On the Rank Function of a Differential Poset

  • Richard P. Stanley
  • Fabrizio Zanello
Keywords: Partially ordered set, Differential poset, Rank function, Young lattice, Young-Fibonacci lattice, Hasse diagram, Hasse walk, Hypergraph, Finite projective plane, Steiner system, Interval conjecture


We study $r$-differential posets, a class of combinatorial objects introduced in 1988 by the first author, which gathers together a number of remarkable combinatorial and algebraic properties, and generalizes important examples of ranked posets, including the Young lattice. We first provide a simple bijection relating differential posets to a certain class of hypergraphs, including all finite projective planes, which are shown to be naturally embedded in the initial ranks of some differential poset. As a byproduct, we prove the existence, if and only if $r\geq 6$, of $r$-differential posets nonisomorphic in any two consecutive ranks but having the same rank function. We also show that the Interval Property, conjectured by the second author and collaborators for several sequences of interest in combinatorics and combinatorial algebra, in general fails for differential posets. In the second part, we prove that the rank function $p_n$ of any arbitrary $r$-differential poset has nonpolynomial growth; namely, $p_n\gg n^ae^{2\sqrt{rn}},$ a bound very close to the Hardy-Ramanujan asymptotic formula that holds in the special case of Young's lattice. We conclude by posing several open questions.

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