I know of two conjectural descriptions of the motivic $t$-structure for Voevodsky's motives.

The first one is based on the conjecture that Weil cohomology theories should yield exact and conservative functors on the category of mixed motives. In the paper

Hanamura M. Mixed motives and algebraic cycles, III// Math. Res. Letters 6, 1999, 61--82

it was proved that this approach yields a t-structure indeed if several (more or less) 'standard' motivic conjectures are fulfilled. Actually, Hanamura proves this for his own triangulated category of motives, but his category is isomorphic to the Voevodsky's one (by a result of my own:)).

The second approach was proposed by Voevodsky himeslf (in his well-known letter to Beilinson); it is based on the idea that the 'mixed motivic cohomology' of a (smooth) affine variety should satisfy the Artin's vanishing theorem.

My question is: are these two approaches known to be equivalent (if certain 'standard' conjectures are fulfilled)? Or (equivalently) did anybody prove that Voevodsky's approach 'should work'?

Also, does there exist a reasonable extension of Voevodsky's approach to relative motives (over a base scheme $S$)?

P.S. After asking this, I recollected the paper

Beilinson A., Remarks on $n$-motives and correspondences at the generic point, in: Motives, polylogarithms and Hodge theory, part I, Irvine, CA, 1998, Int. Press Lect. Ser., 3, I, Int. Press, Somerville, MA, 2002, 35-46.

Yet I am not sure that it answers my question completely.


1 Answer 1


Okay, I'm not familiar with Beilinson's paper, but here's my take on this. First let's recall the two definitions. I will denote the triangulated category of motives over a field $k$ by $DM(k)$ (for any of the equivalent definitions that are available); I am taking $\mathbb{Q}$-coefficients and looking only at compact objects, although I'm not sure the last is necessary. Also, I am not good with homological notation, so I will use cohomological notation all along, beware ! For example, for me $X[1]$ will mean "$X$ put in degree $-1$" and the motive of $\mathbb{G}_m$ will be $\mathbb{Q}\oplus\mathbb{Q}(-1)[-1]$ (where $\mathbb{Q}$ is the unit for the tensor product, i.e., the motive of $Spec(k)$). Sorry, but I'm too afraid to make a mistake if I try to translate.

So, first here is Hanamura's definition of the $t$-structure. He assumes that all the Grothendieck standard conjectures, Murre's conjecture and the vanishing conjectures are true, and this implies in particular that any realization functor $H:DM(k)\longrightarrow D^b(F)$ (where $F$ is an appropriate field of coefficients) is faithful. He defines a $t$-structure, say $({}^H D^{\leq 0},{}^H D^{\geq 0})$ on $DM(k)$ by taking the inverse image by $H$ of the usual $t$-structure on $D^b(F)$. Of course, you have to prove that it is indeed a $t$-structure (and independent of the realization functor), and he does this. He calls the heart the category of mixed motives over $k$, say $MM(k)$. If $X$ is a variety over $k$, we can associate to it a (cohomological) motive $M(X)$ in $DM(k)$, and I will denote by $H^k_M(X)\in MM(X)$ the cohomology objects of $M(X)$ for Hanamura's $t$-structure. Hanamura also proves that every mixed motive has a weight filtration, that is a filtration whose graded parts are pure motives, and he proves that pure motives are semi-simple and that all irreducible pure motives are direct factors of motives of the form $H_M^k(X)(a)$, where $X$ is a smooth projective variety.

Now to Voedvodsky's definition. I have tried to understand it, then rewrite it in cohomological notation, so directions of maps and shifts may have changed, but I think I still got the spirit of it. What he does is something like this : Define a full subcategory ${}^VD^{\geq 0}$ of $DM(X)$ by the condition that an object $M$ is in it if and only if, for every affine scheme $f:U\rightarrow Spec(k)$ that is purely of dimension $n$, for every $m>n$ and every $a\geq 0$, $Hom_{DM(k)}(f_*\mathbb{Q}_U(a)[m],M)=0$. I would like to make a few remarks. First, what I denoted by $f_*\mathbb{Q}_U$ is just my $M(U)$ of the preceding paragraph, but I wrote it like this because it will make the generalization to a general base scheme $S$ more clear; my notation makes sense if I allow myself to remember that we now have categories of motives over a very general base and the 6 operations on them (and if I say that $\mathbb{Q}_U$ is the unit motive in the category of motives over $U$). Second remark, I added twists whereas Voedvodsky's definition doesn't have any. The reason I did this is because Voedvodsky makes a definition only for effective motives, and I didn't see how to make ${}^VD^{\geq 0}$ stable by $(1)$ unless I added it in the definition (but maybe it is not necessary). Third remark, remember, cohomological notation, and for me passing from effective to general motives means inverting $\mathbb{Q}(-1)$, not $\mathbb{Q}(1)$ (in my world, $\mathbb{Q}(-1)$ is effective).

Ah, yes, and then Voedvodsky defines ${}^VD^{\leq 0}$ as the left orthogonal of ${}^V D^{\geq 1}:={}^VD^{\geq 0}[-1]$.

Anyway, what is the motivation for Voedvodsky's definition ? Here are a few principles. First, motivic $t$-structure on motives over a base $S$ should correspond (by the realization functors) to the (selfdual) perverse $t$-structure on complexes of sheaves over $S$. Second, if $f$ is an affine map of schemes, then ${f_*}$ is right $t$-exact for the perverse $t$-structures. Third, for any scheme $U$, the constant sheaves over $U$ are concentrated in perverse cohomology degree $\leq dim(U)$. So, if I come back to my situation above : $f:U\longrightarrow Spec(k)$ is an affine variety over $k$, purely of dimension $n$, $a\geq 0$, $m>n$, then $\mathbb{Q}_U(a)[m]$ should be concentrated in degree $<0$ for the motivic $t$-structure on the category of motives over $U$, and so $f_*\mathbb{Q}_U(a)[m]$ should be concentrated in degree $<0$ for the motivic $t$-structure on $DM(k)$, and it should be left orthogonal to elements that are concentrated in degree $\geq 0$. What Voedvodsky says is that this is enough to characterize the elements concentrated in degree $\geq 0$.

From this, the natural generalization of Voedvodsky's definition to a general base scheme $S$ is obvious : replace affine schemes $U\longrightarrow Spec(k)$ by affine maps $U\longrightarrow S$ (or maps $U\longrightarrow S$ such that $U$ is affine, I don't think it will make a difference).

So, are the two $t$-structures the same ? I think so. A first obvious observation is that ${}^HD^{\geq 0}\subset{}^VD^{\geq 0}$, that is, every object of ${}^HD^{\geq 0}$ is right orthogonal to motives ${{f_*}\mathbb{Q}(a)[m]}$ as above. This follows from the faithfulness of the realization functor and the fact that this would be true in the usual categories of sheaves (see the remarks above). We also know that ${}^HD^{\geq 0}$ is the right orthogonal of ${}^HD^{\leq -1}$, by the definition of a $t$-structure. So, what we have to see is that ${}^VD^{\geq 0}$ is right orthogonal to ${}^HD^{\leq -1}$, that is, that a motive that is right orthogonal to every $f_*\mathbb{Q}_U(a)[m]$ as above is right orthogonal to the whole ${}^HD^{\leq -1}$.

Here is one way to do this : Let $C$ be the smallest full additive subcategory of ${}^HD^{\leq -1}$ that is stable by isomorphism, direct summand, extension and contains all the objects of the form $f_*\mathbb{Q}(a)[m]$ as above. It is enough to show that $C={}^HD^{\leq -1}$. Noting that ${}^HD^{\leq -1}$ is generated (in the same way : direct sumands, isomorphisms, extensions) by objects of the form $H^k_M(X)(b)[l]$, for $X$ a smooth projective variety, $l>k$ and $b\in\mathbb{Z}$, I think that this is an easy exercise, playing with hyperplane sections of smooth projective varieties. (I had a bit a trouble with the fact that $C$ is stable by Tate twists. We know that $M(U)(-1)$ is a direct factor of $M(U\times\mathbb{G}_m)[1]$, so stability by $(-1)$ is not a problem. But I couldn't show stability by $(1)$ unless I put it in the definition.)

edit: corrected dollar sign

  • $\begingroup$ I suspect it is not that simple; at least, the corresponding result of Beilinson seems to be much weaker. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 0:00

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