# References for calculating cohomology rings

I am struggling to calculate homology rings.

Even for a simple space such as the sphere, it is easy to calculate the cohomology, but I find it much harder to find the ring structure. (This link gives the answer for the 2-sphere, and the generalisation to the $n$-sphere is clear)

I have tried having a look at Hatcher's notes on this (specifically examples 3.7-3.9 on pp. 207-209). Specifically in Hatcher's book, he claims that $\varphi_1 \cup \psi_1 = 0$ on all 2-simplcies, except the one with outer edge, $b_1$ which is where I got lost.

I tried having a look at the sphere, which has a very simple cohomology, so I figured the cup product should be easy to calculate. I know that the only two non-zero homology groups are $H^0(S^1,\mathbb{Z}) \simeq \mathbb{Z}$ and $H^n(S^n,\mathbb{Z}) \simeq \mathbb{Z}$. So let 1 be the generator of $H^0$ and $x$ the generator of $H^n$ (do we say 1 in the $H^0$ case, as this is the unit of the ring?). Then we have the cup products $1 \smile 1$, $1 \smile x$, $x \smile 1$,$x \smile x$. I can guess that $1 \smile 1 = 1$, but what about the others? How does one calculate this in general? Obviously there is some something simple I am missing?

Is there another nice book that has some nice examples on calculating cohmology rings?

• The sphere really is a simple case...maybe too simple to get a feel for what's going on. Two observations: (i) the cohomology ring does have a multiplicative identity. You should convince yourself that what you've labelled $1$ is indeed this identity. That gives you everything but $x \cup x$: for this, (ii) remember that the cup product takes $H^k \times H^l \rightarrow H^{k+l}$. And then move on to something like complex projective space: that's one of the relatively small number of cases people will expect you to know! May 11, 2011 at 11:13
• @Pete - so $1 \smile x = x$ and $x \smile 1 = x$? And in this case $x \smile x \in H^{2n}=0$, so I guess the ring is determined by $x \smile 1 = x = 1 \smile x$ (I still don't see how that is $\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^n)$! May 11, 2011 at 11:22
• @Qwirk: (It's not.) May 11, 2011 at 12:00
• @Rasmus - sorry $\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^2)$ where $x$ is the generator of $H^n(S^n,\mathbb{Z})$ May 11, 2011 at 12:15
• This way it's correct. Observe that as Abelian groups $\mathbb Z[x]/(x^2)$ is the same as $\mathbb Z\cdot 1\oplus \mathbb Z\cdot x$, and that the multiplication is precisely the one you described. May 11, 2011 at 14:18

Firstly, note that we know that there are only two non-zero cohomology groups $$H^0(S^n,\mathbb{Z})\simeq \mathbb{Z}$$ and $$H^n(S^n,\mathbb{Z})\simeq \mathbb{Z}$$. The element of degree 0 must be the unit of the ring (noting that cup product with $$H^0$$ is a map $$H^k(X;\mathbb{Z}) \otimes H^0(X;\mathbb{Z}) \to H^k(X;\mathbb{Z})$$). We therefore label the generator of $$H^0$$ as 1 and $$H^n$$ as $$x$$. The relations satisfied are therefore $$1 \smile 1 = 1, 1 \smile x = x, x \smile 1 = x, x \smile x = 0$$ (as we end in degree $$H^{2n}=0$$). We know that $$H^*(X;\mathbb{Z}) = \bigoplus_{p \ge 0} H^p(X;\mathbb{Z})$$ and so we have that $$H^*(X;\mathbb{Z}) \simeq \alpha_1 \cdot 1 \oplus \alpha_2 \cdot x, \quad \alpha_1,\alpha_2 \in \mathbb{Z}$$ with the relations as above. This is abstractly isomorphic to the polynomial ring $$\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^2)$$, where $$x$$ is the generator of $$H^n(S^n,\mathbb{Z})$$
A similar calculation shows that the cohomology ring for $$H^*(\mathbb{R} P^2, \mathbb{Z})$$ is $$\mathbb{Z}[x]/(2x,x^2)$$ where $$x$$ is a generator of $$H^2(\mathbb{R} P^2,\mathbb{Z})$$
• Next interesting examples: $H^*(\mathbb R P^2,\mathbb Z/2)$. May 12, 2011 at 6:21
• How about $H^{\ast}(S^2\times S^2)$? By Kunneth's theorem there is an isomorphism $H^{\ast}(S^2\times S^2,\mathbb{Z})\simeq H^{\ast}(S^2)\otimes H^{\ast}(S^2)=\mathbb{Z}[\alpha]/(\alpha^2) \otimes \mathbb{Z}[\beta]/(\beta^2)$ Is there anything else to say in this case? Aug 12, 2014 at 16:37