Martin David Palmer -- Thesis
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Thesis: Configuration spaces and homological stability

Official repository: Oxford University Research Archive
Copy of pdf file: [link]


In this thesis we study the homological behaviour of configuration spaces as the number of objects in the configuration goes to infinity. For unordered configurations of distinct points (possibly equipped with some internal parameters) in a connected, open manifold it is a well-known result, going back to G. Segal and D. McDuff in the 1970s, that these spaces enjoy the property of homological stability.

In Chapter 2 we prove that this property also holds for so-called oriented configuration spaces, in which the points of a configuration are equipped with an ordering up to even permutations. There are two important differences from the unordered setting: the rate (or slope) of stabilisation is strictly slower, and the stabilisation maps are not in general split-injective on homology. This can be seen by some explicit calculations of Guest-Kozlowski-Yamaguchi in the case of surfaces. In Chapter 3 we refine their calculations to show that, for an odd prime p, the difference between the mod-p homology of the oriented and the unordered configuration spaces on a surface is zero in a stable range whose slope converges to 1 as p goes to infinity.

In Chapter 4 we prove that unordered configuration spaces satisfy homological stability with respect to finite-degree twisted coefficient systems, generalising the corresponding result of S. Betley for the symmetric groups. We deduce this from a general "twisted stability from untwisted stability" principle, which also applies to the configuration spaces studied in the next chapter.

In Chapter 5 we study configuration spaces of submanifolds of a background manifold M. Roughly, these are spaces of pairwise unlinked, mutually isotopic copies of a fixed closed, connected manifold P in M. We prove that if the dimension of P is at most ½(dim(M)–3) then these configuration spaces satisfy homological stability w.r.t. the number of copies of P in the configuration. If P is a sphere this upper bound on its dimension can be increased to dim(M)–3.


Chapters 2, 4 and 5 have been published, see:

respectively. (The numbering corresponds to the ordering on my Papers and preprints page.)