Let L be a geometric lattice. Following P. Orlik and L. Solomon, Combinatorics and topology of complements of hyperplanes, Invent. math. 56 (1980), 167-189, we associate with L a graded commutative algebra A(L). In this paper we introduce a new invariant ψ of the algebra A(L) which suffices to distinguish algebras for which all other known invariants coincide. This result is applied to the study of arrangements of complex hyperplanes, with L being the intersection lattice. In this case A(L) is isomorphic to the cohomology algebra of the associated hyperplane complement. The goal is to find examples of arrangements with non-isomorphic lattices but homotopy equivalent complements. The invariant introduced here effectively narrows the list of candidates. Nevertheless, we exhibit combinatorially inequivalent arrangements for which all known invariants, including ψ, coincide.
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