Posted by Jason Polak on 21. March 2017 · Write a comment · Categories: commutative-algebra · Tags:

This post is a continuation of this previous one, though I repeat the main definitions for convenience.

Let $R$ be a commutative ring and $A$ and $R$-module. We say that $x_1,\dots,x_n\in R$ is a regular sequence on $A$ if $(x_1,\dots,x_n)A\not = A$ and $x_i$ is not a zero divisor on $A/(x_1,\dots,x_{i-1})A$ for all $i$. Last time, we looked at the following theorem:

Theorem. Let $A$ and $B$ be $R$-modules and $x_1,\dots,x_n$ a regular sequence on $A$. If $(x_1,\dots,x_n)B = 0$ then
$$
{\rm Ext}_R^n(B,A) \cong {\rm Hom}_R(B,A/(x_1,\dots,x_n)A)$$

When $R$ is a Noetherian ring, $I$ a proper ideal of $R$, and $A$ a finitely-generated $R$-module, this theorem for $B = R/I$ says that the least integer $n$ such that ${\rm Ext}_R^n(R/I,A)\not= 0$ is exactly the length of a maximal regular sequence in $I$ on $A$.

The Noetherian and finitely generated hypotheses are crucial. Why is this? It’s because you need to have control over zero divisors. In fact you can see this by looking at the case $n = 0$:

Theorem. Let $R$ be a Noetherian ring, $I$ a proper ideal of $R$, and $A$ a finitely-generated $R$-module. Then every element of $I$ is a zero divisor on $A$ if and only if ${\rm Hom}_R(R/I,A)\not= 0$.
Proof. Since $A$ is a finitely generated $R$-module, that every element of $I$ is a zero divisor on $A$ is equivalent to $I$ being contained in the annihilator of a single nonzero element $a\in A$, which is in turn equivalent to every element of $I$ being sent to zero under the homomorphism
$$R\to A\\ 1\mapsto a.$$
Such homomorphisms are the same as nonzero homomorphisms $R/I\to A$. QED.

Here we are using this crucial fact:

Cool Theorem. For a finitely generated module $A$ over a Noetherian ring $R$, the zero divisors $Z(A)$ of $A$ in $R$ are a union of prime ideals of $R$, each of which are ideals maximal with respect to the property of being in $Z(A)$. Furthermore, each such prime is the annihilator of a single nonzero element of $A$.

In general, primes that are equal to the annihilator of a single element of a module $M$ are called the associated primes of $M$, and of course the theory of associated primes and primary decomposition is much more vast than this simple ‘Cool Theorem’, as is evident from Eisenbud’s 30-page treatment of them in his book Commutative Algebra. In practice however, I only ever seem to need this simple version of the ‘Cool Theorem’.

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