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Brackets by any other name

In Memory of Kirill Mackenzie (1951-2020)

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  • Brackets by another name - Whitehead or Samelson products - have a history parallel to that in Kosmann-Schwarzbach's "From Schouten to Mackenzie: notes on brackets". Here I sketch the development of these and some of the other brackets and products and braces within homotopy theory and homological algebra and with applications to mathematical physics.

    In contrast to the brackets of Schouten, Nijenhuis and of Gerstenhaber, which involve a relation to another graded product, in homotopy theory many of the brackets are free standing binary operations. My path takes me through many twists and turns; unless particularized, bracket will be the generic term including product and brace. The path leads beyond binary to multi-linear $ n $-ary operations, either for a single $ n $ or for whole coherent congeries of such assembled into what is known now as an $ \infty $-algebra, such as in homotopy Gerstenhaber algebras. It also leads to more subtle invariants. Along the way, attention will be called to interaction with 'physics'; indeed, it has been a two-way street.

    Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 01A65, 55Q15, 55S30, 16E40, 18N40; Secondary: 53D55.


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