The main problem that I’ve been thinking about since graduate school (so around a decade now) is the following: How does the topology of a three-dimensional manifold determine its isotopy classes of Heegaard splittings? Up until about a year ago, I would have predicted that most three-manifolds probably don’t have many distinct Heegaard splittings, maybe even just a single minimal genus Heegaard splitting and then all of its stabilizations. Sure, plenty of examples have been constructed of three-manifolds with multiple distinct (unstabilized) splittings, but these all seemed a bit contrived, like they should be the exceptions rather than the rule. I even wrote a blog post a couple years back stating what I called the generalized Scharlamenn-Tomova conjecture, which would imply that a “generic” three-manifold has only one unstabilized splitting. However, since writing this post, my view has changed. Partially, this was the result of discovering a class of examples that disprove this conjecture. (I’m hoping to post a preprint about this on the arXiv in the near future.) But it turns out there is an even simpler class of examples in which there appear to be lots and lots of distinct Heegaard splitting. I can’t quite prove that they’re distinct, so in this post I’m going to replace my generalized Scharlemann-Tomova conjecture with a conjecture in quite the opposite direction, which I will describe below.
June 21, 2013
May 31, 2013
May 19, 2013
Exciting news in academic publishing!
There’s a startup company in the UK, called Flooved, who are on a mission to revolutionize scientific publishing. What sets them apart from many similar-sounding initiatives is that they seem to have a solid business model and they seem to be doing all of the right things, therefore my bet is that they are going to succeed.
What they do is to compile existing lecture notes, handouts and study-guides, and along the lines of the Open Access movement, to make them freely available online. The advantage to students is clear. The advantage to instructors is that more people read and use the material. The advantage to publishers who contribute content (are you listening, big publishing companies?) is that they get precise and useful information on how the students are using their content, and this helps them make informed decisions to put them ahead of the competition. Beyond this, the Flooved model makes education available to people worldwide, including to people who don’t have access to universities. Now, if only they could also provide assessment and accreditation…
May 17, 2013
May 16, 2013
I have a rather naive question for the participants here. I’m at the Max Planck 4-manifolds semester, currently sitting through many talks about knot concordance and various filtrations of the knot concordance group.
Do any of you have a feeling for how knot concordance should be organized, say if one was looking for some global structure? In the purely 3-dimensional world there are many very “tidy” ways to organize knots and links. There’s the associated 3-manifold, geometrization. There’s double branched covers and equivariant geometrization, arborescent knots and tangle decompositions. I find these perspectives to be rather rich in insights and frequently they’re computable for reasonable-sized objects.
But knot concordance as a field feels much more like the Vassiliev invariant perspective on knots: graded vector spaces of invariants. Typically these vector spaces are very large and it’s difficult to compute anything beyond the simplest objects.
My initial inclination is that if one is looking for elegant structure in knot concordance, perhaps it would be at the level of concordance categories. But what kind of structure would you be looking for on these objects? I don’t think I’ve seen much in the way of natural operations on slice discs or concordances in general, beyond Morse-theoretic cutting and pasting. Have you?
April 23, 2013
A preprint of Lins and Lins appeared on the arXiv today, posing a challenge [LL]. In this post, I’m going to discuss that challenge, and describe a recent algorithm of Scott–Short [SS] which may point towards an answer.
The Lins–Lins challenge
The theory of 3-manifolds is now very advanced, and we can even say in a certain sense that we understand ‘all’ 3-manifolds (as I discussed in an earlier post). But that understanding is very theoretical; the Lins–Lins challenge is to put this theory into practice.
They ask: ‘Are the two closed, hyperbolic 3-manifolds given by Dehn surgery on the following two framed links homeomorphic?’
(I’ve taken the liberty of copying the diagrams from their paper.)
April 20, 2013
The place to be in May for a quantum topologist is Vietnam. After some wonderful-sounding mini-courses in Hanoi, the party with move to Nha Trang (dream place to visit) for a quantum topology conference.
I’d like to tell you very briefly about some exciting developments which I expect will be at the centre of the Nha Trang conference, and which I expect may significantly effect the landscape in quantum topology. The preprint in question is -Efficient triangulations and the index of a cusped hyperbolic -manifold by Garoufalidis, Hodgson, Rubinstein, and Segerman (with a list of authors like that, you know it’s got to be good!). (more…)
April 6, 2013
A paper by Thomas Fiedler has just appeared on arXiv, describing a new link between geometric and quantum topology of knots. http://arxiv.org/abs/1304.0970
This is big news!! (more…)
April 4, 2013
Kea, whose actual name is Marni D. Shepheard, is a New Zealand physicist and blogger. Her blog, Arcadian Functor was really interesting and educational, and has morphed into Arcadian Omegafunctor, via blogs with intermediate names.
Kea works on the intersection of higher category theory and particle physics, which is niche mathematics combined with niche physics, and as a result has been out of a job for a long time. Marni’s a survivor though (a famous and celebrated survivor, who, together with Sonja Rendell, survived a mountaineering mishap which would have killed the vast majority of us) and she’s been publishing on viXra and continuing to do physics with no funding and often in total abject poverty. It appears to be taking its toll. (more…)
April 3, 2013
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about the interesting phenomenon that the tunnel number of a connect sum of two knots may be anywhere from one more than the sum of the tunnel numbers to a relatively small fraction of the sum of the tunnel numbers. Since then, a couple of related papers have been posted to the arXiv, so I thought that justifies another post on the subject. The first preprint I’ll discuss, by João Miguel Nogueira , gives new examples of knots in which the tunnel number degenerates by a large amount. The second paper, by Trent Schirmer  (who is currently a postdoc here at OSU), gives a new bound on the amount tunnel number and Heegaard genus can degenerate by under connect sum/torus gluing, respectively, in certain situations.