Tag Archives: Roy Meshulam

My Mathematical Dialogue with Jürgen Eckhoff

Jürgen Eckhoff, Ascona 1999

Jürgen Eckhoff is a German mathematician working in the areas of convexity and combinatorics. Our mathematical paths have met a remarkable number of times. We also met quite a few times in person since our first meeting in Oberwolfach in 1982. Here is a description of my mathematical dialogue with Jürgen Eckhoff:

Summary 1) (1980) we found independently two proofs for the same conjecture; 2) (1982) I solved Eckhoff’s Conjecture; 3) Jurgen (1988) solved my conjecture; 4) We made the same conjecture (around 1990) that Andy Frohmader solved in 2007,  and finally  5) (Around 2007) We both found (I with Roy Meshulam, and Jürgen with Klaus Peter Nischke) extensions to Amenta’s Helly type theorems that both imply a topological version.

(A 2009 KTH lecture based on this post or vice versa is announced here.)

Let me start from the end: 

5. 2007 – Eckhoff and I  both find related extensions to Amenta’s theorem.

Nina Amenta

Nina Amenta proved a remarkable extension of Helly’s theorem. Let \cal F be a finite family with the following property:

(a) Every member of \cal F is the union of at most r pairwise disjoint compact convex sets.

(b) So is every intersection of members of \cal F.

(c) |{\cal F}| > r(d+1).

If every r(d+1) members of \cal F has a point in common, then all members of \cal F have a point in common!

The case r=1 is Helly’s theorem, Grünbaum and Motzkin proposed this theorem as a conjecture and proved the case r=2. David Larman  proved the case r=3.


Roy Meshulam

Roy Meshulam and I studied a topological version of the theorem, namely you assume that every member of F is the union of at most r pairwise disjoint contractible compact sets in $R^d$ and that all these sets together form a good cover – every nonempty intersection is either empty or contractible. And we were able to prove it!

Eckhoff and Klaus Peter Nischke looked for a purely combinatorial version of Amenta’s theorem which is given by the old proofs (for r=2,3) but not by Amenta’s proof. An approach towards such a proof was already proposed by Morris in 1968, but it was not clear how to complete Morris’s work. Eckhoff and Nischke were able to do it! And this also implied the topological version for good covers.

The full results of Eckhoff and Nischke and of Roy and me are independent. Roy and I showed that if the nerve of \cal G is d-Leray then the nerve of \cal F is ((d+1)r-1)-Leray. Eckhoff and showed that if the nerve of \cal G has Helly number d, then the nerve of \cal F has Helly number (d+1)r-1. Amenta’s argument can be used to show that if the nerve of \cal G is d-collapsible then the nerve of F is  ((d+1)r-1)-collapsible.

Here, a simplicial comples K is d-Leray if all homology groups H_i(L) vanishes for every i \ge d and every induced subcomplex L of K.

Roy and I were thinking about a common homological generalization which will include both results but so far could not prove it.


And now let me move to the beginning:

1. 1981 – we give different proofs for the Perles-Katchalski Conjecture

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A Beautiful Garden of Hypertrees

We had a series of posts (1,2,3,4) “from Helly to Cayley” on weighted enumeration of Q-acyclic simplicial complexes. The simplest case beyond  Cayley’s theorem were Q-acyclic complexes  with n vertices, {n \choose 2} edges, and {{n-1} \choose {2}} triangles. One example is the six-vertex triangulation of the real projective plane. But here, as in many other places, we are short of examples.

Nati Linial,  Roy Meshulam and Mishael Rosenthal wrote a paper with very surprising examples of Q-acyclic simplicial complexes called “sum complexes”. The basic idea is very simple: The vertices are \{1,2,\dots , n\}. Next you pick three numbers a,b and c and consider all the triples i,j,k so that i+j+k is either a or b or c. And let’s assume that n is a prime.

So how many triangles do we have? A fraction of 3/n of all possible triangles which is what we want ({{n-1} \choose {2}}).

If the three numbers form an arithmetic progression then the resulting simplicial complex is collapsible. In all other cases it is not collapsible. The proof that it is Q-acyclic uses a result of Chebotarëv on Fourier analysis. (So what does Fourier analysis have to do with computing homology? You will have to read the paper!) The paper considers the situation in all dimensions.

What about such combinatorial constructions for Q-homology spheres?