modular form




A modular form is a holomorphic function on the upper half-plane that satisfies certain transformation property under the action of the modular group. Abstractly this transformation property makes the function a section of a certain line bundle on the quotient of the upper half plane that makes it the moduli stack of elliptic curves (over the complex numbers) or more generally a modular curve.

Modular forms are also often called classical automorphic forms, see below

Modular forms appear as the coefficient ring of the Witten genus on manifolds with rational string structure. For manifolds with actual string structure this refines to topological modular forms, which are the homotopy groups of the spectrum tmf.


In components


An (integral) modular form of weight ww is a holomorphic function on the upper half-plane

f:( 2) + f : (\mathbb{R}^2)_+ \hookrightarrow \mathbb{C}

(complex numbers with strictly positive imaginary part)

such that

  1. if A=(a b c d)SL 2()A = \left( \array{a & b \\ c& d}\right) \in SL_2(\mathbb{Z}) acting by A:τ=aτ+bcτ+dA : \tau \mapsto = \frac{a \tau + b }{c \tau + d} we have

    f(A(τ))=(cτ+d) wf(τ) f(A(\tau)) = (c \tau + d)^w f(\tau)

    (notice that for A=(1 1 0 1)A = \left( \array{1 & 1 \\ 0& 1}\right) then f(τ+1)=f(τ)f(\tau + 1) = f(\tau))

  2. ff has at worst a pole at {0}\{0\} (for weak modular forms this condition is relaxed)

    it follows that f=f(q)f = f(q) with q=e 2πiτq = e^{2 \pi i \tau} is a meromorphic funtion on the open disk.

  3. integrality f˜(q)= k=N a kq k\tilde f(q) = \sum_{k = -N}^\infty a_k \cdot q^k then a ka_k \in \mathbb{Z}

More generally there is such a definition for SL(2,)SL(2,\mathbb{Z}) replaced by any other arithmetic subgroup ΓSL(2,)\Gamma \subset SL(2,\mathbb{R}) (e.g. Litt, def.1), giving modular forms on modular curves?.

As sections of a line bundle over the moduli stack

More abstractly, for ell\mathcal{M}_{ell} the moduli stack of elliptic curves (or rather its Deligne-Mumford compactification) and A ellA \to \mathcal{M}_{ell} the corresponding universal bundle, write Ω A/S 1\Omega^1_{A/S} for the line bundle of fiberwise Kähler differential forms. Write ee for the 0-section of this line bundle. Then

ωe *Ω A/S 1 \omega \coloneqq e^\ast \Omega^1_{A/S}

is a line bundle over the moduli stack of elliptic curves. A modular form of weight kk is a section of ω k\omega^{\otimes k}

For congruence subgroups

Similarly one considers modular forms for congruence subgroups of the full modular group, hence on the space of elliptic curves with level structure.

As automorphic forms

Instead of regarding, as above, modular forms as sections of a line bundle on a quotient of the upper half plane, one may regard them alternatively as plain functions, but on the (projective) special linear group SL(2,)SL(2,\mathbb{R}). (e.g. Martin 13, section 2, Litt, section 2).

As such these functions are then invariant under the action of the modular subgroup SL(2,)SL(2,)SL(2,\mathbb{Z})\hookrightarrow SL(2,\mathbb{R}) and hence are really functions on the coset space SL(2,)/SL(2,)SL(2,\mathbb{R})/SL(2,\mathbb{Z}) (for forms on moduli of elliptic curves) or more generally Γ\SL(2,)\Gamma \backslash SL(2,\mathbb{Z}) (for forms on more general modular curves?).

This generalizes to the case of other congruence subgroups (as above). Generally such functions on coset spaces like this are called automorphic forms. See there for more.

For the history of the terminology “modular form”/“automorphic form” see also this MO comment.


Relation of MF 0(2)MF_0(2) to the elliptic genus

Write Γ 0(2)SL 2()\Gamma_0(2) \hookrightarrow SL_2(\mathbb{Z}) for the subgroup of the modular group on those elements (a b c d)\left(\array{a & b \\ c & d}\right) for which c=0mod2c = 0\, mod\, 2.

A modular function for Γ 0(2)\Gamma_0(2) is a meromorphic function on the upper half plane which transforms as a modular form under the action of Γ 0(2)SL 2()\Gamma_0(2) \hookrightarrow SL_2(\mathbb{Z}). Write MF (Γ 0(2))MF_\bullet(\Gamma_0(2)) for the ring of these.

There is a natural isomorphism

MF (Γ 0(2))[ϵ,δ] MF_\bullet(\Gamma_0(2)) \simeq \mathbb{C}[\epsilon, \delta]

(see at elliptic genus) for the notation.

(Landweber-Ravenel-Stong 93, theorem 1.5 and sections 5.3, 5.8)

Relation to elliptic cohomology

For EE the elliptic cohomology theory associated to the elliptic curve CC, then

E 2nω(C) n E_{2n} \simeq \omega(C)^{\otimes n}

(where ω\omega is the line bundle from above)


E 2n+10. E_{2n+1}\simeq 0 \,.



A basic and handy reference is

  • Pierre Deligne, Courbes elliptiques: formulaire d’apres J. Tate, In Modular functions of one variable, IV (Proc. Internat. Summer School, Univ. Antwerp, Antwerp, 1972), pages 53{73. Lecture Notes in Math., Vol. 476. Springer, Berlin, 1975 (web)

Textbook accounts include

  • N. Koblitz, Introduction to Elliptic Curves and Modular Forms, Graduate Texts in Math, vol. 97, Springer-Verlag, 1984, 1993 (2nd ed.).

Lecture notes and reviews include

Original discussion in the context of elliptic genera and elliptic cohomology includes

  • Peter Landweber, Douglas Ravenel, Robert Stong, Periodic cohomology theories defined by elliptic curves, in Haynes Miller et. al. (eds.), The Cech centennial: A conference on homotopy theory, June 1993, AMS (1995) (pdf)

  • Peter Landweber, Elliptic Cohomology and Modular Forms, in Elliptic Curves and Modular Forms in Algebraic Topology, Lecture Notes in Mathematics Volume 1326, 1988, pp 55-68 (LandweberEllipticModular.pdf?)

Reviews of this include

Last revised on March 30, 2021 at 04:33:04. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.