In the two and a half years (or so) since I left academia for industry, I’ve worked with a number of math majors and math PhDs outside of academia and talked to a number of current grad students who were considering going into industry. As a result, my perspective on the role of the math research community within the larger world has changed quite a bit from what it was in the early days of may academic career. In the post below, I explore this new perspective.
March 18, 2017
March 3, 2017
It’s hard enough for one author to write a coherent work; for many authors, even if it’s one and the same topic one might end up with Rashoumon (in the sense of different and contradicting narratives). But, as the Princeton Companion to Mathematics shows, it is possible to have a coherent book with each author writing a chapter, and now geometric group theory has one too.
A new book has just come out, and it’s very good.
Office Hours with a Geometric Group Theorist, Edited by Matt Clay & Dan Margalit, 2017.
An undergraduate student walks into the office of a geometric group theorist, curious about the subject and perhaps looking for a senior thesis topic. The researcher pitches their favourite sub-topic to the student in a single “office hour”.
The book collects together 16 independent such “office hours”, plus two introductory office hours by the editors (Matt Clay and Dan Margalit) to get the student off the ground. (more…)
October 7, 2016
Eynard-Orantin Theory (topological recursion) has got to be one of the biggest ideas in quantum topology in recent years (see also HERE). Today I’d like to attempt a bird’s eye explanation of what all the excitement is about from the perspective of low-dimensional topology. (more…)
October 2, 2016
In 1959 Stephen Smale gave a proof that the group of diffeomorphisms of the 2-sphere has the homotopy-type of the subgroup of linear diffeomorphisms, i.e. the Lie Group O_3. His proof went in two steps: (more…)
July 15, 2016
I’m pleased to announce that we have been awarded Israel Science Foundation (ISF) to support 2-year postdoctoral positions at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, to work on Tangle Machines and low-dimensional topological approaches to information theory. Interested applicants may contact me or Avishy Carmi at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We’re looking toward developing applications, so we’re primarily searching for people who can program and maybe who have some signal processing knowledge. So primarily for computer science postdocs, I suppose.
An official announcement will be posted at relevant places in due time- but you heard it here first (^_^)
May 24, 2016
A new version of SnapPy, a program for studying the topology and geometry of 3-manifolds, is available. Added features include a census of Platonic manifolds, rigorous computation of cusp translations, and substantial improvements to its link diagram component.
April 9, 2016
The most compelling aspect of Quantum Topology for me is its connection to analytic number theory. Today I’d like to draw your attention to recent work of Minhyong Kim on Arithmetic Chern-Simons Theory (see his paper for more details). I was fortunate to hear him give a talk about this last Wednesday and a colloquium talk on related subjects the day before. People have been talking about such “quantum topological number theory” for a long time- e.g. this 2010 MO question – but we haven’t seen much of an uptake so far. This isn’t an easy direction to pursue because one needs to know both quantum topology and analytic number theory, but I was left with the strong feeling that “There’s gold in them thar hills”, both for topologists and for number theorists. (more…)
March 6, 2016
An interesting piece has come out in the New York Times about sexual harassment in an academic setting:
A. Hope Jahren, She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’, New York Times, March 4, 2016.
What makes this piece especially interesting for me is that it’s written so that one understands the harasser, and is made to realize that “it could be me”. The pattern she describes sounds more common than one might like to admit- and the person writing the e-mail would almost certainly not be cogniscent of it being harassment. A male TA, professor, or supervisor, using the excuse of an altered state of mind (haven’t slept, drank too much) e-mails a love confession to a female student or colleague in a way that blames her, is a total power play, and is creepy and maybe a bit threatening (although of course he doesn’t see it that way). A wrong response to this first e-mail might mean that the victim gets harassed for a long time.
The author says that this first e-mail must be answered by firmly telling him (not asking him) to stop. But, Jahren laments, it never, never stops. While surely Jahren’s suggestion is sensible, a firm, “Dude, I have zero romantic interest in you. In addition you might want to read this piece by Jahren,” might, I think, be even more effective.
What do you all think? How prevalent is this type of sexual harassment in mathematics, and what can be done to effectively nip such harassment patterns in the bud?
February 28, 2016
It doesn’t have much to do with topology, but I’d like to share with you something Avishy Carmi and I have been thinking about quite a bit lately, that is the EPR paradox and the meaning of (non)locality. Avishy and I have a preprint about this:
A.Y. Carmi and D.M., Statistics Limits Nonlocality, arXiv:1507.07514.
It offers a statistical explanation for a Physics inequality called Tsirelson’s bound (perhaps to be compared to a known explanation called Information Causality). Behind the fold I will sketch how it works. (more…)
December 20, 2015
This is just a short post to draw attention to a new preprint by Friedl and Powell The presentation of the Blanchfield pairing of a knot via a Seifert matrix.
The Blanchfield pairing on the Alexander module occurs in various places in knot theory, including in quantum topology. Levine’s 1977 argument for its expression in terms of the Seifert matrix doesn’t make easy reading (the authors suggest it’s incomplete- I can’t judge), and it is notoriously difficult to prove that the Blanchfield pairing is Hermitian. The authors deal deftly with both problems using a more modern but clearly sensible toolbox. Time to rewrite the textbooks.
I wish there were more papers like this. Some aspects of low dimensional topology could use a careful, sensible, modern reboot such as that of this paper.