### Variations on Descents and Inversions in Permutations

#### Abstract

We study new statistics on permutations that are variations on the descent and the inversion statistics. In particular, we consider the *alternating descent set* of a permutation $\sigma = \sigma_1\sigma_2\cdots\sigma_n$ defined as the set of indices $i$ such that either $i$ is odd and $\sigma_i > \sigma_{i+1}$, or $i$ is even and $\sigma_i < \sigma_{i+1}$. We show that this statistic is equidistributed with the *odd $3$-factor set* statistic on permutations $\tilde{\sigma} = \sigma_1\sigma_2\cdots\sigma_{n+1}$ with $\sigma_1=1$, defined to be the set of indices $i$ such that the triple $\sigma_i \sigma_{i+1} \sigma_{i+2}$ forms an odd permutation of size $3$. We then introduce Mahonian inversion statistics corresponding to the two new variations of descents and show that the joint distributions of the resulting descent-inversion pairs are the same, establishing a connection to two classical Mahonian statistics, *maj* and *stat*, along the way. We examine the generating functions involving *alternating Eulerian polynomials*, defined by analogy with the classical Eulerian polynomials $\sum_{\sigma\in\mathcal{S}_n} t^{{\rm des}(\sigma)+1}$ using alternating descents. For the alternating descent set statistic, we define the generating polynomial in two non-commutative variables by analogy with the $ab$-index of the Boolean algebra $B_n$, providing a link to permutations without consecutive descents. By looking at the number of *alternating inversions*, which we define in the paper, in alternating (down-up) permutations, we obtain a new $q$-analog of the Euler number $E_n$ and show how it emerges in a $q$-analog of an identity expressing $E_n$ as a weighted sum of Dyck paths.