As promised, something lighter.
Okay, a couple weeks ago I defined a chain complex to be a sequence with the property that . The maps are called the “differentials” of the sequence. As usual, these are the objects of a category, and we now need to define the morphisms.
Consider chain complexes and . We will write the differentials on as and those on as . A chain map is a collection of arrows that commute with the differentials. That is, . That these form the morphisms of an -category should be clear.
Given two chain complexes with zero differentials — like those arising as homologies — any collection of maps will constitute a chain map. These trivial complexes form a full -subcategory of the category of all chain complexes.
We already know how the operation of “taking homology” acts on a chain complex. It turns out to have a nice action on chain maps as well. Let’s write for the kernel of and for the image of , and similarly for . Now if we take a member (in the sense of our diagram chasing rules) so that , then clearly . That is, if we restrict to , it factors through . Similarly, if there is a with , then , and thus the restriction of to factors through .
So we can restrict to get an arrow which sends the whole subobject into the subobject . Thus we can pass to the homology objects to get arrows . That is, we have a chain map from to . Further, it’s straightforward to show that this construction is -functorial — it preserves addition and composition of chain maps, along with zero maps and identity maps.