Translation surfaces can be defined in an elementary way via polygons, and arise naturally in the study of various basic dynamical systems. They can also be defined as differentials on Riemann surfaces, and have moduli spaces called strata that are related to the moduli space of Riemann surfaces. There is a action on each stratum, and to solve most problems about a translation surface one must first know the closure of its orbit under this action. Furthermore, these orbit closures are of fundamental interest in their own right, and are now known to be algebraic varieties that parameterize translation surfaces with extraordinary algebro-geometric and flat properties. The study of orbit closures has greatly accelerated in recent years, with an influx of new tools and ideas coming from diverse areas of mathematics.
Many areas of mathematics, from algebraic geometry and number theory, to dynamics and topology, can be brought to bear on this topic, and known examples of orbit closures are interesting from all these points of view.
This survey is an invitation for mathematicians from dierent backgrounds to become familiar with the subject. Little background knowledge, beyond the definition of a Riemann surface and its cotangent bundle, is assumed, and top priority is given to presenting a view of the subject that is at once accessible and connected to many areas of mathematics.
Cite this article
Alex Wright, Translation surfaces and their orbit closures: An introduction for a broad audience. EMS Surv. Math. Sci. 2 (2015), no. 1, pp. 63–108DOI 10.4171/EMSS/9