Discrete Morse theory as developed by Forman [17],[18] allows to construct,
starting from a (regular) CW-complex, a new homotopy equivalent CW-complex
with fewer cells. In this paper we describe and apply an algebraic version of this
theory, which we call algebraic discrete Morse Theory. Analogous theories were
developed by Sk¨ oldberg [44] and Kozlov [33]. We consider chain complexes C• =
(Ci, ∂i)i≥0 of free modules Ci over a ring R. A priori, we always fix a basis of
the Ci the basis elements play the role of the cells in the topological situation.
Then, by an application of algebraic discrete Morse theory one constructs a new
chain complex of free R-modules such that the homology of the two complexes
coincides. Before we come to the applications of algebraic discrete Morse theory
which will contain the main results of this paper we first spend some time to outline
the philosophy behind the theory.
Our construction looked upon from the point of algebra does the following. We
are searching for collections
{D•i) (
| i I} of short exact subcomplexes
D•i) (
: 0 R

R 0
in a given complex C•. We require:
(A1) The direct sum D• =
is a subcomplex of C•.
Then we calculate the quotient complex
We require:
(A2) The complex
is a complex of free R-modules.
Thus, passing from C• to
we cancel out one copy of R in two consecutive
homological degrees for each
D•i), (
i I. The description of the differential of the
quotient complex is more subtle and will be provided later. Since each
D•i) (
is exact
it follows that D• is exact. Therefore, the homology of the quotient complex equals
the homology of the complex C•.
Now we describe the combinatorial procedure that will reflect the algebraic
construction described above. We proceed as follows: Consider the complex C•
as a directed weighted graph, where the vertex-set is given by the chosen basis of
C•. Two vertices c, c of homological degree i and i 1 respectively are joined by
a directed edge e : c c if c appears with non-zero coefficient [c : c ] R in
the differential of c. The of the edge e : c c is then given by the coefficient
[c : c ]. Now we choose edges with invertible weights such that the collection of
edges satisfies the following two conditions:
(C1) The edges have pairwise disjoint vertex sets.
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