Algebraic and Geometric Topology 1 (2001), paper no. 1, pages 1-29.

Higher order intersection numbers of 2-spheres in 4-manifolds

Rob Schneiderman, Peter Teichner

Abstract. This is the beginning of an obstruction theory for deciding whether a map f:S^2 --> X^4 is homotopic to a topologically flat embedding, in the presence of fundamental group and in the absence of dual spheres. The first obstruction is Wall's self-intersection number mu(f) which tells the whole story in higher dimensions. Our second order obstruction tau(f) is defined if mu(f) vanishes and has formally very similar properties, except that it lies in a quotient of the group ring of two copies of pi_1(X) modulo S_3-symmetry (rather then just one copy modulo S_3-symmetry). It generalizes to the non-simply connected setting the Kervaire-Milnor invariant which corresponds to the Arf-invariant of knots in 3-space.

We also give necessary and sufficient conditions for moving three maps f_1,f_2,f_3:S^2 --> X^4 to a position in which they have disjoint images. Again the obstruction lambda(f_1,f_2,f_3) generalizes Wall's intersection number lambda(f_1,f_2) which answers the same question for two spheres but is not sufficient (in dimension 4) for three spheres. In the same way as intersection numbers correspond to linking numbers in dimension 3, our new invariant corresponds to the Milnor invariant mu(1,2,3), generalizing the Matsumoto triple to the non simply-connected setting.

Keywords. Intersection number, 4-manifold, Whitney disk, immersed 2-sphere, cubic form

AMS subject classification. Primary: 57N13. Secondary: 57N35.

DOI: 10.2140/agt.2001.1.1

E-print: arXiv:math.GT/0008048

Submitted: 6 August 2000. Published: 25 October 2000.

Notes on file formats

Rob Schneiderman, Peter Teichner
Dept. of Mathematics, University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-3840, USA

Dept. of Mathematics, University of California at San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112, USA


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