Major advances in the operator amenability problem

by Orr Shalit

Laurent Marcoux and Alexey Popov recently published a preprint, whose title speaks for itself :”Abelian, amenable operator algebras are similar to C*-algebras“. This complements another recent contribution, by Yemon Choi, Ilijas Farah and Narutaka Ozawa, “A nonseparable amenable operator algebra which is not isomorphic to a C*-algebra“.

The open problem that these two papers address is whether every amenable Banach algebra, which is a subalgebra of B(H), is similar to a (nuclear) C*-algebra. As the titles clearly indicate (good titling!), we now know that an abelian amenable operator algebra is similar to a C*-algebra, and on the other hand, that a non-separable, non-abelian operator algebra is not necessarily similar to a C*-algebra.

I recommend reading the introduction to the Marcoux-Popov paper (which is very friendly to non-experts too) to get a picture of this problem, its history, and an outline of the solution.