# Signs of abelian varieties and representations

The sign is a fundamental invariant of an abelian variety defined over a local (archimedian or p-adic) or global (number or function) field. The sign of an abelian varieties over a global field has arithmetic significance: it is the parity of Mordell-Weil group of the abelian variety. The sign also appears in the functional equation of the L-function of abelian variety, determining the parity of its order of vanishing at s=1. The modularity conjecture says that this L-function coincides with the L-function of an automorphic representation, and the sign can be expressed in terms of this representation. Although we know how to compute this sign using representation theory, this computation does not really shed any light on the representation theoretic significance of the sign. This representation theoretic significance was articulated first by Dipendra Prasad (in his thesis), where he relates the sign of a representation to branching laws — laws that govern how an irreducible group representation decomposes when restricted to a subgroup. The globalization of Prasad’s theory culminates in the conjectures of Gan, Gross and Prasad. These conjectures suggest non-torsion elements in Mordell-Weil groups of abelian varieties can be obstructions to the existence of branching laws. By exploiting p-adic variation, though, one can hope to actually produce the Mordell-Weil elements giving rise to these obstructions. Aspects of this last point are joint work with Marco Seveso.

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