The Griffiths twin cone and the harmonic archipelago have isomorphic fundamental group (Part 1)

This is a guest post by Sam Corson, who is a Heibronn Fellow at the University of Bristol.

This first post will provide background on the infinite word combinatorics which are used in the description of the fundamental group of each of the spaces in question. The Griffiths twin cone space \textbf{TC} first appeared in print in H. B. Griffith’s paper The fundamental group of two spaces with a common point, Quart. J. Math. Oxford 2 (1954), 175-190. The first appearance of the harmonic archipelago \textbf{HA} seems to be in the work of W. A. Bogley and A. J. Sieradski Weighted combinatorial group theory and wild metric complexes, Groups-Korea ’98 (Pusan), de Gruyter, Berlin, 2000, 53-80. For more background into these two spaces, you can consult some of Brazas’ old blog posts: harmonic archipelago and Griffiths twin cone. The conjecture that \pi_1(\textbf{TC}) \simeq \pi_1(\textbf{HA}) originated with James W. Cannon and Gregory R. Conner.

Recall that the earring space \textbf{E} is the shrinking wedge of countably infinitely many circles. More formally if p \in \mathbb{R}^2 we let C(p, r) denote the circle centered at p of radius r. The subspace \textbf{E} \subseteq \mathbb{R}^2 is given by \textbf{E} = \bigcup_{n\in \mathbb{N}} C((0, \frac{1}{n + 1}), \frac{1}{n + 1}) (this post of Brazas gives some nice background). It is well-known that the fundamental group of a wedge of circles is a free group (with each circle corresponding to a free generator), and so one would expect that the the fundamental group \pi_1(\textbf{E}) will be like a free group. While this is true, it is emphasized that \pi_1(\textbf{E}) is not a free group. This is best illustrated by the curious fact that | \pi_1(\textbf{E})| =2^{\aleph_0} and \pi_1(\textbf{E}) cannot homomorphically surject onto a free group of infinite rank (for this latter result, see Theorem 1 of G. Higman, Unrestricted free products and topological varieties, J. London Math. Soc. 27 (1952), 73-81.)

Let A = \{a_n^{\pm 1}\}_{n \in \mathbb{N}} be a countably infinite collection of symbols, which we will call letters, which is equipped with formal inverses. Usually the superscript 1 is not written. A word W is a finite-to-one function W: \overline{W} \rightarrow A where the domain \overline{W} is a totally ordered set (finite-to-one means in this case that for each n \in \mathbb{N} and \epsilon \in \{\pm 1\} the set \{t \in \overline{W} : W(t) = a_n^{\epsilon}\} is finite). It follows that the domain \overline{W} of a word W must be countable (possibly finite or empty). As an example the infinite string

a_0^{-1}a_1a_2^{-1}a_3a_4^{-1}a_5 \cdots

is a word; more formally it is the word W: \mathbb{N} \rightarrow A given by W(n) = a_n^{{(-1)}^{n + 1}} (notice that each element of the alphabet A is utilized at most once in the word). The infinite string

a_0a_1a_0a_3a_0a_5 \cdots

given by the rule n\mapsto \begin{cases}a_0 \text{ if }n\text{ is even}\\a_n\text{ if }n\text{ is odd } \end{cases} is not a word since the letter a_0 is used infinitely often. Let E denote the empty word, i.e. the word with empty domain. A word can have more exotic domain than \mathbb{N}: any finite-to-one function W: \mathbb{Q} \rightarrow A is a word. As a technical aside, we consider two words W_0 and W_1 to be equivalent, and write W_0 \equiv W_1, provided there exists an order isomorphism \iota: \overline{W_0} \rightarrow \overline{W_1} such that W_0(t) = W_1(\iota(t)) for all t\in \overline{W_0}. We form the concatenation of two words W_0 and W_1, denoted W_0W_1, by declaring that W_0W_1 has domain which is the disjoint union \overline{W_0} \sqcup \overline{W_1} with the elements in \overline{W_0} being ordered below those in \overline{W_1} and having

W_0W_1(t) = \begin{cases}W_0(t)\text{ if }t\in \overline{W_0}\\W_1(t)\text{ if }t\in \overline{W_1}\end{cases}

Analogously, given a totally ordered set \Lambda and collection of words \{W_{\lambda}\}_{\lambda \in \Lambda} indexed by \Lambda we can form a function whose domain is the disjoint union \bigsqcup_{\lambda \in \Lambda}\overline{W_{\lambda}}, ordered in the natural way, and defined by t \mapsto W_{\lambda}(t) where t \in \overline{W_{\lambda}}. This function we denote \prod_{\lambda} W_{\lambda} and it is a word provided it is finite-to-one.

A word W has an inverse, which is denoted W^{-1}, given by letting \overline{W^{-1}} be the set \overline{W} under the reverse order and W^{-1}(t) = (W(t))^{-1}. For example the inverse of the word

a_0^{-1}a_1a_2^{-1}a_3a_4^{-1}a_5 \cdots

will be the word

\cdots a_5^{-1}a_4a_3^{-1}a_2a_1^{-1}a_0

Given N \in\mathbb{N} and word W we let p_N(W) be the finite word given by the restriction W \upharpoonright\{t\in \overline{W}: W(t) \in \{a_0^{\pm 1}, \ldots, a_N^{\pm 1}\}\}. Given words W_0, W_1 we write W_0 \sim W_1 if for each N \in \mathbb{N} the words p_N(W_0) and p_N(W_1) are equal as elements in the free group. For example, the word W

a_0a_1^2a_4a_5a_6a_7a_8a_9 \cdots \cdots a_9^{-1}a_8^{-1}a_7^{-1}a_6^{-1}a_5^{-1}a_4^{-1}a_1^{-3}a_0

has p_0(W) \equiv a_0^2, p_1(W) \equiv a_0a_1^2a_1^{-3}a_0 \equiv p_2(W) \equiv p_3(W) and for N \geq 4 we get

p_N(W) \equiv a_0a_1^2a_4 \cdots a_N a_N^{-1}\cdots a_4^{-1}a_1^{-3}a_0

It is easy to see that a_0a_1^{-1}a_0 \sim W.

The group \pi_1(\textbf{E}) is isomorphic to the collection of equivalence classes over \sim. The binary operation is given by concatenation: (W_0/\sim) * (W_1/\sim) = (W_0W_1)/\sim and the \sim class of the empty word E plays the role of the group identity. Inverses in the group are predictably defined by (W/\sim)^{-1} = W^{-1}/\sim.

Analogously to a free group, there are specific words with which we prefer to work. Given a word W we say that W_1 is a subword of W if there exist words W_0, W_2 (either or both of which may be empty) such that W \equiv W_0W_1W_2. Moreover W_1 is an initial (respectively terminal) subword provided W_0 (resp. W_2) in the above writing is empty. Finally a word W is reduced if for every subword W_1 we have W_1\sim E implies W_1 \equiv E. Clearly every subword of a reduced word is itself reduced. The proof of the following result is far more difficult than that of the free group analogue:

Lemma. Every \sim class contains a reduced word which is unique up to \equiv. Letting \textbf{Red}(W) denote the reduced representative of the \sim class of word W we have for all words W_0, W_1, W_2 that \textbf{Red}(W_0 \textbf{Red}(W_1W_2)) \equiv \textbf{Red}(\textbf{Red}(W_0W_1)W_2). Moreover, given reduced words W, W' there exist words W_0, W_1, W_0', W_1' such that

(1) W \equiv W_0W_1;

(2) W' \equiv W_0'W_1';

(3) (W_1)^{-1} \equiv W_0';

(4) W_0W_1' is reduced.

For further reading on (reduced) words see Section 1 of K. Eda, Free \sigma-products and noncommutatively slender groups, J. Algebra 148 (1992), 243-263.

The nice qualities of reduced words motivate one to consider the earring group as the set \textbf{Red} of reduced words with binary operation W_0*W_1 \equiv \textbf{Red}(W_0W_1). We introduce two alphabets with formal inverses:

H = \{h_n^{\pm 1}\}_{n \in \mathbb{N}} (with H for “h”armonic archipelago); and

T = \{t_{i, n}^{\pm 1}\}_{i \in \{0, 1\}, n \in \mathbb{N}} (with T for “t”win cone).

Define words, concatenation, \sim, reduced word, etc. just as before for each of these new alphabets and let \textbf{Red}_H and \textbf{Red}_T denote the respective sets of reduced words. These two sets are each groups under the binary operation W_0*W_1 \equiv \textbf{Red}(W_0W_1) and both are isomorphic to \textbf{Red} (the isomorphism with \textbf{Red}_H is given by the word mapping which extends a_n^{\pm 1} \mapsto h_n^{\pm 1} and the isomorphism with \textbf{Red}_T is given by a_n^{\pm 1} \mapsto t_{i, m}^{\pm 1} where n = 2m + i).

A word W \in \textbf{Red}_T is (0, T)-pure if the first subscript in each of the letters appearing in W is 0, and (1, T)pure is defined analogously. A word is Tpure provided it is either (0, T)-pure or (1, T)-pure. For i \in \{0, 1\} every subword of a (i, T)-pure word is again (i, T)-pure, and the only word which is both (0, T)-pure and (1, T)-pure is E. Let \textbf{Pure}_T denote the set of T-pure words. The group \pi_1(\textbf{TC}) is isomorphic to \textbf{Red}_T/\langle\langle \textbf{Pure}_T \rangle\rangle, where the notation \langle\langle \cdot \rangle\rangle denotes the smallest normal subgroup which includes the input. This isomorphism can be seen by two applications of van Kampen’s Theorem (see e.g. Section 4 in K. Eda, H. Fischer, Cotorsion-free groups from a topological viewpoint, Topology Appl. 214 (2016), 21-34.)

A word W \in \textbf{Red}_H is (n, H)pure, where n \in \mathbb{N}, provided all subscripts of letters appearing in W are n (i.e. W is of form h_n^j where j \in \mathbb{Z}). A word is Hpure provided it is (n, H)-pure for some n \in \mathbb{N} and we let \textbf{Pure}_H denote the set of H-pure words. The group \pi_1(\textbf{HA}) is isomorphic to \textbf{Red}_H/\langle\langle \textbf{Pure}_H\rangle\rangle (see Theorem 5 of G. R. Conner, W. Hojka, M. Meilstrup, Archipelago groups, Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 143 (2015), 4973-4988.)

Now the task of establishing the isomorphism \pi_1(\textbf{TC}) \simeq \pi_1(\textbf{HA}) is reduced to producing an isomorphism between \textbf{Red}_T/\langle\langle \textbf{Pure}_T \rangle\rangle and \textbf{Red}_H/\langle\langle \textbf{Pure}_H\rangle\rangle. This is not an easy task. It’s a nice exercise to check that any continuous function f: \textbf{TC} \rightarrow \textbf{HA} induces a trivial homomorphism f_*: \pi_1(\textbf{TC}) \rightarrow \pi_1(\textbf{HA}) (using the fact that \textbf{TC} is a Peano continuum and any continuous Hausdorff image of a Peano continuum is again a Peano continuum). While it is possible to give a continuous function f: \textbf{HA} \rightarrow \textbf{TC} so that f_* is surjective, it is not possible to make such an f_* injective as well. Thus, the natural (spacial) homomorphisms are ruled out. The fact that each element of \textbf{Red}_T is a (possibly infinitary) concatenation of T-pure words and similarly each element of \textbf{Red}_H is a (possibly infinitary) concatenation of H-pure words should be used in some way. A confounding issue is that |\textbf{Pure}_T| = 2^{\aleph_0} and |\textbf{Pure}_H| = \aleph_0. We will continue in Part 2.

This entry was posted in Fundamental group, Griffiths twin cone, Group theory, harmonic archipelago, Infinite Group Theory and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Griffiths twin cone and the harmonic archipelago have isomorphic fundamental group (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: The Griffiths twin cone and the harmonic archipelago have isomorphic fundamental group (Part 2) | Wild Topology

  2. Pingback: The Griffiths space and the harmonic archipelago – Sam Corson's Web Page

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