In a somewhat limited setting, a Seifert Fibre Space is a 3-manifold $M$ with a "nice" decomposition into circles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seifert_fiber_space). That is, $M$ is decomposed into circles in a way such that $M$ has neighbourhoods which are "fibred as a solid tori would be, if these tori are given by a solid cylinders with rational rotations identifying opposite disks".

There is a natural map (the Seifert fibration) from $M$ to the quotient space collapsing each of the circle fibres. Of course, this needn't be a fibration at all. In general one has isolated singular fibres - one may like to view these as having fractional lengths relative to their neighbours. However, it is a fibration when we view the base space as an orbifold (let's call it $B$) instead of just a space.

When given a fibration, it is usual to stick it into a spectral sequence and compute (co)homology. I assume that the same can be done in this setting, but I can't find any discussion of this in the literature (which is understandable - presumably calculating orbifold cohomology with twisted coefficients is almost always more difficult than computing the cohomology of $M$ directly). Of course, one would have to replace cohomology with orbifold cohomology. So, I suppose my question is:

  • Does the cohomology of $M$ fit into a spectral sequence with (twisted) coefficients over the orbifold cohomology of the quotient? I'm pretty certain this will be the case:
  • In which case, there are various flavours of orbifold cohomology. However, I presume that I am still correct in assuming that we should use the cohomology of the classifying space for the orbifold cohomology.
  • Orbifold cohomology agrees with singular cohomology over rational coefficients. With general coefficients, though, it seems usual to get non-trivial cohomology in infinitely many degrees. Of course, the cohomology of $M$ is concentrated in degrees 0 to 3. So my question really is of the nature of this spectral sequence. Either the torsion is killed off in the sequence or never appears because of the original twisting of the coefficients. Is it possible to say which? Is there a simple toy example where the explicit calculations can be seen? I was thinking, for example, of orbifolds associated to quotients of wallpaper groups, which arise naturally from Seifert fibrations.
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    $\begingroup$ I haven't seen anyone take this approach in the literature. The homology can be read off from the fundamental group presentations of these manifolds, which are readily-deduced in Seifert's original work on this topic. The cup product structure in cohomology is more work to get at. It's generally degenerate except in a few cases. Peter Zvengrowski works this out -- just google his name, the papers are easy-enough to find. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney May 28 '13 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Ryan, My interest is more with understanding the spectral sequence itself than the actual computations. As acknowledged in the question, the spectral sequence isn't that helpful for explicit computations. $\endgroup$ – Jamie Walton May 28 '13 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Jamie, what you're looking for may be Leray's sheaf-theoretic spectral sequence. Specifically, in this case the fibers vary nicely enough that there is a sheaf on the base space $B$ whose stalks are the cohomology of the fibers, and the spectral sequence starts with the cohomology of $B$ with coefficients in this sheaf. I'm not clear enough on orbifold cohomology to tell you whether it is the same thing, but I'd suspect that it is almost certainly so. There's no magic in this to help the computations, though; you still patch the fibers in manually. $\endgroup$ – Tyler Lawson May 29 '13 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Tyler, this seems like a good suggestion. Just to make sure I'm clear on your answer: you say we want a sheaf on $B$ whose stalks are the cohomology of the fibers. We first take some sheaf on $M$ (e.g. the constant sheaf). Then I'm supposing that I need to compute the direct image of this sheaf on $B$, along with its higher direct images? I imagine it turns out that I only get something in degrees zero and one, and that they will presumably all have stalks equal to $\mathbb{Z}$ (this may be what you mean by saying the fibers vary nicely enough). I'll give it a try, thanks again. $\endgroup$ – Jamie Walton May 29 '13 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, on reflection, it is clear that the direct image (and it's first higher version) of the constant sheaf (on $\mathbb{Z}$) have stalks $\mathbb{Z}$. Indeed, the preimage of a small simply connected open disk is just a solid torus. The first higher direct image won't be constant though since "the stalks of generic fibres are multiples of those of nearby singular fibres", which is the sort of thing I was expecting. $\endgroup$ – Jamie Walton May 29 '13 at 10:29

Indeed, you always get a fibration $M\to \hat B$, where $\hat B$ is the Haefliger's classifying space of the orbifold (the space whose cohomology is the orbifold cohomology of $B$). The fiber of this fibration is the principal leaf of your Seifert fibration.

One can write the corresponding spectral sequence. And indeed, if the orbifold is not a manifold you will get cohomology in infinitely many degrees, which has to be killed, when going to the third page of the spectral sequence.

The simplest example is the linear circle action on $M=S^3$ with parameters $(1,p)$, with one exceptional leaf, such that the angle at the quotient point is $2\pi /p$.

Then the spectral sequence is essentially the Gysin sequence of the spherical fibration. You obtain from the sequence that the cohomology of $\hat B$ must be generated by one element $e$ in $H^2(\hat B)= \mathbb Z$, the Euler class class of the fibration. The square $e^2$ of the element $e$ is the geneartor of $H^4 (\hat B)$. It has the same order as all other powers of $e$. And this order is exactly $p$. This you can see only locally and it cannot be seen from the Gysin sequence, since the sequence is the same for all $p$.

The sequence you get is very similar to the spectral sequence of the universal fibration $S^{\infty} \to CP ^{\infty}$. The infinitely many non-zero elements are killed in the same way.

  • $\begingroup$ Beautiful, thanks Alexander. I should have thought about using the Gysin sequence, since we are just looking at circle bundles. I was thinking about twisted coefficients, but I guess that the action of the orbifold fundamental group here is trivial (and this happens if and only if the circle bundle is orientable, which we need for the Gysin sequence). I haven't seen many examples of the sort of cohomology rings you get for these orbifolds. I know that rationally it should be the same as for the base manifold, and I guess this example allows you to work backwards to some extent. $\endgroup$ – Jamie Walton Jun 14 '13 at 17:38

In the article 'Circle actions on simply connected 5-manifolds' by Kollar, it is done just what you are looking for. There, the Leray spectral sequence is used to infer topological obstructions for a five manifold to admit a Seifert fibered structure over a 4-orbifold.


If I am not mistaken, this spectral sequence works here because Seifert fibrations do have the homotopy lifting property, so are fibrations.

Note that in the reference I give, everything is ordinary cohomology, i.e., no orbifold cohomology is involved, everything is done for the topological underlying space of the orbifold. I think this is quite good for non-experts in orbifold theory, as I am.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty confident that Seifert fibrations do not have the homotopy lifting property. Map a circle onto a singular point in the base. Then homotope this map through constant maps onto regular points. Taking the lift as the inclusion of the singular fiber, I do not see how the full homotopy can be lifted. $\endgroup$ – John Harvey Jun 2 '15 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ Right, thank you, I was confused. Then, how would you justify that the Leray spectral seuence works for seifert bundles? I thought it just worked for fibrations... $\endgroup$ – juan rojo Jun 18 '15 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ That's all a little beyond my range of expertise! But it seems that what Kollár is doing is the kind of stuff Tyler and Jamie refer to. The Leray spectral sequence is more general, but you need to understand the direct image of the sheaf. Looking at the reference quickly, it seems that in the Seifert case the sheaf cohomology coincides with the ordinary cohomology in the top three dimensions. In his case, this only leaves $H^1$, which is controlled by simple connectivity. In this case, it would be even better. So it seems like the Leray spectral sequence would be useful here. $\endgroup$ – John Harvey Jun 19 '15 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ Even though the map isn't a fibration, the sheaf cohomology is fairly straightforward in this case. Since all the fibers are circles, the $i^{th}$ derived pushforward sheafs vanish for $i$ not $0,1$ (so the spectral sequence degenerates and gives an exact sequence looking a lot like the Gysin sequence for an $S^1$-bundle). The $R^1$ sheaf is the subsheaf of the constant sheaf $\mathbb{Z}$ whose stalks at a point $x$ are $m\mathbb{Z}$ with $m$ the multiplicity of the fiber above $x$. $\endgroup$ – dorebell Apr 28 '16 at 7:59

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