Let $C_N$ denote the labelled configuration of $N^{th}$ roots of unity with $p_J = e^{\frac{2\pi iJ}{N}}$ for $J = 1\ldots N$.

As a corollary of something else I was playing around with, I recently proved the following:

Theorem: Every tame knot (or link) $K$ has a (not necessarily minimal) stick presentation which such that the sticks can be projected onto the set of chords of some $C_N$ with the following crossing condition: Whenever the projection has chords $p_{J_1}p_{J_3}$ and $p_{J_2}p_{J_4}$ such that $1\leq J_1 < J_2 < J_3 < J_4\leq N$ then $p_{J_1}p_{J_3}$ crosses in front of $p_{J_2}p_{J_4}$. (In other words for any two intersecting chords in the projection, the chord which has the lowest numbered endpoint passes in front of the other chord).

Germane to this question is the fact that the theorem leads to a knot invariant which, for lack of a better name, I will call the circular stick number of $K$ and which is defined to be the minimum $N$ needed to obtain a projection of $K$ with the above properties.

My proof of the above theorem was very non-constructive, so I wanted to see some concrete realizations of such projections. And after some work, I was able to find that for the left trefoil knot, the circular stick number is 7. After much more playing around on $C_7$ and not finding a projection of the right trefoil, I moved on to $C_8$ where I was able to find a projection of the right trefoil.

Main Question:Does this invariant actually distinguish chiralities of the trefoil, or can someone find a projection of the right trefoil with the above properties on $C_7$? If it doesn't distinguish chiralities in this case, is it possible it distinguishes chiralities of some other pair of knots, or does anyone see a slick way to see that it cannot distinguish chiralities?

Secondary Question:(Mainly for knot theorists, or anyone with a deeper knowledge of knots than I) Has this invariant been studied before, and if so, what is the terminology used for it?

I am fairly sure that the general answer to the main question is strongly related to the characterization (and in particular the disjointness) of the sets of forbidden minors of the following two sets (which are almost certainly not known in general as the Robertson-Seymour theorem is non-constructive):

$\bullet$ Graphs which are $L$-lessly embeddable for a given chiral knot $L$

$\bullet$ Graphs which are $L^+$-lessly *and* $L^-$-lessly embeddable for a given chiral knot $L$ with chiralities $L^+$ and $L^-$

Note that graphs in the second set may admit embeddings in $\mathbb{R}^3$ containing either $L^+$ or $L^-$, but have at least one embedding which does not contain both $L^+$ and $L^-$. As of yet, I have not been able to flesh out a proof using this approach however.

For those who don't want to search for the solutions I found, for the left trefoil the points of $C_7$ are connected in the following order:

$p_1 \rightarrow p_3 \rightarrow p_5 \rightarrow p_7 \rightarrow p_2 \rightarrow p_4 \rightarrow p_6 \rightarrow p_1$

For the right trefoil the points of $C_8$ are connected in the following order:

$p_1 \rightarrow p_3 \rightarrow p_7 \rightarrow p_5 \rightarrow p_2 \rightarrow p_8 \rightarrow p_4 \rightarrow p_6 \rightarrow p_1$

** EDIT:** Here are pictures of these two projections to help clarify the situation:

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5BVGcL23IkoSTlNNGZKZnZtT1E

With regards to Dylan's question about how this projection arose, I was considering the parametric curve $S(t) = (t,t^2,t^3) \subset \mathbb{R}^3$. In a comment or answer on a past MO post which for the love of me I cannot find now, someone had shown in a very simple way that no two chords of $S$ intersect one another anywhere in $\mathbb{R}^3$ (unless they share an endpoint). Thus, for each $n$, $K_n$ can be embedded in $\mathbb{R}^3$ as the set of chords connecting the points $(1...n)$. Now for a fixed tame knot or link $K$, the Robertson-Seymour theorem implies there is a finite set of forbidden minors for graphs which are $K$-lessly embeddable. Hence, every embedding of $K_n$ for $n$ sufficiently large contains $K$, so one may ask (like I did) "what $n$ is sufficient for a given $K$, and what order must I connect the points $(1...n)$ in order to realize $K$?" The crossing condition comes from looking at the chords projected onto the $yz$-plane as viewed from the $-x$ direction (which I think is the direction I did my crossing calculations from). Finally, I moved the $yz$-projections of the integral $t$-valued points around so that they lay on the unit circle to make the pictures easier/clearer.

** UPDATE:** I was just skimming through a paper on some results on knots which were unrelated to this one. That paper referenced the Ramsey number $r(L)$ of a link $L$, and upon following its references I found this paper which proves the existence of $r(L)$ using essentially the representation I layed out above:

http://www.ams.org/journals/tran/1991-324-02/S0002-9947-1991-1069741-9/S0002-9947-1991-1069741-9.pdf

So it would appear the answer to Question 2 is this is known (in at least one paper) as a **plat representation** (much to my surprise, Negami derives the existence of such representations using essentially the argument I gave above). So that would seem to settle this thread entirely...