Here are some sequences of vector spaces. In each case, the sequence is indexed by n, and all other variables are understood to be constant. So suppose V_n is the space

- H^i(Conf^n M, Q) for M a connected oriented manifold of dimension at least 2.
- The (j_1, .. j_r)-multidegree piece of the diagonal coinvariant algebra on r sets of n variables.
- H^i(M_{g,n},Q), the cohomology of the moduli space of curves of genus g with n marked points.
- The tautological subring of the above.
- The space of degree-d polynomials on the rank variety parametrizing nxn matrices of rank at most r.

By a *character polynomial* we mean a polynomial with integral coefficients in variables X_1, X_2, X_3, … . We interpret these symbols (and thus character polynomials) as class functions on the symmetric group by S_n by taking

X_i(s) = number of i-cycles in s

for each permutation s.

Then we show that, in each of the examples above, there’s a character polynomial P such that the character of the action of S_n on V_n is given by P, for all sufficiently large n. This is one way in which one can say that a sequence of representations of larger and larger symmetric groups are “all the same.” In particular, by plugging in the identity we find that dim V_n is a *polynomial* in n, for n large enough.

For many of these examples, almost nothing is known about dimensions of individual spaces! So a strong regularity theorem like this is perhaps surprising. Even more surprising (to us at any rate) is that theorems like this require only very meager input from whatever context generate the vector spaces. You get this stability (and many others) almost for free.

More about how it all works tomorrow!

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I’ve started looking at the paper, and I have to say I am fascinated… (Though I am wondering if such ideas could possibly apply in different areas…)

Emmanuel, you should let Jordan tell you about his FI-polytope perspective on de Finetti’s theorem… ;)

Probably not, but worth a few minutes looking: any connection with http://arxiv.org/abs/1006.5248?

Indeed there is! We discuss this in the intro to the paper. Snowden’s work, which is independent from ours, sets up a family of abelian categories of which FI-modules turns out to be an example, and proves some quite general facts about them. Happily, the overlap turned out to be pretty small since our goals were different (though in both cases it turned out to be important to prove a Noetherianness result, so a theorem of that kind appears in both papers.)