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Concept# Selberg trace formula

Summary

In mathematics, the Selberg trace formula, introduced by , is an expression for the character of the unitary representation of a Lie group G on the space L2(Γ\G) of square-integrable functions, where Γ is a cofinite discrete group. The character is given by the trace of certain functions on G.
The simplest case is when Γ is cocompact, when the representation breaks up into discrete summands. Here the trace formula is an extension of the Frobenius formula for the character of an induced representation of finite groups. When Γ is the cocompact subgroup Z of the real numbers G = R, the Selberg trace formula is essentially the Poisson summation formula.
The case when Γ\G is not compact is harder, because there is a continuous spectrum, described using Eisenstein series. Selberg worked out the non-compact case when G is the group SL(2, R); the extension to higher rank groups is the Arthur–Selberg trace formula.
When Γ is the fundamental group of a Riemann surface, the Selberg trace formula describes the spectrum of differential operators such as the Laplacian in terms of geometric data involving the lengths of geodesics on the Riemann surface. In this case the Selberg trace formula is formally similar to the explicit formulas relating the zeros of the Riemann zeta function to prime numbers, with the zeta zeros corresponding to eigenvalues of the Laplacian, and the primes corresponding to geodesics. Motivated by the analogy, Selberg introduced the Selberg zeta function of a Riemann surface, whose analytic properties are encoded by the Selberg trace formula.
Cases of particular interest include those for which the space is a compact Riemann surface S. The initial publication in 1956 of Atle Selberg dealt with this case, its Laplacian differential operator and its powers. The traces of powers of a Laplacian can be used to define the Selberg zeta function. The interest of this case was the analogy between the formula obtained, and the explicit formulae of prime number theory. Here the closed geodesics on S play the role of prime numbers.

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