Constructing examples of infinity operads: a study of normalised cacti

23 November 2020
Luciana Bonatto

Operads are tools to encode operations satisfying algebro-homotopic relations. They have proved to be extremely useful tools, for instance for detecting spaces that are iterated loop spaces. However, in many natural examples, composition of operations is only associative up to homotopy and operads are too strict to captured these phenomena. This leads to the notion of infinity operads. While they are a well-established tool, there are few examples of infinity operads in the literature that are not the nerve of an actual operad. I will introduce new topological operad of bracketed trees that can be used to identify and construct natural examples of infinity operads. The key example for this talk will be the normalised cacti model for genus 0 surfaces.

Glueing surfaces along their boundaries defines composition laws that have been used to construct topological field theories and to compute the homology of the moduli space of Riemann surfaces. Normalised cacti are a graphical model for the moduli space of genus 0 oriented surfaces. They are endowed with a composition that corresponds to glueing surfaces along their boundaries, but this composition is not associative. By using the operad of bracketed trees, I will show that this operation is associative up to all higher homotopies and hence that normalised cacti form an infinity operad.

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