Toric Geometry I – Definitions

Ok, so I’m going to mostly be posting on toric geometry for the near future, and in particular, working out what we need to do some mirror symmetry with it. I’ll be following various things by David Cox, so check out his webpage for more info. Anyway, this post is mostly going to be background on fans, polytopes, and cones so that we can do toric geometry properly next time. In fact, varieties will not be mentioned.

Before getting to the math, a personal note. The stuff in this post is rather near to my heart, as Coxeter’s Regular Polytopes was my first real math book, and my interest in mathematics really traces back to Flatland and my high school geometry class. So all in all, I’m rather glad that I’ve found a way to take classical geometry and use it for algebraic geometry.

Anyway, a lattice is a finitely generated free abelian group. Take a lattice M and its dual lattice N=\hom(M,\mathbb{Z}). There is a pairing M\times N\to \mathbb{Z} given by (m,n)=n(m). We’ll denote by M_{\mathbb{R}} and N_{\mathbb{R}} the vector spaces obtained by tensoring with the real numbers.

So now, a rational polyhedral cone \sigma\subseteq N_{\mathbb{R}} is just the linear combinations of a finite collection of elements of N where all the coefficients are positive. That is, \sigma=\{\lambda_1u_1+\ldots+\lambda_su_s|\lambda_1,\ldots,\lambda_s\geq 0\} and u_1,\ldots,u_s\in N are fixed. We say that \sigma is strongly convex if \sigma\cap (-\sigma)=\{0\}. What this means is that it doesn’t contain any complete lines. Without it, a rational polyhedral cone is still convex, but it could be as big as a half space. Strong convexity rules that out. We say \dim\sigma=\dim \mathrm{Span}(\sigma).

Now, for any cone \sigma (we’ll often just forget the rational polyhedral part, because those are the only cones we really care about), a face is the intersection with the set of points \ell=0, where \ell is a linear form which is nonnegative on \sigma. Denote by \sigma(r) the set of faces of dimension r. Any face will, in fact, be a subcone. Call an element \rho\in \sigma(1) an edge, and the primitive element n_\rho corresponding to the edge is the generator of \rho\cap N. It’s fairly straightforward (even by just drawing a picture, though that’s not rigorous) to see that the n_\rho generate \sigma, that is, they’re the elements appearing in the definition above, the u_i‘s. Now, that’s dimension one. In codimension one, we have facets. Even better, if \sigma has the same dimension as N_{\mathbb{R}}, then there’s a unique element of M_{\mathbb{R}} defined by being normal (If the pairing above is denoted \langle m,n\rangle, then \langle m,n\rangle=0 for all n in the facet) and having minimal length.

Now, given a strongly convex cone, we define the dual cone \sigma^\vee=\{m\in M_{\mathbb{R}}| \langle m,u\rangle\geq 0 for all u\in \sigma\}.

Now we get to the first properly important bit: fans. A fan is a finite collection \Sigma of cones in N_{\mathbb{R}} such that they’re all strongly convex, if \sigma\in \Sigma and \tau is a face of \sigma, then \tau\in\Sigma as well, and the intersection of pairs of cones in \Sigma is a face of each. These conditions will let us use fans to define toric varieties next time. We’ll define a bunch of properties of cones that will comes up:

A cone is smooth if it is generated by a subset of a basis for N. It is simplicial if it is generated by a subset of a basis of N_{\mathbb{R}}. We’ll come back to all of these later.

Now, we move from cones and fans, and start discussing polytopes. A lattice polytope \Delta is just the convex hull in M_{\mathbb{R}} of a finite subset of M. Now, for any facet, we have an inward normal vector n_F\in N of minimal length and integer a_F, so that \Delta is given by the inequalities \langle m,n_F\rangle\geq -a_F for all F facets.

Given a lattice polytope, we can define a fan as follows: take any face f, and set \sigma_f to be the cone generated by n_F for the facets containing f. Then \Sigma_\Delta=\{\sigma_f|f is a face of \Delta\} is a fan.

Additionally, given a polytope \Delta\subset N_{\mathbb{R}}, there exists a polytope \Delta^\circ\subset M_{\mathbb{R}} which is called the dual polytope, given by \Delta^\circ=\{m\in M_{\mathbb{R}}|\langle m,u\rangle\geq -1 for all u\in\Delta\}.

Now, an n-dimensional polytope in M_{\mathbb{R}} is called reflexive if all the facets F of \Delta are supported by an affine hyperplane, that is, they’re the intersection of the polytope with \{m\in M_{\mathbb{R}}|\langle m,n_F\rangle=-1\} for some n_F\in N and if the only interior lattice point is 0. It’s a theorem of Batyrev that \Delta is reflexive if and only if \Delta^\circ is.

So now, lastly, we devote a moment to thinking about the dual polytope geometrically. Take the cube with vertices \pm e_1\pm e_2\pm e_3 in three space. Then, the inward normals are \pm e_1,\pm e_2,\pm e_3, and so it has dual with those vertices, and that’s the octahedron. Now, to get the fan corresponding to any polytope \Delta, you look at its dual \Delta^\circ, and then take the cones over the faces and put them all together. They’ll form a fan, and this is the fan you’d get from the definition above. So the fan corresponding to the cube is just the octants, and the fan corresponding to the octahedron is a collection of infinite pyramids. And finally, we call the fans arising from dual polytopes dual. So we can work on the level of fans or polytopes at our leisure, and will use them both.

Apologies on the lack of pictures, I’ve failed at creating any to put here.


About Charles Siegel

Charles Siegel is currently a postdoc at Kavli IPMU in Japan. He works on the geometry of the moduli space of curves.
This entry was posted in Algebraic Geometry, Toric Geometry. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Toric Geometry I – Definitions

  1. Eitan says:

    Cool, I “worked” one summer as an undergrad on these kind of things: lattice polytopes, toric varieties, mirror symmetry.

  2. Well, Mirror Symmetry is a bit bigger than what toric geometry accounts for (I’ve not seen anyone claim that every Calabi-Yau threefold sits inside some toric variety as a complete intersection) but that’s the direction I’m heading in. My main interest in the stuff was originally to get to Batyrev’s result about Mirror Symmetry for hypersurface Calabi-Yaus, though now I’m rather enjoying the subject in and of itself, so I’m not going to make a complete bee-line for Batyrev’s result. (Well, also, I haven’t worked through the proof yet, so all I’d be able to do would be to give handwavy things with no proofs and probably not much intuition…)

  3. Pingback: Toric Geometry II - Toric Varieties « Rigorous Trivialities

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