Tag Archives: Galois representations

Expander graphs, gonality, and variation of Galois representations

New paper on the arXiv with Chris Hall and Emmanuel Kowalski.

Suppose you have a 1-dimensional family of polarized abelian varieties — or, just to make things concrete, an abelian variety A over Q(t) with no isotrivial factor.

You might have some intuition that abelian varieties over Q don’t usually have rational p-torsion points — to make this precise you might ask that A_t[p](Q) be empty for “most” t.

In fact, we prove (among other results of a similar flavor) the following strong version of this statement.  Let d be an integer, K a number field, and A/K(t) an abelian variety.  Then there is a constant p(A,d) such that, for each prime p > p(A,d), there are only finitely many t such that A_t[p] has a point over a degree-d extension of K.

The idea is to study the geometry of the curve U_p parametrizing pairs (t,S) where S is a p-torsion point of A_t.  This curve is a finite cover of the projective line; if you can show it has genus bigger than 1, then you know U_p has only finitely many K-rational points, by Faltings’ theorem.

But we want more — we want to know that U_p has only finitely many points over degree-d extensions of K.  This can fail even for high-genus curves:  for instance, the curve

C:   y^2 = x^100000 + x + 1

has really massive genus, but choosing any rational value of x yields a point on C defined over a quadratic extension of Q.  The problem is that C is hyperelliptic — it has a degree-2 map to the projective line.  More generally, if U_p has a degree-d map to P^1,  then U_p has lots of points over degree-d extensions of K.  In fact, Faltings’ theorem can be leveraged to show that a kind of converse is true.

So the relevant task is to show that U_p admits no map to P^1 of degree less than d; in other words, its gonality is at least d.

Now how do you show a curve has large gonality?  Unlike genus, gonality isn’t a topological invariant; somehow you really have to use the geometry of the curve.  The technique that works here is one we learned from an paper of Abramovich; via a theorem of Li and Yau, you can show that the gonality of U_p is big if you can show that the Laplacian operator on the Riemann surface U_p(C) has a spectral gap.  (Abramovich uses this technique to prove the g=1 version of our theorem:  the gonality of classical modular curves increases with the level.)

We get a grip on this Laplacian by approximating it with something discrete.  Namely:  if U is the open subvariety of P^1 over which A has good reduction, then U_p(C) is an unramified cover of U(C), and can be identified with a finite-index subgroup H_p of the fundamental group G = pi_1(U(C)), which is just a free group on finitely many generators g_1, … g_n.  From this data you can cook up a Cayley-Schreier graph, whose vertices are cosets of H_p in G, and whose edges connect g H with g_i g H.  Thanks to work of Burger, we know that this graph is a good “combinatorial model” of U_p(C); in particular, the Laplacian of U_p(C) has a spectral gap if and only if the adjacency matrix of this Cayley-Schreier graph does.

At this point, we have reduced to a spectral problem having to do with special subgroups of free groups.  And if it were 2009, we would be completely stuck.  But it’s 2010!  And we have at hand a whole spray of brand-new results thanks to Helfgott, Gill, Pyber, Szabo, Breuillard, Green, Tao, and others, which guarantee precisely that Cayley-Schreier graphs of this kind, (corresponding to finite covers of U(C) whose Galois closure has Galois group a perfect linear group over a finite field) have spectral gap; that is, they are expander graphs. (Actually, a slightly weaker condition than spectral gap, which we call esperantism, is all we need.)

Sometimes you think about a problem at just the right time.  We would never have guessed that the burst of progress in sum-product estimates in linear groups would make this the right time to think about Galois representations in 1-dimensional families of abelian varieties, but so it turned out to be.  Our good luck.

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Hain-Matsumoto, “Galois actions on fundamental groups of curves…”

I recently had occasion to spend some time with Richard Hain and Makoto Matsumoto’s 2005 paper “Galois actions on fundamental groups and the cycle C – C^-,” which I’d always meant to delve into.  It’s really beautiful!  I cannot say I’ve really delved — maybe something more like scratched — but I wanted to share some very interesting things I learned.

Serre proved long ago that the image of the l-adic Galois representation on an elliptic curve E/Q is open in GL_2(Z_l), so long as E doesn’t have CM.  This is a geometric condition on E, which is to say it only depends on the basechange of E to an algebraic closure of Q, or even to C.

What’s the analogue for higher genus curves X?  You might start by asking about the image of the Galois representation G_Q -> GSp_2g(Z_l) attached to the Tate module of the Jacobian of X.  This image lands in GSp_{2g}(Z_l).  Just as with elliptic curves, any extra endomorphisms of Jac(X) may force the image to be much smaller than GSp_{2g}(Z_l).  But the question of whether the image of rho must be open in GSp_2g(Z_l) whenever no “obvious” geometric obstruction forbids it is difficult, and still not completely understood.  (I believe it’s still unknown when g is a multiple of 4…?)  One thing we do know in general, though, is that when X is the generic curve of genus g (that is, the universal curve over the function field Q(M_g) of M_g) the resulting representation

\rho^{univ}: G_{Q(M_g)} \rightarrow GSp_{2g}(\mathbf{Z}_\ell)

is surjective.

Hain and Matsumoto generalize in a different direction.  When X is a curve of genus greater than 1 over a field K, the Galois group of K acts on more than just the Tate modules (or l-adic H_1) of X; it acts on the whole pro-l geometric fundamental group of X, which we denote pi.  So we get a morphism

\rho_{X/K}: G_K \rightarrow Aut(\pi)

What does it mean to ask this representation to have “big image”?

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“Deforming Galois Representations” is online, too

The hits just keep on coming, as Barry Mazur has now posted a scan of his paper, “Deforming Galois Representations,” from the long-unavailable Galois Groups over Q proceedings, on his homepage.  I didn’t link directly to the .pdf because there’s tons of other interesting stuff on Barry’s homepage to look at!

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Bilu-Parent update

The result of Yuri Bilu and Pierre Parent that I blogged about last summer has appeared in a new, modified version on the arXiv. The authors discovered a mistake in the earlier version — their theorem on rational points on X^split(p) is now conditional on GRH, while they get an unconditional version for points on X^split(p^2). The dependence on GRH (Proposition 5.2 in the new version) is via explicit Chebotarev bounds; under GRH one has that if E/Q is a non-CM elliptic curve whose mod-p Galois representation lands in the normalizer of a split Cartan, then p << log (N_E)^(1+eps). The idea is that when E is not CM, one can find a nonzero Fourier coefficient a_l with l at most (log N_E)^(2+eps), which is required to reduce to 0 mod p; this immediately implies the desired bound on p. In the old version, the unconditional weaker bound p << (height(j(E)))^2, due to Masser, Wustholtz, and Pellarin, was sufficient; in the present version, it’s this bound that gives you control of X^split(p^2)(Q).

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Two idle questions about modular curves

This post is an math-blogging experiment in writing down small questions that have occurred to me, and which I haven’t thought about seriously — thus it is highly possible they are poorly formed, or that the answers are obvious.

  1. Let f be a cuspform on S_2(Gamma_0(N)) such that A_f has dimension greater than 1. Then the map X_0(N) -> A_f factors through X_0(N)/W, where W is some group of Atkin-Lehner involutions which act as +1 on A_f. Do we know an example of such an f where the map X_0(N)/W -> A_f is not a closed embedding? What if dim A_f is greater than 2? (In some sense, a map from a curve to a three-fold should be less likely to intersect itself “by chance” than a map from a curve to a surface.)
  2. In the original proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, Mazur’s theorem on rational isogenies of elliptic curves over Q was used in a critical way; when E is your Frey curve, you prove that E is modular, then derive a contradiction from the fact that E[p] is an _irreducible_ modular mod p Galois representation with very little ramification. Nowadays, can one write down a proof of Fermat that doesn’t pass through Mazur’s theorem?
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Bilu-Parent: Serre’s uniformity in the split Cartan case

Yuri Bilu and Pierre Parent posted a beautiful paper on the arXiv last week, settling part of a very old problem about the mod-p Galois representations attached to elliptic curves over Q.

If E is an elliptic curve over Q, the action of Galois on the p-torsion points of E yields a Galois representation

rho_{E,p}: Gal(Q) -> GL_2(F_p).

A famous theorem of Serre tells us that if E does not have complex multiplication, then rho_{E,p} is surjective for p large enough. But what “large enough” means depends, a priori, on E.

In practice, one seldom comes across an elliptic curve without CM such that rho_{E,p} is non-surjective. Thus the conjecture, originally due to Serre and now very widely believed, that “large enough” need not depend on the elliptic curve; that is, there is some absolute constant P such that rho_{E,p} is surjective for all non-CM elliptic curves over Q and all p > P.

More number theory below the fold:

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