Mathematische Annalen

, Volume 327, Issue 3, pp 545-573

First online:

Infinitesimal operations on complexes of graphs

  • Jim ConantAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Cornell University
  • , Karen VogtmannAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Cornell University

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In two seminal papers Kontsevich used a construction called graph homology as a bridge between certain infinite dimensional Lie algebras and various topological objects, including moduli spaces of curves, the group of outer automorphisms of a free group, and invariants of odd dimensional manifolds. In this paper, we show that Kontsevich’s graph complexes, which include graph complexes studied earlier by Culler and Vogtmann and by Penner, have a rich algebraic structure. We define a Lie bracket and cobracket on graph complexes, and in fact show that they are Batalin-Vilkovisky algebras, and therefore Gerstenhaber algebras. We also find natural subcomplexes on which the bracket and cobracket are compatible as a Lie bialgebra. Kontsevich’s graph complex construction was generalized to the context of operads by Ginzburg and Kapranov, with later generalizations by Getzler-Kapranov and Markl. In [CoV], we show that Kontsevich’s results in fact extend to general cyclic operads. For some operads, including the examples associated to moduli space and outer automorphism groups of free groups, the subcomplex on which we have a Lie bi-algebra structure is quasi-isomorphic to the entire connected graph complex. In the present paper we show that all of the new algebraic operations canonically vanish when the homology functor is applied, and we expect that the resulting constraints will be useful in studying the homology of the mapping class group, finite type manifold invariants and the homology of Out(F n ).