Compact aspherical manifolds whose fundamental groups have center

Sylvain Cappell, New York University
Fine Hall 314

Classical work of Borel had shown that an action of the circle on a manifold with contractible universal cover yields non-trivial center in the manifold's fundamental group. In the early 70's, Conner and Raymond made further deep investigations which led them to conjecture a converse to Borel's result. We construct counter-examples to this conjecture, i.e., we exhibit aspherical manifolds (in all dimensions greater than or equal to 6) which have non-trivial center in their fundamental groups but no circle actions (and hence no compact Lie group actions). The constructions involve synthesizing rather disparate methods of geometric topology, geometric group theory and hyperbolic geometry. (This is joint work with Shmuel Weinberger and Min Yan.)