Different ideal

This is just to record some thoughts on the different ideal or equivalently the ramification divisor in the case of quasi-finite morphisms f : X —> Y of locally Noetherian schemes.

The model for the construction is the case where (a) f is finite flat, (b) f is generically etale, and (c) X and Y are Gorenstein. In this case we let ω = Hom(f_*O_X, O_Y) viewed as an O_X-module. By property (c) ω is an invertible O_X-module. By property (a) the trace map Tr_{X/Y} defines a global section τ : O_X —> ω. By property (b) this section is nonzero in all the generic points of X. Since X is Gorenstein we conclude that τ is a regular section. Hence the scheme of zeros of τ is an effective Cartier divisor R ⊂ X. This is the ramification divisor. In this situation it follows from the definitions that the norm of R is the discriminant of f (defined as the determinant of the trace pairing).

Easy generalizations: (1) By suitable localizing and glueing we can replace the assumption that f is finite flat by the assumption that f is quasi-finite and flat. (2) Instead of assuming that X and Y are Gorenstein it suffices to assume that the fibres of f are Gorenstein.

To deal with nonflat cases, the construction works whenever f is quasi-finite, generically etale (i.e., etale at all the generic points of X), the relative dualizing sheaf ω is invertible, and there is a global section τ of ω whose restriction to the etale locus is as above. To make τ unique let’s assume X —Y is etale also at all the embedded points of X.

The trickiest part to verify is the existence of the section τ. If X is S_2, then it suffices to check in codimension 1. Beyond the usual case where X and Y are regular in codimension 1, it works also if the map X —> Y looks like a Harris-Mumford type admissible cover in codimension 1: for example consider the nonflat morphism corresponding to the ring map A = R[x, y]/(xy) —> R[u, v]/(uv) = B sending x, y to u^n, v^n where n is a nonzerodivisor in the Noetherian ring R. Then the ramification divisor is given by the ideal generated by n in the ring B!

In this way we obtain the well known observation that admissible coverings in characteristic zero are not ramified at the nodes.

PS: From the point of view above, the problem with nonbalanced maps, such as the map R[x, y]/(xy) —> R[u, v]/(uv) sending x to u^2 and y to v^3, is that τ is not even defined. So you cannot really even begin to say that it is (un)ramified…

[Edit a bit later] and in fact you can compose with the map R[u, v]/(uv) —> R[a, b]/(ab) sending u to a^3 and v to b^2 to get the map R[x, y]/(xy) —> R[a, b]/(ab) sending x, y to a^6, b^6 whose ramification divisor is empty (provided 6 is invertible in R)…

[Edit on Sept 18] The morphism given by A = R[x, y]/(xy) —> R[u, v]/(uv) = B sending x, y to u^n, v^n is a morphism which is both “not ramified” in the sense above and “not unramified” in the sense of Tag 02G3.

Apologies for backlog

Just a quick message to apologize in the delay in working through the comments on the Stacks project webpage and the comments sent to the email address as well as the pull requests at github. Eventually I will get to them.

Currently I am very excited about the topics course I am teaching about \’etale fundamental groups. The topic was chosen on the one hand because it fits well with the remynar on \’etale cohomology organized by Remy and on the other hand because it fits with recent work on the Stacks project: see this chapter on fundamental groups.

Another thing I am very excited about is our graduate student seminar this semester. Here we will be working through Milne’s amazing paper on a conjecture of Artin and Tate. We also intend to try and make a concept map along the way. Not sure if this will work out but see this page of Daniel Halpern-Leistner example.