Covering sieves and the sheaf condition (topologies 3/6)

In the first post of this series, I explained how subobjects of the constant presheaf (resp. constant sheaf) \mathbf 1_X on a small category (resp. small site) with terminal object X correspond to left closed (resp. local) properties on \mathscr C. In this post, I will explain the main examples that intervene in setting up topoi, and show how to define the sheaf condition using sieves (instead of coverings).

For simplicity, assume \mathscr C is a small category with fibre products.

Definition. Given a set of morphisms \mathscr U = \{f_i \colon U_i \to U\}_{i \in I} with the same target U \in \mathscr C, define the sieve S_{\mathscr U} \subseteq h_U generated by \mathscr U as the sieve on U of those morphisms V \to U that factor through some f_i \colon U_i \to U.

It is in a sense the right ideal in \operatorname{Hom}(-,U) generated by the f_i. What does this look like as a subobject of h_U?

Example. If I has one element, i.e. \mathscr U = \{V \to U\}, then S_{\mathscr U} is the image of the morphism of representable presheaves h_V \to h_U. In the case where V \to U is already a monomorphism (this is always the case when \mathscr C is a poset, such as \operatorname{Open}(X) for some topological space X), then h_V \to h_U is itself injective (this is the definition of a monomorphism!), so S_{\mathscr U} is just h_V.

In general, S_{\mathscr U} is the image of the map

    \[\coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i} \to h_U\]

induced by the maps U_i \to U. Indeed, an element of h_U(V) is a morphism f \colon V \to U, and it comes from some h_{U_i}(V) if and only if f factors through f_i \colon U_i \to U.

This shows that, in fact, every sieve S \subseteq h_X is of this form for some set \{U_i \to U\}_{i \in I}: take as index set (the objects of) the slice category (h \downarrow S), which as in the previous post gives a surjection \coprod_{(V,\alpha)} h_V \to S. This corresponds to generating an ideal by all its elements.

But we can also characterise S_{\mathscr U} without using the word ‘image’ (which somehow computes its first syzygy):

Lemma. Let \mathscr U = \{U_i \to U\} be a set of morphisms with common target, and S_{\mathscr U} the sieve generated by \mathscr U. Then S_{\mathscr U} is the coequaliser of the diagram

    \[\coprod_{i,j \in I} h_{U_i \underset U\times U_j} \rightrightarrows \coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i},\]

where the maps are induced by the two projections I^2 \to I.

We will give two proofs, one using the description of coequalisers of sets, and the other using that presheaves are colimits of representable presheaves, as discussed in the previous post.

Proof 1. The diagram

    \[\begin{array}{ccc}\displaystyle\coprod_{i,j \in I} h_{U_i \underset U\times U_j} & \to & \displaystyle\coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i} \\ \downarrow & & \downarrow \\ \displaystyle\coprod_{j \in I} h_{U_j} & \to & h_U \end{array}\]

is a pullback, by the universal property of fibre products U_i \times_U U_j and since fibre products with a fixed set/presheaf of sets commute with coproducts. Then the same goes for the square

    \[\begin{array}{ccc}\displaystyle\coprod_{i,j \in I} h_{U_i \underset U\times U_j} & \to & \displaystyle\coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i} \\ \downarrow & & \downarrow \\ \displaystyle\coprod_{j \in I} h_{U_j} & \to & S_{\mathscr U} \end{array}\]

since S_{\mathscr U} \to h_U is a monomorphism. But \coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i} \to S_{\mathscr U} is an epimorphism (objectwise surjection) by definition, so this square is a pushout as well (in \mathbf{Set}, epimorphisms are regular). \qedsymbol

Proof 2. By the previous post, the presheaf S_{\mathscr U} is the colimit over (V,\alpha) \in (h \downarrow S_{\mathscr U}) of h_V (see post for precise statement). Let D \colon (\bullet \rightrightarrows \bullet) \to \mathbf{Set} be the diagram I^2 \rightrightarrows I of the two projections, and let \mathcal I = \bigcup D = (h \downarrow D)^{\operatorname{op}} be the category of elements of D, as in this post. There is a natural functor F \colon \mathcal I \to (h \downarrow S_{\mathscr U}) taking (i,j) \in I^2 to (U_i \times_U U_j,h_{U_i \times_U U_j} \to S_{\mathscr U}) and i \in I to (U_i,h_{U_i} \to S_{\mathscr U}), taking the morphisms i \leftarrow (i,j) \to j in \mathcal I to the projections U_i \leftarrow U_i \times_U U_j \to U_j. We claim that F is cofinal, hence the colimit can be computed over \mathcal I instead (see Tag 04E7).

To verify this, we use the criteria of Tag 04E6. If (V,\alpha) \in (h \downarrow S_{\mathscr U}), then by definition the composition h_V \stackrel\alpha\to S_{\mathscr U} \hookrightarrow h_U is given by a morphism f \colon V \to U that is contained in S_{\mathscr U}(V). Since S_{\mathscr U} is generated by the U_i, this factors through some V \to U_i over S_{\mathscr U}, giving a map (V,\alpha) \to F(i).

If (V,\alpha) \to F(i) and (V,\alpha) \to F(j) are two such maps, they factor uniquely through (V,\alpha) \to F(i,j). The general result for (V,\alpha) \to F(x) and (V,\alpha) \to F(y) for x,y \in \mathcal I (either of the form i or of the form (i,j)) follows since elements of the form (i,j) always map to the elements i and j, showing that the category ((V,\alpha) \downarrow F) is weakly connected. \qedsymbol

Corollary. Let S_{\mathscr U} as above, and let \mathscr F be a presheaf on \mathscr C. Then

    \[\operatorname{Hom}(S_{\mathscr U},\mathscr F) \stackrel\sim\to \operatorname{Eq}\left( \prod_{i \in I} \mathscr F(U_i) \rightrightarrows \prod_{i,j\in I} \mathscr F\Big(U_i \underset U\times U_j\Big) \right).\]

Proof. By the lemma above, we compute

    \begin{align*}\operatorname{Hom}(S_{\mathscr U},\mathscr F) &\cong \operatorname{Hom}\left(\operatorname{Coeq}\left(\coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i \underset U \times U_j} \rightrightarrows \coprod_{i \in I} h_{U_i}\right), \mathscr F\right) \\&\cong \operatorname{Eq}\left(\prod_{i \in I} \operatorname{Hom}(h_{U_i},\mathscr F) \rightrightarrows \operatorname{Hom}\Big(h_{U_i \underset U\times U_j},\mathscr F\Big)\right),\end{align*}

so the result follows from the Yoneda lemma. \qedsymbol

Corollary. Let \mathscr C be a (small) site. Then a presheaf \mathscr F \colon \mathscr C^{\operatorname{op}} \to \mathbf{Set} is a sheaf if and only if for every object U \in \mathscr C and every covering \{U_i \to U\}_{i \in I} in the site, the inclusion S_{\mathscr U} \to h_U induces an isomorphism

    \[\operatorname{Hom}(h_U,\mathscr F) \stackrel\sim\to \operatorname{Hom}(S_{\mathscr U},\mathscr F).\]

Proof. Immediate from the previous corollary. \qedsymbol

Thus, the category of sheaves on \mathscr C can be recovered from [\mathscr C^{\operatorname{op}},\mathbf{Set}] if we know at which subobjects S \subseteq h_U we should localise (make the inclusion invertible). Next week, we will use this to give a definition of a Grothendieck topology, abstracting and generalising the notion of a site (i.e. Grothendieck pretopology).

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