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Ruled Varieties: An Introduction to Algebraic Differential Geometry
Gerd Fischer and Jens Piontkowski, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany
A publication of Vieweg+Teubner.
Vieweg Advanced Lectures in Mathematics
2001; 141 pp; softcover
ISBN-10: 3-528-03138-7
ISBN-13: 978-3-528-03138-1
List Price: US$68
Member Price: US$61.20
Order Code: VWALM/8
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The simplest surfaces, aside from planes, are the traces of a line moving in ambient space or, more precisely, the unions of one-parameter families of lines. The fact that these lines can be produced using a ruler explains their name, "ruled surfaces". The mechanical production of ruled surfaces is relatively easy, and they can be visualized by means of wire models. These models are not only of practical use, but also provide artistic inspiration.

Mathematically, ruled surfaces are the subject of several branches of geometry, especially differential geometry and algebraic geometry. In classical geometry, especially differential geometry and algebraic geometry. In classical geometry, we know that surfaces of vanishing Gaussian curvature have a ruling that is even developable. Analytically, developable means that the tangent plane is the same for all points of the ruling line, which is equivalent to saying that the surface can be covered by pieces of paper. A classical result from algebraic geometry states that rulings are very rare for complex algebraic surfaces in three-space: Quadrics have two rulings, smooth cubics contain precisely 27 lines, and in general, a surface of degree at least four contains no line at all. There are exceptions, such as cones or tangent surfaces of curves. It is also well-known that these two kinds of surfaces are the only developable ruled algebraic surfaces in projective three-space.

The natural generalization of a ruled surface is a ruled variety, i.e., a variety of arbitrary dimension that is "swept out" by a moving linear subspace of ambient space. It should be noted that a ruling is not an intrinsic but an extrinsic property of a variety, which only makes sense relative to an ambient affine or projective space. This book considers ruled varieties mainly from the point of view of complex projective algebraic geometry, where the strongest tools are available. Some local techniques could be generalized to complex analytic varieties, but in the real analytic or even differentiable case there is little hope for generalization: The reason being that rulings, and especially developable rulings, have the tendency to produce severe singularities.

As in the classical case of surfaces, there is a strong relationship between the subject of this book, ruled varieties, and differential geometry. For the purpose of this book, however, the Hermitian Fubini-Study metric and the related concepts of curvature are not necessary. In order to detect developable rulings, it suffices to consider a bilinear second fundamental form that is the differential of the Gauss map. This method does not give curvature as a number, but rather measures the degree of vanishing of curvature; this point of view has been used in a fundamental paper of Griffiths and Harris. One of the purposes of this book is to make parts of this paper more accessible, to give detailed and more elementary proofs, and to report on recent progress in this area.

A publication of Vieweg+Teubner. The AMS is exclusive distributor in North America. Vieweg+Teubner Publications are available worldwide from the AMS outside of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Japan.


Graduate students and research mathematicians interested in algebraic geometry and differential geometry.

Table of Contents

  • Review from classical differential and projective geometry
  • Grassmannians
  • Ruled varieties
  • Tangent and secant varieties
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • List of symbols
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