Homotopy, stable homotopy, homology and cohomology, homotopical algebra.

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**3**answers

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### Is $\mathbb R^3$ the square of some topological space?

The other day, I was idly considering when a topological space has a square root. That is, what spaces are homeomorphic to $X \times X$ for some space $X$. $\mathbb{R}$ is not such a space: If $X ...

**121**

votes

**7**answers

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### Proofs of Bott periodicity

K-theory sits in an intersection of a whole bunch of different fields, which has resulted in a huge variety of proof techniques for its basic results. For instance, here's a scattering of proofs of ...

**101**

votes

**12**answers

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### Why is the fundamental group of a compact Riemann surface not free ?

Consider a compact Riemann surface $X$ of genus $g$.
It is well-known that its fundamental group $\pi_1(X)$ is the free group on the generators $a_1,b_1,...,a_g,b_g$ divided out by the normal ...

**86**

votes

**6**answers

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### Counterexamples in algebraic topology?

In this thread
Books you would like to read (if somebody would just write them...),
I expressed my desire for a book with the title "(Counter)examples in Algebraic Topology".
My reason for doing so ...

**83**

votes

**18**answers

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### Occurrences of (co)homology in other disciplines and/or nature

I am curious if the setup for (co)homology theory appears outside the realm of pure mathematics. The idea of a family of groups linked by a series of arrows such that the composition of consecutive ...

**83**

votes

**11**answers

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### Spectral sequences: opening the black box slowly with an example

My friend and I are attempting to learn about spectral sequences at the moment, and we've noticed a common theme in books about spectral sequences: no one seems to like talking about differentials.
...

**80**

votes

**17**answers

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### Are there examples of non-orientable manifolds in nature?

Whilst browsing through Marcel Berger's book "A Panoramic View of Riemannian Geometry" and thinking about the Klein bottle, I came across the sentence:
"The unorientable surfaces are never discussed ...

**75**

votes

**6**answers

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### What properties make $[0,1]$ a good candidate for defining fundamental groups?

The title essentially says it all. Consider the category $\mathfrak{Top}_2$ of triples $(J,e_0,e_1)$ where $J$ is a topological space, and $e_i \in J$. There is an obvious generalization of the ...

**71**

votes

**4**answers

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### Which manifolds are homeomorphic to simplicial complexes?

This question is only motivated by curiousity; I don't know a lot about manifold topology.
Suppose $M$ is a compact topological manifold of dimension $n$. I'll assume $n$ is large, say $n\geq 4$. ...

**70**

votes

**7**answers

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### Homotopy groups of Lie groups

Several times I've heard the claim that any Lie group $G$ has trivial second fundamental group $\pi_2(G)$, but I have never actually come across a proof of this fact. Is there a nice argument, ...

**66**

votes

**10**answers

13k views

### Motivation for algebraic K-theory?

I'm looking for a big-picture treatment of algebraic K-theory and why it's important. I've seen various abstract definitions (Quillen's plus and Q constructions, some spectral constructions like ...

**66**

votes

**1**answer

4k views

### The topology of Arithmetic Progressions of primes

The primary motivation for this question is the following: I would like to extract some topological statistics which capture how arithmetic progressions of prime numbers "fit together" in a manner ...

**64**

votes

**0**answers

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### Grothendieck-Teichmuller conjecture

(1) In "Esquisse d'un programme", Grothendieck conjectures
Grothendieck-Teichmuller conjecture: the morphism
$$
G_{\mathbb{Q}} \longrightarrow Aut(\widehat{T})
$$
is an isomorphism.
Here ...

**63**

votes

**4**answers

4k views

### Algorithm or theory of diagram chasing

One of the standard parts of homological algebra is "diagram chasing", or equivalent arguments with universal properties in abelian categories. Is there a rigorous theory of diagram chasing, and ...

**60**

votes

**7**answers

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### Is Mac Lane still the best place to learn category theory?

For a student embarking on a study of algebraic topology, requiring a knowledge of basic category theory, with a long-term view toward higher/stable/derived category theory, ...
Is Mac Lane still ...

**58**

votes

**20**answers

6k views

### Solving algebraic problems with topology

Often, topologists reduce a problem which is - in some sense - of geometric nature, into an algebraic question that is then (partiallly) solved to give back some understanding of the original problem.
...

**57**

votes

**4**answers

7k views

### Etale cohomology — Why study it?

I know (at least I think I know) that some of the main motivating problems in the development of etale cohomology were the Weil conjectures. I'd like to know what other problems one can solve using ...

**54**

votes

**8**answers

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### equivalence of Grothendieck-style versus Cech-style sheaf cohomology

Given a topological space $X$, we can define the sheaf cohomology of $X$ in
I. the Grothendieck style (as the right derived functor of the global sections functor $\Gamma(X,-)$)
or
II. the Čech ...

**53**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### The topological analog of flatness?

Recall that a map $f:X\to Y$ of schemes is called flat iff for any $x\in X$ the ring $O_{X,x}$ is a flat $O_{Y,f(x)}$-module.
Briefly the question is: what is the topological analog of this?
Many ...

**52**

votes

**28**answers

5k views

### Examples where it's useful to know that a mathematical object belongs to some family of objects

For an expository piece I'm writing, it would be useful to have good examples of the following phenomenon:
(1) ${\cal X}$ is a parameterized family of somethings. (Varieties, schemes, manifolds, ...

**52**

votes

**9**answers

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### What are the uses of the homotopy groups of spheres?

Pete Clark threw down the challenge in his comment to my answer on Why the heck are the homotopy groups of the sphere so damn complicated?:
Have the homotopy groups of spheres ever been applied to ...

**51**

votes

**5**answers

6k views

### Why higher category theory?

This is a soft question.
I am an undergrad and is currently seriously considering the field of math I am going into in grad school. (perhaps a little bit late, but it's better late then never.) I ...

**51**

votes

**6**answers

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### third stable homotopy group of spheres via geometry?

It is ''well-known'' that the third stable homotopy group of spheres is cyclic of order $24$. It is also ''well-known'' that the quaternionic Hopf map $\nu:S^7 \to S^4$, an $S^3$-bundle, suspends to a ...

**50**

votes

**15**answers

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### Teaching homology via everyday examples

What stories, puzzles, games, paradoxes, toys, etc from everyday life are better understood after learning homology theory?
To be more precise, I am teaching a short course on homology, from ...

**50**

votes

**11**answers

6k views

### What is Quantization ?

I would like to know what quantization is, I mean I would like to have some elementary examples, some soft nontechnical definition, some explanation about what do mathematicians quantize?, can we ...

**49**

votes

**5**answers

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### Computational complexity of computing homotopy groups of spheres

At various times I've heard the statement that computing the group structure of $\pi_k S^n$ is algorithmic. But I've never come across a reference claiming this.
Is there a precise algorithm ...

**48**

votes

**1**answer

919 views

### Is there an octonionic analog of the K3 surface, with implications for stable homotopy groups of spheres?

The infamous K3 surface has many constructions in many fields ranging from algebraic geometry to algebraic topology. Its many properties are well known. For this question I am really interested in the ...

**47**

votes

**11**answers

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### Why torsion is important in (co)homology ?

I've once been told that "torsion in homology and cohomology is regarded by topologists as a very deep and important phenomenon". I presume an analogous statement could be said in the context of ...

**47**

votes

**8**answers

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### What is a continuous path?

I would like some help, because I am getting mad trying to answer the following
Question: Let $X$ be a topological space, what is a continuous path in $X$?
Well, maybe you're already getting ...

**45**

votes

**11**answers

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### Compelling evidence that two basepoints are better than one

This question is inspired by an answer of Tim Porter.
Ronnie Brown pioneered a framework for homotopy theory in which one may consider multiple basepoints. These ideas are accessibly presented in his ...

**44**

votes

**3**answers

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### Hirzebruch's motivation of the Todd class

In Prospects in Mathematics (AM-70), Hirzebruch gives a nice discussion of why the formal power series $f(x) = 1 + b_1 x + b_2 x^2 + \dots$ defining the Todd class must be what it is. In particular, ...

**44**

votes

**8**answers

4k views

### Natural transformations as categorical homotopies

Every text book I've ever read about Category Theory gives the definition of natural transformation as a collection of morphisms which make the well known diagrams commute.
There is another possible ...

**44**

votes

**6**answers

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### Cubical vs. simplicial singular homology

Singular homology is usually defined via singular simplices, but Serre in his thesis uses singular cubes, which he claims are better adapted to the study of fibre spaces. This young man (25 years old ...

**44**

votes

**0**answers

540 views

### Topological cobordisms between smooth manifolds

Wall has calculated enough about the cobordism ring of oriented smooth manifolds that we know that two oriented smooth manifolds are oriented cobordant if and only if they have the same ...

**43**

votes

**9**answers

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### understanding Steenrod squares

There is a function on $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$-cohomology called Steenrod squaring: $Sq^i:H^k(X,\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}) \to H^{k+i}(X,\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z})$. (Coefficient group suppressed from ...

**43**

votes

**10**answers

9k views

### Nice proof of the Jordan curve theorem?

As a student, I was taught that the Jordan curve theorem is a great example of an intuitively clear statement which has no simple proof.
What is the simplest known proof today?
Is there an intuitive ...

**43**

votes

**6**answers

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### Which of Quillen's Papers Should I read?

I just heard that Dan Quillen passed on. I am not familiar with his work
and want to celebrate his life by reading some of his papers. Which one(s?)
should I read?
I am an algebraic geometry who is ...

**43**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Torsion in homology or fundamental group of subsets of Euclidean 3-space

Here's a problem I've found entertaining.
Is it possible to find a subset of 3-dimensional Euclidean space such that its homology groups (integer coefficients) or one of its fundamental groups ...

**43**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### $H^4(BG,\mathbb Z)$ torsion free for $G$ a connected Lie group

Recently, prompted by considerations in conformal field theory, I was let to guess that for every compact connected Lie group $G$, the fourth cohomology group of it classifying space is torsion free.
...

**42**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Can a subset of the plane have nontrivial $H_2$ or $\pi_2$?

This is a question that occurred to me years ago when I was first learning algebraic topology. I've since learned that it's a somewhat aesthetically displeasing question, but I'm still curious about ...

**41**

votes

**6**answers

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### Total spaces of $TS^2$ and $S^2 \times R^2$ not homeomorphic

Hello,
I'm looking for an invariant to distinguish the homeomorphism types of homotopy equivalent spaces. Specifically, how does one show that the total spaces of the tangent bundle to $S^2$ and the ...

**40**

votes

**0**answers

551 views

### Does $\Bbb{CP}^{2n} \# \Bbb{CP}^{2n}$ ever support an almost complex structure?

This question has been crossposted from Math.SE in the hopes that it reaches a larger audience here.
$\Bbb{CP}^{2n+1} \# \Bbb{CP}^{2n+1}$ supports a complex structure: $\Bbb{CP}^{2n+1}$ has an ...

**39**

votes

**10**answers

8k views

### Definition of “simplicial complex”

When I think of a "simplicial complex", I think of the geometric realization of a simplicial set (a simplicial object in the category of sets). I'll refer to this as "the first definition".
However, ...

**39**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### What arithmetic information is contained in the algebraic K-theory of the integers

I'm always looking for applications of homotopy theory to other fields, mostly as a way to make my talks more interesting or to motivate the field to non-specialists. It seems like most talks about ...

**39**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Is $\mathbb{R}^3 \setminus \mathbb{Q}^3$ simply connected?

Similarly is the complement of any countable set in $\mathbb R^3$ simply connected?
Reading around I found plenty of articles discussing the path connectedness $\mathbb R^2 \setminus \mathbb Q^2$ and ...

**38**

votes

**11**answers

3k views

### What is the Cayley projective plane?

One can build a projective plane from R^n, C^n and H^n and is then tempted to do the same for octonions. This leads to the construction of a projective plane known as OP^2, the Cayley projective ...

**38**

votes

**6**answers

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### Can we actually find any fixed points with Brouwer's theorem?

Background
At the risk of greatly oversimplifying matters, let me state a heuristic from Granas and Dugundji's beautiful book: fixed point theorems fall into two broad categories. The first class is ...

**38**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Where do all these projection formulas come from?

I have been intrigued for a long time by the formal similarity of results from different areas of mathematics. Here are some examples.
Set theory Given a map $f:X\to Y$ and subsets $X' \subset X, ...

**37**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### Non-examples of model structures, that fail for subtle/surprising reasons?

An often-cited principle of good mathematical exposition is that a definition should always come with a few examples and a few non-examples to help the learner get an intuition for where the concept's ...

**37**

votes

**3**answers

9k views

### Properly Discontinuous Action

When looking definition, and theorems related to Properly discontinuous action of a group $G$ on a topological space $X$, it is different in different books (Topology and Geometry-Bredon, Complex ...