Motive (algebraic geometry)

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In algebraic geometry the idea of motive intuitively refers to 'some essential part of variety'. The theory of motives is the universal cohomology theory.


A formal definition of motive is: consider a category of algebraic varities with correspondences as morphisms, make all exact triples into sums and add all images of projectors to make it abelian.


Each algebraic variety X has corresponding motive [X], so the simplest examples of motives are:

  • [point]
  • [projective line] = [point] + [line]
  • [projective plane] = [plane] + [line] + [point]

These 'equations' hold in many situations, namely:

Each motive is graded by degree (for example motive [X] is graded from 0 to 2 dim X). Unlikely to usual varieties one can always extract each degree (as it's an image of the whole motive under some of projection), example:

  • h = [elliptic curve] - [line] - [point]

is 1-graded non-trivial motive.

The idea

The general idea is that one motive can be realized in different cohomology theories,

There are many things one may be interested in for an algebraic variety. It's interesting to compute its number of points in some finite field. Its cohomology come with different structures:

One may ask whether there exists s universal theory which embodies all these structures and provides common ground for equations like [projective line] = [line]+[point].

The answer is: people try to precisely define this theory for many years. The current name of this theory is theory of motives.

uf. more explanation here


Motives are part of large abstract algebraic geometry program started by Alexander Grothendieck. The consistency of theory of motives still reqires some conjectures to be proven and at the present monent there are different definitions of motives.

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