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Pentagrams, inscribed polygons, and Prym varieties

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  • The pentagram map is a discrete integrable system on the moduli space of planar polygons. The corresponding first integrals are so-called monodromy invariants $E_1, O_1, E_2, O_2,\dots$ By analyzing the combinatorics of these invariants, R. Schwartz and S. Tabachnikov have recently proved that for polygons inscribed in a conic section one has $E_k = O_k$ for all $k$. In this paper we give a simple conceptual proof of the Schwartz-Tabachnikov theorem. Our main observation is that for inscribed polygons the corresponding monodromy satisfies a certain self-duality relation. From this we also deduce that the space of inscribed polygons with fixed values of the monodromy invariants is an open dense subset in the Prym variety (i.e., a half-dimensional torus in the Jacobian) of the spectral curve. As a byproduct, we also prove another conjecture of Schwartz and Tabachnikov on positivity of monodromy invariants for convex polygons.
    Mathematics Subject Classification: 35K55, 35R45.


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