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K-theory is a means of probing geometric objects by studying their vector bundles, i.e. parametrized families of vector spaces. Algebraic K-theory, the version applying to varieties and schemes, is a particularly deep and far-reaching invariant, but it is notoriously difficult to compute. The primary means of computing it is through its "cyclotomic trace" map K→TC to another theory called topological cyclic homology. However, despite the enormous computational success of these so-called "trace methods" in algebraic K-theory computations, the algebro-geometric nature of the cyclotomic trace has remained mysterious.

In this talk, I will describe a new construction of TC that affords a precise interpretation of the cyclotomic trace at the level of derived algebraic geometry. By the end of the talk, you will be able to take home with you a very nice and down-to-earth fact about traces of matrices. No prior knowledge of algebraic K-theory or derived algebraic geometry will be assumed.

This represents joint work with David Ayala and Nick Rozenblyum.