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Notes by Juliet Cooke

15 January 2016

We start with some manifold which may be a 4-manifold M 4 equipped with a

metric with signature (+ + + −) (’space time’), or a 3-manifold M 3 equipped

with a Riemannian metric, or a surface Σ = M 2 with a conformal structure.

On this manifold M we study some space of ’fields’ F. That is, we have some

natural bundles

M

and we wish to study the sections F = Γ(M, Ω∗ ξ). In physical situations

there is a Lagrangian

∂ϕ ∂ 2 ϕ

L = f ϕ, , , . . . , f ∈ C[x1 , x1 , . . . ],

∂xi ∂xi ∂xj

Z R

Z= eπi M L(ϕ) dϕ.

ϕ∈Γ(M,Ω∗ ξ)

i.e. the likelihood of observing ψ1 given ψ2 and vice versa. These integrals

are ill-posed in general, not only divergent, but underfined because dϕ does

not exist as stated. QFT addresses this in various ways to still get meaningful

physical quantities out. The partition function Z depends, a priori, on the extra

data on M , such as metric. However, in many field theories, especially ’super

symmetric’ ones, this dependence is trivial, and the field theory is said to be

topological.

Example 1. An example of a topological quantum field theory is based on the

Cern-Simons functional on a 3-manifold M 3 with Riemannian metric. We have

1

a trivial G-bundle over M where G is a semi-simple lie algebra. So we have

F = Γ(M, Ω0 (G)).

1

L(∇) = tr(F ∧ A − A ∧ A ∧ A)

3

where F = dA + A ∧ A is the curvature of the connection.

tr

Ω3 (M, G ⊗ 3) −→ L(∇) ∈ Ω3 (M 3 ).

In the 1980s Atiyah and Segal realised that the formal properties of the (ill-

defined) partition function may nerveless lead to interesting invariants leading

to an axiomatisation of TQFTs.

In particular, they were interested in manifold invariants which exploited

the manifold nature, not just the topological space. The most basic properties

are those of boundary conditions and compatibility with cobordisms and

disjoint unions.

neighbourhoods M1 × I ⊆ M , M2 × I ⊆ M we can define

Z R

Z(ϕ1 , ϕ2 ) = ϕ∈Γ(M.Ω∗ ξ) eiπ M L(ϕ) dϕ

ϕ|M1 ×I =ϕ

ϕ|M2 ×I =ϕ2

N2

M1 M2 M2

M glue N

2

2. These compose under gluing of oriented cobordisms.

Z(N ) ◦ Z(M ) = Z(M glued to N )

A cobordism from M1 to M2 (both (n − 1)-manifolds) is a n-manifold M

with boundary ∂M = M1 t M2 = Min t Mout . A manifold is orientable if

Λ∗ (T M ) is trivial and an orientation is decomposition of this line into ±.

3. Let M, N be manifolds and M1 , M2 ⊆ ∂M .

Z(M t N ) = Z(M ) · Z(M )

Z(M1 t M2 ) = Z(M1 ) ⊗ Z(M2 )

Atiyah and Segal studied the cobordism category Cob1 (n). The cobor-

dism category has

Objects: (n − 1)-dimensional, compact, oriented, closed manifolds.

Morphisms: Hom(M1 , M2 ) consists of diffeomorphism classes of oriented cobor-

disms M n with ∂M = Min t Mout = M1 t M2 . Quotienting by diffeomor-

phism is required for associativity. Orientation is needed to determine the

’source’ and ’target’ of cobordisms.

Atiyah and Segal defined an n-dimensional TQFTs as a symmetric monoidal

functor

Z : Cob1 (n)t → V ect⊗

k.

The mondoidal structure on Cob1 (n)t is given by disjoint union t and on V ect⊗

k

given by the usual tensor product on vector spaces.

This definition is already very interesting but we will extend it in various

ways. The first way is to replace V ect⊗ k with a general symmetric monoidal

category C ⊗ . This makes a n-dimensional TQFTs a symmetric monoidal functor

Z : Cob1 (n)t → C ⊗ .

We can also extend the definition to higher categories. Given k = 1, 2, . . . , ∞,

will see a natural category, and study functors

Z : Cobk (n)t → C ⊗ ,

where C ⊗ is some natural higher category. For example

k algebras as objects

⊗ 2

C = Algk = A − B bimodules as morphisms

bimodule maps as 2-morphisms

or

tensor categories as objects

C ⊗ = Alg2Vectk = bimodule categories as 1-morphisms ,

natural transformations as 3-morphisms

3

The Cobordism Hypothesis

We shall also see the cobordism hypothesis: Roughly this says that we can

find ’generators’ and ’relations’ presentations for Cobk (n) and hence classify

TQFTs in terms of special objects in C ⊗ which are called (fully) dualizable.

The hypothesis hypothesis has been worked on my many people including Baez-

Dolan (conjecture), Lurie (proof), Scheimbauer (segal spaces) and Ayala-Francis

Tannaka (factorisation homology).

Cobordism hypothesis:

• Cob∞ (n) is generated by a single object, the n-disc. Hence a fully extended

TFT is completely determined by Z(Rn ) ∈ C ⊗ .

• Z(R) must be fully dualizable, which asserts the existance of many adjoints

and duals in C ⊗ and is essentialy a strong finiteness condition.

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