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This entry is a detailed introduction to stable homotopy theory, hence to the stable homotopy category and to its key computational tool, the Adams spectral sequence. To that end we introduce the modern tools, such as model categories and highly structured ring spectra. In the accompanying seminar we consider applications to cobordism theory and complex oriented cohomology such as to converge in the end to a glimpse of the modern picture of chromatic homotopy theory.
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Lecture notes. $\;\;\;\;\;\;\;$ (web version requires Firefox browser – free download)
Prelude – Classical homotopy theory (pdf 111 pages)
Part 1 – Stable homotopy theory
$\,\,$ Part 1.1 – Sequential Spectra (pdf, 79 pages)
$\,\,$ Part 1.2 – Structured Spectra (pdf, 75 pages)
Interlude – Spectral sequences (pdf, 15 pages)
Part 2 – Adams spectral sequences (pdf, 53 pages)
Examples and Applications – Cobordism and Complex Oriented Cohomology (pdf, 76 pages)
total file (pdf, 418 pages)
Background reading:
Background – Introduction to Homological algebra (pdf, 83 pages)
Background – Introduction to Topology (pdf, 122 pages)
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My initial inclination was to call this book The Music of the Spheres, but I was dissuaded from doing so by my diligent publisher, who is ever mindful of the sensibilities of librarians. (Ravenel 86, preface)
We are concerned with the theory of spectra in the sense of algebraic topology: the proper generalization of abelian groups to homotopy theory.
A group in homotopy theory is equivalently a loop space under concatenation of loops (“∞-group”). A double loop space is a group with some commutativity structure (“Eckmann-Hilton argument”), a triple loop space has more commutativity structure, and so forth. A spectrum is where this progression of looping and delooping stabilizes (an “$\infty$-abelian group”). Therefore one speaks of stable homotopy theory:
Most of linear algebra and algebraic geometry passes along as abelian groups are generalized to spectra and turns into something remarkably rich, called brave new algebra, higher algebra and spectral geometry. In particular the analog of the theory of (commutative) rings and their modules exists, given by (commutative) ring spectra (E-∞ rings, A-∞ rings) and module spectra (∞-modules).
Since spectra are considerably richer than abelian groups, stable homotopy is much concerned with “fracturing” stable homotopy types into more tractable components:
To that end, notice that from the point of view of arithmetic geometry, an abelian group $A$ is equivalently a quasicoherent sheaf over Spec(Z).
This point of view generalizes to homotopy theory and turns out to be very fruitful there. The analog of the integers $\mathbb{Z}$ is the sphere spectrum $\mathbb{S}$, and this is naturally the initial commutative ring spectrum (“E-∞ ring”), just as $\mathbb{Z}$ is the initial commutative ring. The formal dual Spec(S) of $\mathbb{S}$ is hence the terminal space in E-∞ arithmetic geometry (“spectral geometry”) and spectra are equivalently the quasicoherent ∞-stacks over $Spec(\mathbb{S})$
Therefore the study of spectra “fractures” into the various localizations and formal completions of $Spec(\mathbb{S})$. Since this is like the white light of $Spec(\mathbb{S})$ decomposing into various wavelengths, one speaks of chromatic homotopy theory.
In particular, an E-∞ ring $E$ is dually a morphism of $E_\infty$-algebraic spaces $Spec(E) \longrightarrow Spec(\mathbb{S})$ and under good conditions the 1-image of this map is the formal dual of the localization $L_E \mathbb{S}$ at $E$:
This means that $Spec(E) \longrightarrow Spec(L_E \mathbb{S})$ is a cover and that hence $E$-local spectra are equivalently quasicoherent ∞-stacks on $Spec(E)$ equipped with descent data: dually they are ∞-modules over $E$ equipped with comodule structure over the Hopf algebroid (Sweedler coring) $E \otimes_{\mathbb{S}} E$.
The computation of homotopy groups of spectra that make use of their decomposition this way into $E$-∞-modules equipped with descent data is the $E$-Adams spectral sequence, a central tool of the theory.
For this reason special importance is carried by those E-∞ rings such that $Spec(E) \to Spec(\mathbb{S})$ is already a covering, in a suitable sense, for these the $E$-∞-modules equipped with descent data give an equivalent, but in general more tractable, incarnation of the stable homotopy theory of spectra.
Curiously, this way a good bit of differential topology – cobordism theory – arises within stable homotopy theory: the archetypical $Spec(E)$ which covers $Spec(\mathbb{S})$ in a suitable sense is $E =$ MU, the Thom spectrum representing complex cobordism cohomology.
An commutative ring spectrum $E$ over $MU$, hence a $Spec(E)\to Spec(MU)$ is now a multiplicative “complex oriented cohomology theory”.
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This section is at: Introduction to Stable homotopy theory – P
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This section is at Introduction to Stable homotopy theory – 1
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This section is at Introduction to Stable homotopy theory – I
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This section is at Introduction to Stable homotopy theory – 2
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This section is at Introduction to Stable homotopy theory – S
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For Prelude) Classical homotopy theory a concise and self-contained re-write of the proof (Quillen 67) of the classical model structure on topological spaces is in
For general model category theory a decent concise account is in
For the restriction to the convenient category of compactly generated topological spaces good sources are
Gaunce Lewis, Compactly generated spaces (pdf), appendix A of The Stable Category and Generalized Thom Spectra PhD thesis Chicago, 1978
Neil Strickland, The category of CGWH spaces, 2009 (pdf)
For section 1) Stable homotopy theory we follow the modern picture of the stable homotopy category for which an enjoyable survey may be found in
The classical account in (Adams 74, part III sections 2, 4-7) is still a good read, but ignore the “Adams category”-construction of the stable homotopy category in sections III.2 and III.3. What we actually do follows
For the discussion of ring spectra we pass to symmetric spectra and orthogonal spectra. A compendium on the former is in
For Interlude: Spectral sequences a discussion streamlined for our purposes is in (Rognes 12, section 2).
In 2) Adams spectral sequence for the general theory we follow
Frank Adams, Stable homotopy and generalized homology, Chicago Lectures in mathematics, 1974
Aldridge Bousfield, sections 5 and 6 of The localization of spectra with respect to homology, Topology 18 (1979), no. 4, 257–281. (pdf)
For the special case of the classical Adams spectral sequence we follow (Kochman 96, chapter V).
For the Seminar on Complex oriented cohomology an excellent textbook to hold on to is
Specifically for S.1) Generalized cohomology a neat account is in:
For S.2) Cobordism theory an efficient collection of the highlights is in
except that it omits proof of the Leray-Hirsch theorem/Serre spectral sequence and that of the Thom isomorphism, but see the references there and see (Kochman 96, Aguilar-Gitler-Prieto 02, section 11.7) for details.
For S.3) Complex oriented cohomology besides (Kochman 96, chapter 4) have a look at Adams 74, part II and
(These overlap, pick the one that seems more inviting on first reading.)
The two originals
Daniel Quillen, Axiomatic homotopy theory in Homotopical algebra, Lecture Notes in Mathematics, No. 43 43, Berlin (1967)
Kenneth Brown, Abstract Homotopy Theory and Generalized Sheaf Cohomology, Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 186 (1973), 419-458 (JSTOR)
are still an excellent source. For further reading on homotopy theory and stable homotopy theory a useful collection is
The modern chromatic picture originates around
a useful survey is in
a wealth of details is in
and new foundations have been laid in