In mathematics, specifically the theory of quadratic forms, an ε-quadratic form is a generalization of quadratic forms to skew-symmetric settings and to *-rings; ε = ±1, accordingly for symmetric or skew-symmetric. They are also called -quadratic forms, particularly in the context of surgery theory.
There is the related notion of ε-symmetric forms, which generalizes symmetric forms, skew-symmetric forms (= symplectic forms), Hermitian forms, and skew-Hermitian forms. More briefly, one may refer to quadratic, skew-quadratic, symmetric, and skew-symmetric forms, where "skew" means (−) and the * (involution) is implied.
The theory is 2-local: away from 2, ε-quadratic forms are equivalent to ε-symmetric forms: half the symmetrization map (below) gives an explicit isomorphism.
ε-symmetric forms and ε-quadratic forms are defined as follows.
Given a module M over a *-ring R, let B(M) be the space of bilinear forms on M, and let T: B(M) → B(M) be the "conjugate transpose" involution B(u,v) ↦ B(v,u)*. Let ε = ±1; then εT is also an involution. Define the ε-symmetric forms as the invariants of εT, and the ε-quadratic forms are the coinvariants.
As an exact sequence,
The notation Qε(M), Qε(M) follows the standard notation MG, MG for the invariants and coinvariants for a group action, here of the order 2 group (an involution).
We obtain a homomorphism (1 + εT): Qε(M) → Qε(M) which is bijective if 2 is invertible in R. (The inverse is given by multiplication with 1/2.)
An ε-quadratic form ψ ∈ Qε(M) is called non-degenerate if the associated ε-symmetric form (1 + εT)(ψ) is non-degenerate.
Generalization from * 
If the * is trivial, then ε = ±1, and "away from 2" means that 2 is invertible: 1/2 ∈ R.
More generally, one can take for ε ∈ R any element such that ε*ε =1. ε = ±1 always satisfy this, but so does any element of norm 1, such as complex numbers of unit norm.
Similarly, in the presence of a non-trivial *, ε-symmetric forms are equivalent to ε-quadratic forms if there is an element λ ∈ R such that λ* + λ = 1. If * is trivial, this is equivalent to 2λ = 1 or λ = 1/2.
For instance, in the ring (the integral lattice for the quadratic form 2x2-2x+1), with complex conjugation, is such an element, though 1/2 ∉ R.
In terms of matrices, (we take V to be 2-dimensional):
- matrices correspond to bilinear forms
- the subspace of symmetric matrices correspond to symmetric forms
- the subspace of (−1)-symmetric matrices correspond to symplectic forms
- the bilinear form yields the quadratic form
- which is a quotient map with kernel .
An intuitive way to understand an ε-quadratic form is to think of it as a quadratic refinement of its associated ε-symmetric form.
For instance, in defining a Clifford algebra over a general field or ring, one quotients the tensor algebra by relations coming from the symmetric form and the quadratic form: vw + wv = 2B(v,w) and . If 2 is invertible, this second relation follows from the first (as the quadratic form can be recovered from the associated bilinear form), but at 2 this additional refinement is necessary.
An easy example for an ε-quadratic form is the standard hyperbolic ε-quadratic form . (Here, R* := HomR(R,R) denotes the dual of the R-module R.) It is given by the bilinear form . The standard hyperbolic ε-quadratic form is needed for the definition of L-theory.
For the field of two elements R = F2 there is no difference between (+1)-quadratic and (−1)-quadratic forms, which are just called quadratic forms. The Arf invariant of a nonsingular quadratic form over F2 is an F2-valued invariant with important applications in both algebra and topology, and plays a role similar to that played by the discriminant of a quadratic form in characteristic not equal to two.
The free part of the middle homology group (with integer coefficients) of an oriented even-dimensional manifold has an ε-symmetric form, via Poincaré duality, the intersection form. In the case of singly even dimension this is skew-symmetric, while for doubly even dimension this is symmetric. Geometrically this corresponds to intersection, where two n/2-dimensional submanifolds in an n-dimensional manifold generically intersect in a 0-dimensional submanifold (a set of points), by adding codimension. For singly even dimension the order switches sign, while for doubly even dimension order does not change sign, hence the ε-symmetry. The simplest cases are for the product of spheres, where the product and respectively give the symmetric form and skew-symmetric form In dimension two, this yields a torus, and taking the connected sum of g tori yields the surface of genus g, whose middle homology has the standard hyperbolic form.
With additional structure, this ε-symmetric form can be refined to an ε-quadratic form. For doubly even dimension this is integer valued, while for singly even dimension this is only defined up to parity, and takes values in Z/2. For example, given a framed manifold, one can produce such a refinement. For singly even dimension, the Arf invariant of this skew-quadratic form is the Kervaire invariant.
Given an oriented surface Σ embedded in R3, the middle homology group H1(Σ) carries not only a skew-symmetric form (via intersection), but also a skew-quadratic form, which can be seen as a quadratic refinement, via self-linking. The skew-symmetric form is an invariant of the surface Σ, whereas the skew-quadratic form is an invariant of the embedding Σ ⊂ R3, e.g. for the Seifert surface of a knot. The Arf invariant of the skew-quadratic form is a framed cobordism invariant generating the first stable homotopy group .
For the standard embedded torus, the skew-symmetric form is given by (with respect to the standard symplectic basis), and the skew-quadratic refinement is given by xy with respect to this basis: Q(1,0) = Q(0,1)=0: the basis curves don't self-link; and Q(1,1) = 1: a (1,1) self-links, as in the Hopf fibration. (This form has Arf invariant 0, and thus this embedded torus has Kervaire invariant 0.)
- Foundations of algebraic surgery, by Andrew Ranicki, p. 6