Math 715, Commutative Algebra and Polytopes.

For a polytope P of dimension d+1, the f-vector (f_0, ..., f_d) counts the number of i-dimensional faces in the polytope. For example, the f-vector of a 3-dimensional octahedron (the 3-cross-polytope) is (6, 12, 8).

Already there are many basic questions one can ask about the f-vector, such as:

The proofs of the first two questions, known as the Lower and Upper Bound Theorems, are very geometric. Already the third result, due to Kruskal-Katona, suggests some of the algebraic tools later developed to answer deeper questions about polytopes.

We will discuss these three questions during the first third of the course. The middle third will serve as an introduction to commutative algebra techniques for studying polytopes. During the last part of the course, we will show how a noncommutative polynomial called the cd-index encodes the f-vector and flag data of a polytope and how it can be used to prove further results.


TEXTBOOK: Richard P. Stanley, Combinatorics and Commutative Algebra, second edition, Birkhauser, Boston, 1996.