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…)

## October 2, 2016

## July 15, 2016

### Postdoctoral positions- call for applications

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 avcarmi@bgu.ac.il .

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

### SnapPy 2.4 released

## April 9, 2016

### Arithmetic Chern-Simons

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

### Sexual harassment in academia

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

### Nonlocality and statistical inference

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

### The Blanchfield pairing done right

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.

## November 30, 2015

### Simple loop conjecture for Sol manifolds

Drew Zemke, who is a grad student of Jason Manning, posted a proof of the Simple Loop Conjecture for 3-manifolds modeled on Sol last week.

The Simple Loop Conjecture fits into that family of statements such as Dehn’s Lemma and the Sphere Theorem which translate statements about fundamental groups into statements about 3-manifolds. Such theorems allow us to trade 3-manifolds for their fundamental groups (which are much simpler mathematical objects). (more…)

## November 22, 2015

### What is an alternating knot? A tale of two Joshuas.

A few days ago, two people named Joshua (one Howie and one Greene) independently posted to arXiv a similar solution to an old question of Ralph Fox:

Question:What is an alternating knot?

The preprints are:

- Joshua Evan Greene, Alternating links and definite surfaces, arXiv:1511.06329
- Joshua Howie, A characterisation of alternating knot exteriors, arXiv:1511.04945

This post will briefly introduce the problem; I look forward to reading the solutions themselves! (more…)

## September 29, 2015

### Dispatches from the Dark Side, part 2

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.)