# Notes on Partial Resolutions of Nilpotent Varieties by Borho and Macpherson

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1 Notes on Partial Resolutions of Nilpotent Varieties by Borho and Macpherson Chris Elliott January 14th, Setup Let G be a complex reductive Lie group with Lie algebra g. The paper [BM83] relates two kinds of object: ˆ Parabolic subgroups P G. Recall that a subgroup P is parabolic if it contains a Borel subgroup, or equivalently if the quotient space G/P is a projective variety. ˆ Partial resolutions π : Ñ N, where N g is the nilpotent cone: the set of elements X g such that the endomorphism [X, ] is nilpotent (which implies that ρ(x) is nilpotent in all representations ρ of g). A partial resolution is a surjective smooth map which restricts to an isomorphism on the preimage of the smooth locus in N. From a parabolic subgroup P we ll construct a partial resolution π P : Ñ P N, prove some nice properties of π P, then study the geometry of its singularities and its fibres. If P = B is a Borel then this recovers the Springer resolution of N, which is a bona fide resolution of singularities with total space isomorphic to T (G/B). Unless I say otherwise, all proofs are those given in [BM83]. 2 The Partial Resolutions We fix a parabolic subgroup P containing a Borel B once and for all with Lie algebra p. The quotient space G/P can be viewed as the space of parabolic subgroups P G conjugate to P, or equivalently parabolic subalgebras p g conjugate to p. Definition 2.1. The partial resolution ÑP is the space of pairs {(X, p ): p G/P and X p N } N G/P This maps to N by the natural projection. Call this map π P. We can likewise define a resolution π B : Ñ N associated to the Borel subgroup B: the so-called Springer resolution. This map factors through the partial resolution π P. We should check that π B really is a resolution of singularities. To do so, we first study the geometry of the total space Ñ. Let π 2 be the projection map Ñ G/B. The fibre of π 2 over a Borel subalgebra b is the set of nilpotent elements of b. We can understand this by decomposing b = h n where h is the Cartan subalgebra and n = [b, b ] is the nilradical. The nilpotent elements are those elements in {0} n b, so the projection π 2 is a vector bundle. 1

2 2 Section 3 Intersection Cohomology and the Decomposition Theorem Proposition 2.2. The Springer resolution Ñ is isomorphic to T (G/B) as a vector bundle over the flag variety. Proof. [CG97] First, note that our description above identifies Ñ as the vector bundle G/B b n = G B n, where on the left-hand side b is the tautological b-bundle over G/B, and on the right-hand side B acts on n by the adjoint action. We can identify n as the annihilator of b in g with respect to the Killing form B(X, Y ) = Tr(ad(X)ad(Y ). Thus we ve identified Ñ with G B b, where b g is the annihilator of b, acted on by B by the coadjoint action. To see that this recovers the cotangent bundle of the flag variety, we consider the dual vector bundle G B (g/b). This can be viewed as the quotient of the trivial g bundle on G/B by the tautological b-bundle. However, the tautological b-bundle is also the kernel of the bundle map G/B g T (G/B) given by the infinitesimal G-action. Thus G B (g/b) = T (G/B) or dually G B b = T (G/B) as required. Now, this proves that Ñ is smooth. To see it forms a resolution, we just observe that π B is an isomorphism away from the singularities of N. We ll need a description of this smooth locus: it will consist of the regular elements of N. Definition 2.3. An element X g is called regular if the characteristic polynomial of ad(x) has degree rk(g) (recall that the rank of g is the maximal degree of such a characteristic polynomial, or equivalently the dimension of any Cartan). The regular elements are dense in g. Remark 2.4. For G = GL(n), the regular elements of g are just those matrices all of whose eigenvalues are distinct. Theorem 2.5. For X N, the Springer fibre π 1 B (X) has dimension d X = 1 2 (dim(g) dim(o X)) where O X is the orbit of X under the adjoint action. In particular, the Springer fibre is zero-dimensional if and only if X is regular. In this case it consists of a single point. This is a theorem of Steinberg proven in [Ste76]. Much of the proof holds for more general parabolic subgroups than just Borels. In particular we notice that the Springer resolution π B, hence all the π P, are semismall maps with respect to the stratification of N by adjoint orbits. In general a map π : Y X is semismall with respect to a stratification of X if for every stratum S X, and for every point x S, one has 2 dim(π 1 (x) dim(x) dim(s). This will become important later on when we apply the decomposition theorem. A stratum is called relevant if equality holds in the above inequality; for the Springer resolution all strata are relevant. 3 Intersection Cohomology and the Decomposition Theorem The main tool we re going to use to study the topology of N and its resolutions is the theory of intersection cohomology, or more generally of perverse sheaves. These are sheaves of vector spaces well-suited for studying the topology of singular spaces; they admit nice notions of push-forward and pull-back along functions between spaces, and a natural notion of duality related to things like Poincaré and Alexander duality for smooth manifolds. Good expository references for the theory of intersection cohomology include [Rie03] and [dcm09].

4 4 Section 4 Applications to the Topology of N and its Springer fibres For a proof that these two constructions give isomorphic complexes, see [Rie03] 4.9. Remark 3.3. To really make sense of the latter definition we should choose a piecewise linear structure on X, and only work with piecewise linear chains. The coincidence with the sheaf-theoretic construction proves that this construction is independent of the choice of piecewise linear structure. Given any locally closed stratified subspace i: Y X, we ll denote the sheaf i IC(L Y ) D b c(x) by IC Y (L Y ). These intersection cohomology sheaves of subspaces form the building blocks for a special (abelian) subcategory of D b (X), the category of perverse sheaves. These objects have another description. There is always a canonical natural transformation of functors i! i. The image of the map i! F i F for F D b c(y ) is called the minimal or IC extension of F, and denoted i! F. If F is a local system, this agrees with the IC sheaf IC Y (L Y ) defined above. For more details, see [HT08] section The Decomposition Theorem The decomposition theorem tells us, if we have a map π : Y X between spaces, how to decompose the pushforward π (C Y ) into nice irreducible objects of the above form: objects built from IC sheaves of strata. The statement is a little fiddly in general, but the theorem has a very nice form for semismall maps. Recall the definition. Definition 3.4. A map π : Y X is called semismall with respect to a stratification of X if for every stratum S X, and for every point x S, one has 2 dim(π 1 (x) dim(x) dim(s). The map π is called small if equality only holds for the dense stratum. In general, a stratum is called relevant if equality holds in the inequality above. Theorem 3.5 (Decomposition theorem for semismall maps). Let π : Y X be a semismall map with respect to a stratification X = S i of X. Then there is an isomorphism π (C Y ) = IC Si (L Si ) S i relevant where L Si S i. is the local system on S i induced from the monodromy action on the components of the fibres of π over We can give a further decomposition according to irreducible representations of the fundamental groups π 1 (S i ). Specifically, for each such irreducible representation χ we get a local system L χ on S i, and we can decompose L Si according to isotypic components: L Si = χ V χ i. This then gives a total decomposition π (C Y ) = S i,χ χ Irrep(π 1(S i)) IC Si (L χ ) V χ i where the sum is over S i relevant strata and χ irreducible representations of π 1 (S i ). In what follows we ll apply this to the nilpotent cone N of a Lie algebra, stratified by orbits for the adjoint action. 4 Applications to the Topology of N and its Springer fibres We ll conclude by returning to the nilpotent cone, and describing some applications of the decomposition theorem to understanding its topology. Firstly, Borho and Macpherson prove the following:

5 5 Section 4 Applications to the Topology of N and its Springer fibres Theorem 4.1. The nilpotent cone N, and the partial Springer resolutions ÑP, are rational smooth. Definition 4.2. An n-dimensional complex variety X is rationally smooth if for every x X we have H (X, X \ {x}; C) = C[ 2n]. This admits an equivalent description in terms of intersection cohomology: Lemma 4.3. A stratified space X is rationally smooth if and only if there is a quasi-isomorphism IC(C X ) = p C X, where p is the map from X to a point. Proof sketch. That rational smoothness implies this condition on IC(C X ) is a Verdier duality calculation. The relative homology H (X, X \ {x}; C) is a definition of the stalk of the Borel Moore homology at x, which is to say the Verdier dualising sheaf of X, which we ll denote ω X. Rational smoothness is equivalent to the isomorphism of the shifted dualising sheaf ω X [ 2n] with the constant sheaf C X. Pushing forward: p C X = p ω X [ 2n] = (p! C X [ 2n]) using Verdier duality. The map from the right to the left always factors through the IC sheaf, so since it is an isomorphism, the map to the IC sheaf must be an isomorphism also. The converse is a little harder. We proceed by simultaneous induction on the dimension of X and the codimension of a stratum. The claim is clear for the dense stratum: points in such strata have smooth neighbourhoods. The Borel-Moore homology (or stalk of the dualising sheaf) at a point x can be computed as the homology of the link Λ x of the stratum containing x, which is rationally smooth by the induction hypothesis. One then computes H i (Λ x ) = IH 2c i 1 (Λ) = IHx 2c i 1 (X) for c i < 2c, where c is the codimension of our stratum. This establishes our claim in this range of dimensions, and Poincaré duality for the link (using the inductive hypothesis) completes the proof. Thus to prove the theorem we need to compute the intersection complex of N and its partial resolutions. Let s discuss the nilpotent cone N only; one doesn t need to do much more work to extend the calculation I ll explain to partial resolutions also. We can use the decomposition theorem for this calculation. To compute the stalk of the IC complex at a point x, we observe H ((G/B) x ; C) = ((π B ) CÑ ) x ( = ICSi (L χ ) x V χ ) i i,χ in the notation of the statement of the decomposition theorem above, where (G/B) x is the Springer fibre over x and p is the map from N to a point. We have to investigate the isotypic component corresponding to the dense stratum and the trivial representation. There is a Weyl group action on the complex (π B ) CÑ, due to Lusztig. To define this, we generalise the Springer resolution to the so-called Grothendieck resolution of g: ξ : g = {(X, b ) g G/B : X b } g. When one restricts to regular semisimple elements, one finds that this map is a W -fold covering map, i.e. W acts on g rs by deck transformations. Thus W acts on the sheaf ξ (C grs ). Now, the map ξ is small semismall with the dense stratum the only relevant one so the decomposition theorem tells us ξ (C g ) = IC(ξ (C grs )) and upon pulling back along the inclusion i : N g (i.e. restricting to nilpotent elements), the Weyl group action on the right gives a Weyl group action on i ξ (C g ) = (π B ) CÑ as required. Now we can use the following crucial theorem, proven in [BM81].

6 6 Section References Theorem 4.4 (Springer Correspondence). The terms in the decomposition for ((π B ) CÑ ) x are in bijection to the irreducible characters of the Weyl group, and the decomposition agrees with the decomposition as a Weyl group representation. Thus, we need to compute the piece corresponding to the trivial character, i.e. we must show that H ((G/B) x ; C) W = C. To do so, let s introduce a last piece of notation. We can factor a parabolic subgroup P as a product of its unipotent radical U and a semisimple group L = P/U. This group is called a Levi subgroup, and plays the same role inside a parabolic subgroup as a Cartan plays inside a Borel. In particular we can take the Weyl group W (L) of L, which sits inside the Weyl group W of G. For x N, denote by (G/P ) x the fibre over x in the partial resolution π P : Ñ P N. Proposition 4.5. For the partial Springer fibre (G/P ) x, its cohomology arises as W (L) invariants in the cohomology of the full Springer fibre: H ((G/P ) x ; C) = H ((G/B) x ; C) W (L) where the W (L)-action is the restriction of the Weyl group action defined above, using rational smoothness for N to identify this with the ordinary cohomology. Proof. The proposition follows from a sheaf-theoretic statement by taking stalks over a nilpotent element x N g. We ll prove that (ξ P ) C gp = (ξ C g ) W (L) for the Weyl group action described above. One checks that, on the regular semisimple locus, the partial Grothendieck resolution g P g is obtained from the full Grothendieck resolution by taking the subcover associated to the quotient W/W (L). Therefore we have (ξ P ) (C grs,p ) = ξ (C grs ) W (L) which gives the statement we want for all of g rather than just the dense stratum by applying the decomposition theorem to the desired statement, and using that the maps ξ and ξ P are small, so only the dense stratum contributes. This allows us to complete the proof of 4.1, by plugging in P = G above. Proving the full theorem requires the result for all P and a little more care with the Weyl group actions discussed above. References [BM81] Walter Borho and Robert MacPherson. Représentations des groupes de weyl et homologie dintersection pour les variétés nilpotentes. CR Acad. Sci. Paris, 292(15): , [BM83] Walter Borho and Robert MacPherson. Partial resolutions of nilpotent varieties. Astérisque, 101(102):23 74, [CG97] Neil Chriss and Victor Ginzburg. Representation Theory and Complex Geometry. Birkhäuser, [dcm09] Mark de Cataldo and Luca Migliorini. The decomposition theorem, perverse sheaves and the topology of algebraic maps. Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 46(4): , [HT08] [Rie03] Ryoshi Hotta and Toshiyuki Tanisaki. D-modules, perverse sheaves, and representation theory, volume 236. Springer, Konstanze Rietsch. An introduction to perverse sheaves. Representations of finite dimensional algebras and related topics in Lie theory and geometry, Fields Inst. Commun, 40: , [Ste76] Robert Steinberg. On the desingularization of the unipotent variety. Inventiones mathematicae, 36(1): , 1976.

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