The purpose of this post is to describe an application of the general intersection theory machinery (for curves on surfaces) developed in the previous posts: the Weil bound on points on a curve over a finite field.

1. Statement of the Weil bound

Let ${C}$ be a smooth, projective, geometrically irreducible curve over ${\mathbb{F}_q}$ of genus $g$. Then the Weil bound states that: $\displaystyle |C(\mathbb{F}_q) - q - 1 | \leq 2 g \sqrt{q}.$

Weil’s proof of this bound is based on intersection theory on the surface ${C \times C}$. More precisely, let $\displaystyle \overline{C} = C \times_{\mathbb{F}_q} \overline{\mathbb{F}_q},$

so that ${\overline{C}}$ is a smooth, connected, projective curve. It comes with a Frobenius map $\displaystyle F: \overline{C} \rightarrow \overline{C}$

of ${\overline{\mathbb{F}_q}}$-varieties: in projective coordinates the Frobenius runs $\displaystyle [x_0: \dots : x_n] \mapsto [x_0^q: \dots : x_n^q].$

In particular, the map has degree ${q}$. One has $\displaystyle C( \mathbb{F}_q) = \mathrm{Fix}(F, \overline{C}(\overline{\mathbb{F}}_q))$

representing the ${\mathbb{F}_q}$-valued points of ${C}$ as the fixed points of the Frobenius (Galois) action on the ${\overline{\mathbb{F}_q}}$-valued points. So the strategy is to count fixed points, using intersection theory.

Using the (later) theory of ${l}$-adic cohomology, one represents the number of fixed points of the Frobenius as the Lefschetz number of ${F}$: the action of ${F}$ on ${H^0}$ and ${H^2}$ give the terms ${q+1}$. The fact that (remaining) action of ${F}$ on the ${2g}$-dimensional vector space ${H^1}$ can be bounded is one of the Weil conjectures, proved by Deligne for general varieties: here it states that ${F}$ has eigenvalues which are algebraic integers all of whose conjugates have absolute value ${\sqrt{q}}$. (more…)

As in the previous two posts, let ${S/k}$ be a smooth, projective surface over an algebraically closed field ${k}$. In the previous posts, we set up an intersection theory for divisors, which was a symmetric bilinear form $\displaystyle \mathrm{Pic}(S) \times \mathrm{Pic}(S) \rightarrow \mathbb{Z},$

that gave the “natural” answer for the intersection of two transversely intersecting curves. Specifically, we had $\displaystyle \mathcal{L} . \mathcal{L}' = \chi(\mathcal{O}_S) - \chi(\mathcal{L}^{-1}) - \chi(\mathcal{L}'^{-1}) + \chi( \mathcal{L}^{-1} \otimes \mathcal{L}'^{-1});$

the bilinearity of this map had to do with the fact that the Euler characteristic was a quadratic function on the Picard group. The purpose of this post is to prove a few more general and classical facts about this intersection pairing. As usual, Hartshorne’s Algebraic geometry and Mumford’s Lectures on curves on an algebraic surface are very helpful sources for this material; I also found Abhinav Kumar’s lecture notes useful.

1. The Riemann-Roch theorem

The Euler characteristic of a line bundle ${\mathcal{L}}$ on ${S}$ is a “topological” invariant: it is unchanged under deformations. Given an algebraic family of line bundles ${\mathcal{L}_t}$ on ${S}$ — in other words, a scheme ${T}$ and a line bundle on ${S \times_{k} T}$ which restricts on the fibers to ${\mathcal{L}_t}$ — the Euler characteristics ${\chi(\mathcal{L}_t)}$ are constant. This is one of the parts of the semicontinuity theorem on the cohomology of a flat family of sheaves. Over the complex numbers, one can see this by observing that the Euler characteristic of a line bundle is the index of an elliptic operator — more specifically, the index of the Dolbeault complex associated to ${\mathcal{L}}$ — and can therefore be computed in purely topological terms via the Hirzebruch-Riemann-Roch formula.

In algebraic geometry, the fact that the Euler characteristic is a topological invariant is reflected in the following result, which computes it solely in terms of intersection numbers:

Theorem 1 Let ${\mathcal{L}}$ be a line bundle on ${S}$. Then $\displaystyle \chi(\mathcal{L}) = \frac{1}{2} \mathcal{L}.( \mathcal{L} - K) + \chi(\mathcal{O}_S), \ \ \ \ \ (1)$

where ${K}$ is the canonical divisor on ${S}$. (more…)