Higher Dimensional Algebra VII: Groupoidification

John C. Baez, Alexander E. Hoffnung, and Christopher D. Walker

Groupoidification is a form of categorification in which vector spaces are replaced by groupoids and linear operators are replaced by spans of groupoids. We introduce this idea with a detailed exposition of `degroupoidification': a systematic process that turns groupoids and spans into vector spaces and linear operators. Then we present three applications of groupoidification. The first is to Feynman diagrams. The Hilbert space for the quantum harmonic oscillator arises naturally from degroupoidifying the groupoid of finite sets and bijections. This allows for a purely combinatorial interpretation of creation and annihilation operators, their commutation relations, field operators, their normal-ordered powers, and finally Feynman diagrams. The second application is to Hecke algebras. We explain how to groupoidify the Hecke algebra associated to a Dynkin diagram whenever the deformation parameter $q$ is a prime power. We illustrate this with the simplest nontrivial example, coming from the $A_2$ Dynkin diagram. In this example we show that the solution of the Yang--Baxter equation built into the $A_2$ Hecke algebra arises naturally from the axioms of projective geometry applied to the projective plane over the finite field $\mathbb{F}_q$. The third application is to Hall algebras. We explain how the standard construction of the Hall algebra from the category of $\mathbb{F}_q$ representations of a simply-laced quiver can be seen as an example of degroupoidification. This in turn provides a new way to categorify - or more precisely, groupoidify - the positive part of the quantum group associated to the quiver.

Keywords: categorification, groupoid, Hecke algebra, Hall algebra, quantum theory

2000 MSC: 17B37, 20C08, 20L05, 81R50, 81T18

Theory and Applications of Categories, Vol. 24, 2010, No. 18, pp 489-553.


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