Flip (mathematics)

In algebraic geometry, flips and flops are codimension-2 surgery operations arising in the minimal model program, given by blowing up along a relative canonical ring. In dimension 3 flips are used to construct minimal models, and any two birationally equivalent minimal models are connected by a sequence of flops. It is conjectured that the same is true in higher dimensions.

The minimal model program

The minimal model program can be summarised very briefly as follows: given a variety , we construct a sequence of contractions , each of which contracts some curves on which the canonical divisor is negative. Eventually, should become nef (at least in the case of nonnegative Kodaira dimension), which is the desired result. The major technical problem is that, at some stage, the variety may become 'too singular', in the sense that the canonical divisor is no longer a Cartier divisor, so the intersection number with a curve is not even defined.

The (conjectural) solution to this problem is the flip. Given a problematic as above, the flip of is a birational map (in fact an isomorphism in codimension 1) to a variety whose singularities are 'better' than those of . So we can put , and continue the process.[1]

Two major problems concerning flips are to show that they exist and to show that one cannot have an infinite sequence of flips. If both of these problems can be solved, then the minimal model program can be carried out. The existence of flips for 3-folds was proved by Mori (1988). The existence of log flips, a more general kind of flip, in dimension three and four were proved by Shokurov (1993, 2003) whose work was fundamental to the solution of the existence of log flips and other problems in higher dimension. The existence of log flips in higher dimensions has been settled by (Caucher Birkar, Paolo Cascini & Christopher D. Hacon et al. 2010). On the other hand, the problem of termination—proving that there can be no infinite sequence of flips—is still open in dimensions greater than 3.


If is a morphism, and K is the canonical bundle of X, then the relative canonical ring of f is

and is a sheaf of graded algebras over the sheaf of regular functions on Y. The blowup

of Y along the relative canonical ring is a morphism to Y. If the relative canonical ring is finitely generated (as an algebra over ) then the morphism is called the flip of if is relatively ample, and the flop of if K is relatively trivial. (Sometimes the induced birational morphism from to is called a flip or flop.)

In applications, is often a small contraction of an extremal ray, which implies several extra properties:

  • The exceptional sets of both maps and have codimension at least 2,
  • and only have mild singularities, such as terminal singularities.
  • and are birational morphisms onto Y, which is normal and projective.
  • All curves in the fibers of and are numerically proportional.


The first example of a flop, known as the Atiyah flop, was found in (Atiyah 1958). Let Y be the zeros of in , and let V be the blowup of Y at the origin. The exceptional locus of this blowup is isomorphic to , and can be blown down to in two different ways, giving varieties and . The natural birational map from to is the Atiyah flop.

Reid (1983) introduced Reid's pagoda, a generalization of Atiyah's flop replacing Y by the zeros of .


  • Atiyah, Michael Francis (1958), "On analytic surfaces with double points", Proceedings of the Royal Society. London. Series A. Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 247 (1249): 237–244, Bibcode:1958RSPSA.247..237A, doi:10.1098/rspa.1958.0181, MR 0095974
  • Birkar, Caucher; Cascini, Paolo; Hacon, Christopher D.; McKernan, James (2010), "Existence of minimal models for varieties of log general type", Journal of the American Mathematical Society, 23 (2): 405–468, arXiv:math.AG/0610203, Bibcode:2010JAMS...23..405B, doi:10.1090/S0894-0347-09-00649-3, ISSN 0894-0347, MR 2601039
  • Corti, Alessio (December 2004), "What Is...a Flip?" (PDF), Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 51 (11): 1350–1351, retrieved 2008-01-17
  • Kollár, János (1991), "Flip and flop", Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, Vol. I, II (Kyoto, 1990), Tokyo: Math. Soc. Japan, pp. 709–714, MR 1159257
  • Kollár, János (1991), "Flips, flops, minimal models, etc", Surveys in differential geometry (Cambridge, MA, 1990), Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh Univ., pp. 113–199, MR 1144527
  • Kollár, János; Mori, Shigefumi (1998), Birational Geometry of Algebraic Varieties, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-63277-3
  • Matsuki, Kenji (2002), Introduction to the Mori program, Universitext, Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-98465-0, MR 1875410
  • Mori, Shigefumi (1988), "Flip theorem and the existence of minimal models for 3-folds", Journal of the American Mathematical Society, 1 (1): 117–253, doi:10.1090/s0894-0347-1988-0924704-x, JSTOR 1990969, MR 0924704
  • Morrison, David (2005), Flops, flips, and matrix factorization (PDF), Algebraic Geometry and Beyond, RIMS, Kyoto University
  • Reid, Miles (1983), "Minimal models of canonical $3$-folds", Algebraic varieties and analytic varieties (Tokyo, 1981), Adv. Stud. Pure Math., 1, Amsterdam: North-Holland, pp. 131–180, MR 0715649
  • Shokurov, Vyacheslav V. (1993), Three-dimensional log flips. With an appendix in English by Yujiro Kawamata, 1, Russian Acad. Sci. Izv. Math. 40, pp. 95–202.
  • Shokurov, Vyacheslav V. (2003), Prelimiting flips, Proc. Steklov Inst. Math. 240, pp. 75–213.
  1. More precisely, there is a conjecture stating that every sequence of flips of varieties with Kawamata log terminal singularities, projective over a fixed normal variety terminates after finitely many steps.
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