Mathematische Zeitschrift

, Volume 228, Issue 4, pp 629–681

Combinatorial vector fields and dynamical systems

  • Robin Forman

DOI: 10.1007/PL00004638

Cite this article as:
Forman, R. Math Z (1998) 228: 629. doi:10.1007/PL00004638


In this paper we introduce the notion of a combinatorial dynamical system on any CW complex. Earlier in [Fo3] and [Fo4], we presented the idea of a combinatorial vector field (see also [Fo1] for the one-dimensional case), and studied the corresponding Morse Theory. Equivalently, we studied the homological properties of gradient vector fields (these terms were defined precisely in [Fo3], see also Sect. 2 of this paper). In this paper we broaden our investigation and consider general combinatorial vector fields. We first study the homological properties of such vector fields, generalizing the Morse Inequalities of [Fo3]. We then introduce various zeta functions which keep track of the closed orbits of the corresponding flow, and prove that these zeta functions, initially defined only on a half plane, can be analytically continued to meromorphic functions on the entire complex plane. Lastly, we review the notion of Reidemeister Torsion of a CW complex (introduced in [Re], [Fr]) and show that the torsion is equal to the value at \(z=0\) of one of the zeta functions introduced earlier. Much of this paper can be viewed as a combinatorial analogue of the work on smooth dynamical systems presented in [P-P], [Fra], [Fri1, 2] and elsewhere.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin Forman
    • 1
  1. 1. Department of Mathematics, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251, USA (e-mail: US

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