over {p}-adic fields?

Let’s start with a pretty standard setup in {p}-adic geometry. Let {K/\mathbb{Q}_p} be a finite extension and {R} the ring of integers of {K}. Let {\mathbb{F}_q=R_K/\mathfrak{m}} be the residue field. If this scares you, then just take {K=\mathbb{Q}_p} and {R=\mathbb{Z}_p}.

Now let {X\rightarrow Spec(R)} be a smooth scheme of relative dimension {n}. The picture to have in mind here is some smooth {n}-dimensional variety over a finite field {X_0} as the closed fiber and a smooth characteristic {0} version of this variety, {X_\eta}, as the generic fiber. This scheme is just interpolating between the two.

Now suppose we have an {n}-form {\omega\in H^0(X, \Omega_{X/R}^n)}. We want to say what it means to integrate against this form. Let {|\cdot |_p} be the normalized {p}-adic valuation on {K}. We want to consider the {p}-adic topology on the set of {R}-valued points {X(R)}. This can be a little weird if you haven’t done it before. It is a totally disconnected, compact space.

The idea for the definition is the exact naive way of converting the definition from a manifold to this setting. Consider some point {s\in X(R)}. Locally in the {p}-adic topology we can find a “disk” containing {s}. This means there is some open {U} about {s} together with a {p}-adic analytic isomorphism {U\rightarrow V\subset R^n} to some open.

In the usual way, we now have a choice of local coordinates {x=(x_i)}. This means we can write {\omega|_U=fdx_1\wedge\cdots \wedge dx_n} where {f} is a {p}-adic analytic on {V}. Now we just define

\displaystyle \int_U \omega= \int_V |f(x)|_p dx_1 \cdots dx_n.

Now maybe it looks like we’ve converted this to another weird {p}-adic integration problem that we don’t know how to do, but we the right hand side makes sense because {R^n} is a compact topological group so we integrate with respect to the normalized Haar measure. Now we’re done, because modulo standard arguments that everything patches together we can define {\int_X \omega} in terms of these local patches (the reason for being able to patch without bump functions will be clear in a moment, but roughly on overlaps the form will differ by a unit with valuation {1}).

This allows us to define a “volume form” for smooth {p}-adic schemes. We will call an {n}-form a volume form if it is nowhere vanishing (i.e. it trivializes {\Omega^n}). You might be scared that the volume you get by integrating isn’t well-defined. After all, on a real manifold you can just scale a non-vanishing {n}-form to get another one, but the integral will be scaled by that constant.

We’re in luck here, because if {\omega} and {\omega'} are both volume forms, then there is some non-vanishing function such that {\omega=f\omega'}. Since {f} is never {0}, it is invertible, and hence is a unit. This means {|f(x)|_p=1}, so since we can only get other volume forms by scaling by a function with {p}-adic valuation {1} everywhere the volume is a well-defined notion under this definition! (A priori, there could be a bunch of “different” forms, though).

It turns out to actually be a really useful notion as well. If we want to compute the volume of {X/R}, then there is a natural way to do it with our set-up. Consider the reduction mod {\mathfrak{m}} map {\phi: X(R)\rightarrow X(\mathbb{F}_q)}. The fiber over any point is a {p}-adic open set, and they partition {X(R)} into a disjoint union of {|X(\mathbb{F}_q)|} mutually isomorphic sets (recall the reduction map is surjective here by the relevant variant on Hensel’s lemma). Fix one point {x_0\in X(\mathbb{F}_q)}, and define {U:=\phi^{-1}(x_0)}. Then by the above analysis we get

\displaystyle Vol(X)=\int_X \omega=|X(\mathbb{F}_q)|\int_{U}\omega

All we have to do is compute this integral over one open now. By our smoothness hypothesis, we can find a regular system of parameters {x_1, \ldots, x_n\in \mathcal{O}_{X, x_0}}. This is a legitimate choice of coordinates because they define a {p}-adic analytic isomorphism with {\mathfrak{m}^n\subset R^n}.

Now we use the same silly trick as before. Suppose {\omega=fdx_1\wedge \cdots \wedge dx_n}, then since {\omega} is a volume form, {f} can’t vanish and hence {|f(x)|_p=1} on {U}. Thus

\displaystyle \int_{U}\omega=\int_{\mathfrak{m}^n}dx_1\cdots dx_n=\frac{1}{q^n}

This tells us that no matter what {X/R} is, if there is a volume form (which often there isn’t), then the volume

\displaystyle Vol(X)=\frac{|X(\mathbb{F}_q)|}{q^n}

just suitably multiplies the number of {\mathbb{F}_q}-rational points there are by a factor dependent on the size of the residue field and the dimension of {X}. Next time we’ll talk about the one place I know of that this has been a really useful idea.


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Brauer-Manin Obstruction

We will continue with the Brauer group after this post, but today let’s answer the question: Why should we care about the Brauer group? We gave one good reason back when talking about rational surfaces. It provided something that might be computable to detect whether or not our variety had good reduction.

Today let’s consider what is probably the most well-known use of the Brauer group. Suppose we have {X/K} a (smooth, proper) variety over a number field. We want to know whether or not there are any {K}-rational points. Of course, classically if you hand me this variety using an equation, then the problem reduces to a Diophantine equation. So this problem is very old (3rd century … and one could argue we still don’t have a great handle on it).

Suppose {Spec \ K\rightarrow X} is a rational point. Then we can use the embedding {K\hookrightarrow K_v} into various completions of {K} to get {Spec \ K_v\rightarrow X} points over all the local fields. This isn’t saying much. It says that if we have a global point, then we have points locally everywhere. The interesting question is whether having points locally everywhere “glue” to give a global point. When a class of varieties always allows you to do this, then we say the varieties satisfy the Hasse principle.

This brings us to the content of today’s post. We will construct the Brauer-Manin obstruction to the Hasse principle. We’ve already considered the following pairing in a previous post. For any prime {v}, we get a pairing {Br(X_{K_v})\times X(K_v)\rightarrow \mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}} which is just given by pullback on ├ętale cohomology using the map defining the point {Spec \ K_v\rightarrow X_{K_v}} followed by the canonical identification {Br(K_v)\stackrel{\sim}{\rightarrow}\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}}. We could write {(\alpha, x_v)=x_v^*(\alpha)} or more typically {\alpha(x_v)}.

We can package this into something global as follows. By restriction we have {\displaystyle Br(X)\hookrightarrow \prod_v Br(X_{K_v})} which we will write {\alpha\mapsto (\alpha_v)}. Now we just sum to get {\displaystyle Br(X)\times \prod_v X(K_v)\rightarrow \mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}}, so our global pairing is {\displaystyle (\alpha, (x_v))\mapsto \sum_v \alpha_v(x_v)}.

Recall that we have an exact sequence from the post on Brauer groups of fields {0\rightarrow Br(K)\rightarrow \oplus_v Br(K_v)\rightarrow \mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}\rightarrow 0} by summing the local invariants. If our local points glue to give a global point {x\mapsto (x_v)}, then the pairing factors through this sequence and hence {(\alpha, (x_v))=0} for any choice of {\alpha}.

This is our obstruction. The above argument says that if {(\alpha, (x_v))\neq 0}, then {(x_v)} cannot possibly glue to give a rational point. We will give this set a name:

\displaystyle X^{Br}=\{(x_v)\in \prod_v X(K_v) : (\alpha, x_v)=0 \ \text{for all} \ \alpha\in Br(K)\}

We will call this the Brauer set of {X} (earlier we called it being “Brauer equivalent to {0}” since we saw this type of condition was an equivalence relation on Chow groups). It is now immediate that {X(K)\subset X^{Br}}. We should think of this as the collection of local points that have some chance of coming from a global point. Now we have two obstructions to the existence of rational points. The first is that {\prod_v X(K_v)\neq \emptyset} which is just the trivial condition that there are local points everywhere. The second is the Brauer-Manin obstruction which says that {X^{Br}\neq \emptyset}.

If the local points condition is necessary and sufficient for the existence of rational points, then of course that is exactly the Hasse principle, so we say the Hasse principle holds. If the Brauer-Manin condition (plus the local condition) is necessary and sufficient, then we say that the Brauer-Manin obstruction is the only obstruction to the existence of rational points. It would be fantastic if we could somehow figure out which varieties had this property.

Caution: It is not an open problem to determine whether or not the Brauer-Manin obstruction is the only obstruction. There are known examples where there is no B-M obstruction and yet there are still no rational points. As far as I can tell, it is conjectured, but still open that if the Tate-Shafarevich group of the Jacobian of a curve is finite, then the B-M obstruction is the only obstruction to the existence of rational points on curves over number fields. So even in such a special low-dimensional situation this is a very hard question.

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