In mathematics, complex geometry is the study of geometric structures and constructions arising out of, or described by, the complex numbers. In particular, complex geometry is concerned with the study of spaces such as complex manifolds and complex algebraic varieties, functions of several complex variables, and holomorphic constructions such as holomorphic vector bundles and coherent sheaves. Application of transcendental methods to algebraic geometry falls in this category, together with more geometric aspects of complex analysis.
Complex geometry sits at the intersection of algebraic geometry, differential geometry, and complex analysis, and uses tools from all three areas. Because of the blend of techniques and ideas from various areas, problems in complex geometry are often more tractable or concrete than in general. For example, the classification of complex manifolds and complex algebraic varieties through the minimal model program and the construction of moduli spaces sets the field apart from differential geometry, where the classification of possible smooth manifolds is a significantly harder problem. Additionally, the extra structure of complex geometry allows, especially in the compact setting, for global analytic results to be proven with great success, including Shing-Tung Yau's proof of the Calabi conjecture, the Hitchin–Kobayashi correspondence, the nonabelian Hodge correspondence, and existence results for Kähler–Einstein metrics and constant scalar curvature Kähler metrics.
Complex geometry has significant applications to theoretical physics, where it is essential in understanding conformal field theory, string theory, and mirror symmetry. It is often a source of examples in other areas of mathematics, including in representation theory where generalized flag varieties may be studied using complex geometry leading to the Borel–Weil–Bott theorem, or in symplectic geometry, where Kähler manifolds are symplectic, in Riemannian geometry where complex manifolds provide examples of exotic metric structures such as Calabi–Yau manifolds and hyperkähler manifolds, and in gauge theory, where holomorphic vector bundles often admit solutions to important differential equations arising out of physics such as the Yang–Mills equations. Complex geometry additionally is impactful in pure algebraic geometry, where analytic results in the complex setting such as Hodge theory of Kähler manifolds inspire understanding of Hodge structures for varieties and schemes as well as p-adic Hodge theory, deformation theory for complex manifolds inspires understanding of the deformation theory of schemes, and results about the cohomology of complex manifolds inspired the formulation of the Weil conjectures and Grothendieck's standard conjectures. On the other hand, results and techniques from many of these fields often feed back into complex geometry, and for example developments in the mathematics of string theory and mirror symmetry have revealed much about the nature of Calabi–Yau manifolds, which string theorists predict should have the structure of Lagrangian fibrations through the SYZ conjecture, and the development of Gromov–Witten theory of symplectic manifolds has led to advances in enumerative geometry of complex varieties.
Broadly, complex geometry is concerned with spaces and geometric objects which are modelled, in some sense, on the complex plane. Features of the complex plane and complex analysis of a single variable, such as an intrinsic notion of orientability (that is, being able to consistently rotate 90 degrees counterclockwise at every point in the complex plane), and the rigidity of holomorphic functions (that is, the existence of a single complex derivative implies complex differentiability to all orders) are seen to manifest in all forms of the study of complex geometry. As an example, every complex manifold is canonically orientable, and a form of Liouville's theorem holds on compact complex manifolds or projective complex algebraic varieties.
Complex geometry is different in flavour to what might be called real geometry, the study of spaces based around the geometric and analytical properties of the real number line. For example, whereas smooth manifolds admit partitions of unity, collections of smooth functions which can be identically equal to one on some open set, and identically zero elsewhere, complex manifolds admit no such collections of holomorphic functions. Indeed, this is the manifestation of the identity theorem, a typical result in complex analysis of a single variable. In some sense, the novelty of complex geometry may be traced back to this fundamental observation.
This equivalence indicates that complex geometry is in some sense closer to algebraic geometry than to differential geometry. Another example of this which links back to the nature of the complex plane is that, in complex analysis of a single variable, singularities of meromorphic functions are readily describable. In contrast, the possible singular behaviour of a continuous real-valued function is much more difficult to characterise. As a result of this, one can readily study singular spaces in complex geometry, such as singular complex analytic varieties or singular complex algebraic varieties, whereas in differential geometry the study of singular spaces is often avoided.
In practice, complex geometry sits in the intersection of differential geometry, algebraic geometry, and analysis in several complex variables, and a complex geometer uses tools from all three fields to study complex spaces. Typical directions of interest in complex geometry involve classification of complex spaces, the study of holomorphic objects attached to them (such as holomorphic vector bundles and coherent sheaves), and the intimate relationships between complex geometric objects and other areas of mathematics and physics.
Complex geometry is concerned with the study of complex manifolds, and complex algebraic and complex analytic varieties. In this section, these types of spaces are defined and the relationships between them presented.
By the implicit function theorem for holomorphic functions, every complex manifold is in particular a non-singular complex analytic variety, but is not in general affine or projective. By Serre's GAGA theorem, every projective complex analytic variety is actually a projective complex algebraic variety. When a complex variety is non-singular, it is a complex manifold. More generally, the non-singular locus of any complex variety is a complex manifold.
Examples of Stein manifolds include non-compact Riemann surfaces and non-singular affine complex algebraic varieties.
Calabi–Yau manifolds have found use in string theory and mirror symmetry, where they are used to model the extra 6 dimensions of spacetime in 10-dimensional models of string theory. Examples of Calabi–Yau manifolds are given by elliptic curves, K3 surfaces, and complex Abelian varieties.
Many constructions that are performed on toric varieties admit alternate descriptions in terms of the combinatorics and geometry of the moment polytope or its associated toric fan. This makes toric varieties a particularly attractive test case for many constructions in complex geometry. Examples of toric varieties include complex projective spaces, and bundles over them.
Due to the rigidity of holomorphic functions and complex manifolds, the techniques typically used to study complex manifolds and complex varieties differ from those used in regular differential geometry, and are closer to techniques used in algebraic geometry. For example, in differential geometry, many problems are approached by taking local constructions and patching them together globally using partitions of unity. Partitions of unity do not exist in complex geometry, and so the problem of when local data may be glued into global data is more subtle. Precisely when local data may be patched together is measured by sheaf cohomology, and sheaves and their cohomology groups are major tools.
For example, famous problems in the analysis of several complex variables preceding the introduction of modern definitions are the Cousin problems, asking precisely when local meromorphic data may be glued to obtain a global meromorphic function. These old problems can be simply solved after the introduction of sheaves and cohomology groups.
Special examples of sheaves used in complex geometry include holomorphic line bundles (and the divisors associated to them), holomorphic vector bundles, and coherent sheaves. Since sheaf cohomology measures obstructions in complex geometry, one technique that is used is to prove vanishing theorems. Examples of vanishing theorems in complex geometry include the Kodaira vanishing theorem for the cohomology of line bundles on compact Kähler manifolds, and Cartan's theorems A and B for the cohomology of coherent sheaves on affine complex varieties.
Complex geometry also makes use of techniques arising out of differential geometry and analysis. For example, the Hirzebruch-Riemann-Roch theorem, a special case of the Atiyah-Singer index theorem, computes the holomorphic Euler characteristic of a holomorphic vector bundle in terms of characteristic classes of the underlying smooth complex vector bundle.
One major theme in complex geometry is classification. Due to the rigid nature of complex manifolds and varieties, the problem of classifying these spaces is often tractable. Classification in complex and algebraic geometry often occurs through the study of moduli spaces, which themselves are complex manifolds or varieties whose points classify other geometric objects arising in complex geometry.
By the Torelli theorem, a compact Riemann surface is determined by its Jacobian variety, and this demonstrates one reason why the study of structures on complex spaces can be useful, in that it can allow one to solve classify the spaces themselves.