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Rugged modules: The opposite of flatness
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Relative notions of flatness are introduced as a mean to gauge the extent of the flatness of any given module. Every module is thus endowed with a flatness domain and, for every ring, the collection of flatness domains of all of its modules is a lattice with respect to class inclusion. This lattice, the flatness profile of the ring, allows us, in particular, to focus on modules which have a smallest flatness domain (namely, one consisting of all regular modules.) We establish that such modules exist over arbitrary rings and we call them Rugged Modules. Rings all of whose (cyclic) modules are rugged are shown to be precisely the von Neumann regular rings. We consider rings without a flatness middle class (i.e., rings for which modules must be either flat or rugged.) We obtain that, over a right Noetherian ring every left module is rugged or flat if and only if every right module is poor or injective if and only if R = S×T, where S is semisimple Artinian and T is either Morita equivalent to a right PCI-domain, or T is right Artinian whose Jacobson radical properly contains no nonzero ideals. Character modules serve to bridge results about flatness and injectivity profiles; in particular, connections between rugged and poor modules are explored. If R is a ring whose regular left modules are semisimple, then a right module M is rugged if and only if its character left module M+ is poor. Rugged Abelian groups are fully characterized and shown to coincide precisely with injectively poor and projectively poor Abelian groups. Also, in order to get a feel for the class of rugged modules over an arbitrary ring, we consider the homological ubiquity of rugged modules in the category of all modules in terms of the feasibility of rugged precovers and covers for arbitrary modules.