The Invariants Functor
The last posting discussed one of the simplest incarnations of BRST cohomology, in a formalism familiar to physicists. This fits into a much more abstract mathematical context, and that’s what we’ll turn to now.
Given a Lie algebra , we’ll consider Lie algebra representations as modules over . Such modules form a category : what is interesting is not just the objects of the category (the equivalence classes of modules), but also the morphisms between the objects. For two representations and the set of morphisms between them is a linear space denoted . This is just the set of linear maps from to that commute with the action of :
Another conventional name for this is the space of intertwining operators between the two representations.
For any representation , its -invariant subspace can be identified with the space , where here is the trivial one-dimensional representation. Having a way to pick out the invariant piece of a representation also allows one to solve the more general problem of picking out the subspace that transforms like a specific irreducible : just find the invariant subspace of .
The map that takes a representation to its -invariant subspace is a functor: it takes the category to , the category of vector spaces and linear maps ( – modules and – homomorphisms). If, instead of taking
where is a Lie subalgebra of , one again gets a functor. If is an ideal in (so that is a Lie algebra), then this functor takes to . This is a simple version of the situation of interest in the case of gauge theory: if is a state space with acting as a gauge symmetry, then will be the physical subspace, carrying an action of the algebra of operators .
Some Homological Algebra
It turns out that when one has a category of modules like , these can usefully be studied by considering complexes of modules, and this is the subject of homological algebra. A complex of modules is a sequence of modules and homomorphisms
such that . If the complex satisfies at each module, the complex is said to be an “exact complex”.
To motivate the notion of exact complex, note that
is exact iff is isomorphic to , and an exact sequence
represents the module as the quotient . Using longer complexes, one gets the notion of a resolution of a module by a sequence of n modules . This is an exact complex
The deviation of a sequence from being exact is measured by its homology . Note that if one deletes from its resolution, the sequence
is exact except at . Indexing the homology in the obvious way, one has for , and . A sequence like this whose only homology is at is another manifestation of a resolution of .
The reason this construction is useful is that, for many purposes, it allows us to replace a module whose structure we may not understand by a sequence of modules whose structure we do understand. In particular, we can replace a module by a sequence of free modules, i.e. modules that are just sums of copies of itself. This is called a free resolution, and more generally one can work with projective modules (direct summands of free modules).
A functor that takes exact complexes to exact complexes is called an exact functor. Homological invariants of modules come about in cases where one has a functor on a category of modules that is not exact. Applying such a functor to a free or projective resolution gives the homological invariants.
The Koszul Resolution and Lie Algebra Cohomology
There are many possible choices of a free resolution of a module. For the case of modules, one convenient choice is known as the Koszul (or Chevalley-Eilenberg) resolution. To construct a resolution of the trivial module , one uses the exterior algebra on to make free modules
and get a resolution of
The maps are given by
To get Lie algebra cohomology, we apply the invariants functor
replacing the trivial representation by its Koszul resolution. This gives us a complex with terms
and induced maps
The Lie algebra cohomology is just the cohomology of this complex, i.e.
This is exactly the same definition as that of the BRST cohomology defined in physicist’s formalism in the last posting with .
One has and so gets the -invariants as expected, but in general the cohomology will be non-zero also in other degrees.
This is all rather abstract, so in the next posting some examples will be worked out, as well as the relationship of all this to the de Rham cohomology of the group. Anthony Knapp’s book Lie Groups, Lie Algebras, and Cohomology is an excellent reference for details on Lie algebra cohomology.