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Concept# Stack (mathematics)

Summary

In mathematics a stack or 2-sheaf is, roughly speaking, a sheaf that takes values in categories rather than sets. Stacks are used to formalise some of the main constructions of descent theory, and to construct fine moduli stacks when fine moduli spaces do not exist.
Descent theory is concerned with generalisations of situations where isomorphic, compatible geometrical objects (such as vector bundles on topological spaces) can be "glued together" within a restriction of the topological basis. In a more general set-up the restrictions are replaced with ; then make a good framework to discuss the possibility of such gluing. The intuitive meaning of a stack is that it is a fibred category such that "all possible gluings work". The specification of gluings requires a definition of coverings with regard to which the gluings can be considered. It turns out that the general language for describing these coverings is that of a Grothendieck topology. Thus a stack is formally given as a fibred category over another base category, where the base has a Grothendieck topology and where the fibred category satisfies a few axioms that ensure existence and uniqueness of certain gluings with respect to the Grothendieck topology.
Stacks are the underlying structure of algebraic stacks (also called Artin stacks) and Deligne–Mumford stacks, which generalize schemes and algebraic spaces and which are particularly useful in studying moduli spaces. There are inclusions: schemes ⊆ algebraic spaces ⊆ Deligne–Mumford stacks ⊆ algebraic stacks (Artin stacks) ⊆ stacks. and give a brief introductory accounts of stacks, , and give more detailed introductions, and describes the more advanced theory.
The concept of stacks has its origin in the definition of effective descent data in .
In a 1959 letter to Serre, Grothendieck observed that a fundamental obstruction to constructing good moduli spaces is the existence of automorphisms. A major motivation for stacks is that if a moduli space for some problem does not exist because of the existence of automorphisms, it may still be possible to construct a moduli stack.

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