The topic of this post is a curious functor, discovered by Deligne, on the category of sheaves over the affine line, which is a “sheafification” of the Fourier transform for functions.

Recall that the classical Fourier transform is an almost-involution of the Hilbert space {L^2(\mathbb{R})}. We shall now discuss the Fourier-Deligne transform, which is an almost-involution of the bounded derived category of {l}-adic sheaves, {\mathbf{D}^b_c(\mathbb{A}^1_{\kappa}, \overline{\mathbb{Q}_l})}. The Fourier transform is defined by multiplying a function with a character (which depends on a parameter) and integrating. Analogously, the Fourier-Deligne transform will twist an element of {\mathbf{D}^b_c(\mathbb{A}^1_{\kappa}, \overline{\mathbb{Q}_l})} by a character depending on a parameter, and then take the cohomology.

More precisely, consider the following: let G be a LCA group, G^* its dual. We have a canonical character on \phi: G \times G^* \to \mathbb{C}^* given by evaluation. To construct the Fourier transform L^2(G) \to L^2(G^*), we start with a function f: G \to \mathbb{C}. We pull back to G \times G^*, multiply by the evaluation character \phi defined above, and integrate along fibers to give a function on G^*.

Everything we’ve done here has a sheaf-theoretic analog, however: pulling back a function corresponds to the functorial pull-back of sheaves, multiplication by a character corresponds to tensoring with a suitable line bundle, and integration along fibers corresponds to the lower shriek push-forward. Much of the classical formalism goes over to the sheaf-theoretic case. One can prove an “inversion formula” analogous to the Fourier inversion formula (with a Tate twist).

Why should we care? Well, Laumon interpreted the Fourier transform as a suitable “deformation” of the cohomology of a suitable sheaf on the affine line, and used it to give a simplified proof of the main results of Weil II, without using scary things like vanishing cycles and Picard-Lefschetz theory. The Fourier transform also behaves very well with respect to perverse sheaves: it is an auto-equivalence of the category of perverse sheaves, because of the careful way in which it is calibrated. Its careful use can be used to simplify some of the arguments in BBD that also rely on other scary things.