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?
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…)
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.)
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 knots
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
– Ben, on behalf of the developers.
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.