Combinatorial Divisor Theory for Graphs

Dissertation Defense
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:00pm for 1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 005
Spencer Backman – School of Mathematics, Georgia Tech
Spencer Backman
Chip-firing is a deceptively simple game played on the vertices of a graph, which was independently discovered in probability theory, poset theory, graph theory, and statistical physics. In recent years, chip-firing has been employed in the development of a theory of divisors on graphs analogous to the classical theory for Riemann surfaces. In particular, Baker and Norin were able to use this setup to prove a combinatorial Riemann-Roch formula, whose classical counterpart is one of the cornerstones of modern algebraic geometry. It is now understood that the relationship between divisor theory for graphs and algebraic curves goes beyond pure analogy, and the primary operation for making this connection precise is tropicalization, a certain type of degeneration which allows us to treat graphs as "combinatorial shadows" of curves. This tropical relationship between graphs and algebraic curves has led to beautiful applications of chip-firing to both algebraic geometry and number theory. In this thesis we continue the combinatorial development of divisor theory for graphs.