(Well, it looks like I should stop making promises on this blog. There hasn’t been a single post about spectra yet. I hope that will change before next semester.)

So, today I am going to talk about the formal function theorem. This is more or less a statement that the properties of taking completions and taking cohomologies are isomorphic for proper schemes. As we will see, it is the basic ingredient in the proof of the baby form of Zariski’s main theorem. In fact, this is a very important point: the formal function theorem allows one to make a comparison with the cohomology of a given sheaf over the entire space and its cohomology over an “infinitesimal neighborhood” of a given closed subset. Now localization always commutes with cohomology on non-pathological schemes. However, taking such “infinitesimal neighborhoods” is generally too fine a job for localization. This is why the formal function theorem is such a big deal.

I will give the argument following EGA III here, which is more general than that of Hartshorne (who only handles the case of a projective scheme). The form that I will state today is actually rather plain and down-to-earth. In fact, one can jazz it up a little by introducing formal schemes; perhaps this is worth discussion next time. (more…)