Back in January, I wrote a post about my experience with the differences and trade-offs between academic careers and private sector careers. In this post, I want to present some practical advice for anyone with an academic math background who might be seeking a non-academic job. This advice is based on both my own experience and the advice I found while trying to make the transition. Much of it is very similar to the advice you’ll find (in more detail) in a book called What Are You Going To Do With That? which I read early on and found very helpful. (The book is about finding a non-academic job with any type of PhD.)

## September 29, 2015

## July 28, 2015

### Tangle diagram crossings and quantum entanglement

In low dimensional topology we speak of tangles, while quantum physics speaks of entanglement. Similar words, but is there a deeper connection? Kauffman conjectured that the answer is yes (and I think he’s right, although maybe for other reasons). Glancing through arXiv this morning, I came across the following recent preprint:

Alagic, G., Jarret M., and Jordan S.P.

Yang-Baxter operators need quantum entanglement to distinguish knotsarXiv:1507.05979

Their result is what it says in the title. Namely, we comb the knot into a braid, and assign R-matrices to crossings. An R-matrix underlies a linear operator . The authors prove that if the this operator maps product states to product states, then it gives rise (via a certain “taking the normalized trace of the operator the braid gives” procedure) to a trivial quantum knot invariant. Thus, entanglement is an essential part of being a nontrivial quantum invariant. Very cool!

There’s a suggestive picture in my head. Entanglement is all about nonlocality, where two non-interacting objects (an overstrand and an understrand?) cannot be described as separate systems (crossing?), but are inseparably intertwined in that they share some sort of coordination. It’s the entanglement which allows the overstrand to “communicate” to the understrand that it is there, making it possible to construct a nontrivial quantum invariant.

I suspect there’s a lot more to this story. Well done Alagic, Jarret, and Jordan!

## July 16, 2015

### Boolean logic with braids

First-off, I’m fairly chuffed that Tangle Machines (arXiv version HERE) was published in Proc. R Soc. A, and they even chose our figure for the cover! Computing with Coloured Tangles has also been accepted for publication. This is good.

One of the constructions of Tangle Machines, which I previously discussed HERE and HERE, is a universal set of logic gates using coloured tangles (and in fact we cheated, because our colouring wasn’t by a quandle but by a more general algebraic structure). It turns out that this idea isn’t new, and actually it’s been done better a long time ago in a different setting, and in a very nice way (thanks anonymous referee!). Boolean logic can be realized using coloured braids! And it’s even potentially useful in quantum computing! So today I’ll discuss this paper and the papers it references:

Alagic, G., Jeffery, S., and Jordan, S. Circuit Obfuscation Using Braids. In

9th Conference on the Theory of Quantum Computation, Communication and Cryptography (TQC 2014)(eds. S.T. Flammia and A.W. Harrow), Vol. 27, pp. 141–160.

## June 11, 2015

### Slice-ribbon progress

There has been some recent interesting progress around the Slice Ribbon Conjecture. In particular, Yasui is giving talks on an infinite family counterexamples to the Akbulut-Kirby Conjecture (1978) that he has constructed:

Akbulut-Kirby Conjecture: If 0-surgeries on two knots give the same 3-manifold, then the knots with relevant orientations are concordant.

Note that some knots are not concordant to their reverses (Livingston), but the 0-surgery of a knot and its reverse are homeomorphic, so Akbulut-Kirby had to revise their original formalism to allow for arbitrary orientations. Abe and Tagami recently showed that if the Slice-Ribbon Conjecture is true then the Akbulut-Kirby Conjecture is false. Thus Yasui has eliminated an avenue to falsify the Slice-Ribbon Conjecture.

## June 7, 2015

### Eynard-Orantin Theory enters Quantum Topology

I’m now reading the following paper:

G. Borot and B. Eynard, All-order asymptotics of hyperbolic knot invariants from non-perturbative topological recursion of A-polynomials,

Quantum Topol.6(2015), 39-138.

In it, the authors apply the Eynard-Orantin topological recursion to conjecture an all-order asymptotic expansion of the coloured Jones polynomial of the complement of a hyperbolic knot, extending the volume conjecture.

To get an overview of Eynard-Orantin Theory, I’m looking at:

- The original paper.
- Eynard’s own overview– an expanded version of an ICM talk.
- Some superb slides on the topic by Mulase.

## November 8, 2014

### Regina goes mobile

For those of you with iThings, you can now run Regina on the iPad – just follow this App Store link.

Feedback is very welcome (as are “how do I…?” questions), especially for a brand new port such as this.

## September 1, 2014

### Regina 4.96 and hyperbolic manifolds

For those of you who aren’t on regina-announce: Regina 4.96 came out last weekend.

There’s several new features, such as:

- rigorous certification of hyperbolicity (using angle structures and linear programming);
- fast and automatic census lookup over much larger databases;
- much stronger simplification and recognition of fundamental groups;
- new constructions, operations and decompositions for triangulations;
- and more—see the Regina website for details.

You will find (1) and (2) on the Recognition tab, (3) on the Algebra tab, and (4) in the Triangulation menu.

If you work with hyperbolic manifolds then you may be happy to know that Regina now integrates more closely with SnapPy / SnapPea. In particular, if you import a SnapPea triangulation then Regina will now preserve SnapPea-specific data such as fillings and peripheral curves, and you can use this data with Regina’s own functions (e.g., for computing boundary slopes for spun-normal surfaces) as well as with the in-built SnapPea kernel (e.g., to fill cusps or view tetrahedron shapes). Try File -> Open Example -> Introductory Examples, and take a look at the figure eight knot complement or the Whitehead link complement for examples.

Finally, a note for Debian and Ubuntu users: the repositories have moved, and you will need to set them up again as per the installation instructions (follow the relevant Install link from the GNU/Linux downloads table).

Enjoy!

– Ben, on behalf of the developers.

## June 13, 2014

### Spaces of knots and low-dimensional topology

Over the past 10-12 years, geometric topology has entered a new era. Most of the foundational problems are solved, and there’s a fairly isolated collection of foundational problems remaining. In my mind, the two most representative ones would be the smooth 4-dimensional Poincare hypothesis, and getting a better understanding of the homotopy-type of the group of diffeomorphisms of the n-sphere (especially for n=4, but for n large as well). I want to talk about what I’d call second-order problems in low-dimensional topology, less foundational in nature and more oriented towards other goals, like relating low-dimensional topology to other areas of science. Specifically, this is an attempt to describe the “spaces of knots” subject in a way that might entice low-dimensional topologists to think about the subject.

## November 7, 2013

### Debunking knot theory’s favourite urban legend

The following post recycles Richard Elwes’s lovely blog post and this MathOverflow answer. It is dedicated to the memory of the greatest knot-shaker I have met, Kumar Pallana (1918-2013).

Yesterday I received correspondence from a certain Kenneth A. Perko Jr., whose name perhaps you have heard before. Its contents are too delicious not to share- knot theory’s favourite urban legend is completely false!

**Myth:**Ken Perko, a New York lawyer with no formal mathematical training, was having a slow day at the office. Bored and in-between troublesome clients, he toyed with a long piece of rope, which he had tangled up to represent knot in Rolfsen’s table (Rolfsen, like Kuga, was popular among non-mathematicians at the time). As Perko played with it, the knotted rope began to change before his eyes, and glancing back at the book, he suddenly realized that what he was holding in his hands was the ! Was it magic? Ken Perko shook the rope, and did it again. Sure enough, the and were the same knot!

Excited, Ken Perko shot off a paper to PAMS, containing only a title and a list of figures demonstrating an ambient isotopy. His paper entered the Guiness Book of World Records as the “shortest mathematics paper of all time”, and Ken Perko obtained immortality.

This is the Perko pair:

What a story! The human drama, the “math for the masses” aspect that a complete amateur could make a massive mathematical discovery by playing with some string, the beautiful magenta pair of knots, the importance of attention to detail and using all your senses (not just your head)! What a shame that virtually everything written above turns out to be false! (more…)

## April 4, 2013

### Save Kea!

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…)