**125**

votes

**27**answers

54k views

### Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking

I once heard a joke (not a great one I'll admit...) about higher dimensional thinking that went as follows-
An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are discussing how to visualise four ...

**111**

votes

**2**answers

10k views

### What are the shapes of rational functions?

I would like to understand and compute the shapes of rational functions, that is, holomorphic maps of the Riemann sphere to itself, or equivalently, ratios of two polynomials, up to Moebius ...

**71**

votes

**4**answers

6k views

### 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 $n\geq 4$. ...

**65**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Gromov's list of 7 constructions in differential topology

At the 2010 Clay Research Conference, Gromov explained that we know of only 7 different methods for constructing smooth manifolds. Working from memory, and hence not necessarily respecting the order ...

**57**

votes

**1**answer

5k views

### The mathematical theory of Feynman integrals

It is well known that Feynman integrals are one of the tools that physicists have and mathematicians haven't, sadly.
Arguably, they are the most important such tool. Briefly, the question I'd like to ...

**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

**3**answers

10k views

### The story about Milnor proving the Fáry-Milnor theorem

This question is similar to a previous one about "urban legends", but not the same. It is established that Milnor proved the Fáry-Milnor theorem as an undergraduate at Princeton. For the record, ...

**48**

votes

**1**answer

5k views

### Open map D⁴ → S²

Is it possible to construct an embedding $D^4\hookrightarrow S^2\times
\mathbb R^2$
such that the projection $D^4\to S^2$ is an open map?
Here $D^n$ denotes closed $n$-ball.
An open map D⁴ → S².
It ...

**46**

votes

**11**answers

5k views

### 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 ...

**46**

votes

**0**answers

552 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 ...

**44**

votes

**13**answers

7k views

### What are some of the big open problems in 3-manifold theory?

From what I understand, the geometrization theorem and its proof helped to settle a lot of outstanding questions about the geometry and topology of 3-manifolds, but there still seems to be quite a lot ...

**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

**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 ...

**42**

votes

**8**answers

5k views

### Questions about analogy between Spec Z and 3-manifolds

I'm not sure if the questions make sense:
Conc. primes as knots and Spec Z as 3-manifold - fits that to the Poincare conjecture? Topologists view 3-manifolds as Kirby-equivalence classes of framed ...

**42**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Explicit metrics

Every surface admits metrics of constant curvature, but there is usually a disconnect between
these metrics, the shapes of ordinary objects, and typical mathematical drawings of surfaces.
Can ...

**41**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Kirby calculus and local moves

Every orientable 3-manifold can be obtained from the 3-sphere by doing surgery along a framed link. Kirby's theorem says that the surgery along two framed links gives homeomorphic manifolds if and ...

**40**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Independent evidence for the classification of topological 4-manifolds?

Is there any evidence for the classification of topological 4-manifolds, aside from Freedman's 1982 paper "The topology of four-dimensional manifolds", Journal of Differential Geometry 17(3) 357–453? ...

**38**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Can knot diagrams be monotonically simplified using under moves?

It is well known that knot diagrams cannot be monotonically simplified using Reidemeister moves. For instance, the Goeritz unknot cannot be directly simplified. On the other hand, there is a stronger ...

**37**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### To which extent can one recover a manifold from its group of homeomorphisms

Question. Suppose that $M$ is a closed connected topological manifold and $G$ is its group of homeomorphisms (with compact-open topology). Does $G$ (as a topological group) uniquely determine $M$?
...

**37**

votes

**0**answers

934 views

### Homotopy type of TOP(4)/PL(4)

It is known (e.g. the Kirby-Siebenmann book) that $\mathrm{TOP}(n)/\mathrm{PL}(n)\simeq K({\mathbb Z}/2,3)$ for $n>4$. I believe it is also known (Freedman-Quinn) that ...

**36**

votes

**3**answers

4k views

### Can every manifold be given an analytic structure?

Let $M$ be a (real) manifold. Recall that an analytic structure on $M$ is an atlas such that all transition maps are real-analytic (and maximal with respect to this property). (There's also a sheafy ...

**36**

votes

**7**answers

4k views

### Why should I care about Heegaard-Floer theory?

I would like to collect a list of applications of Heegaard-Floer theory. By applications, I don't mean things like "it can detect the unknot" or "it can detect knot genus". Algorithms for these ...

**36**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Does Euclidean space have a compact factor?

Is $\mathbb{R}^n$ homeomorphic to a product $X \times Y$ with $X$ compact and not a point?
Bing's Dogbone space is a quotient of $\mathbb{R}^3$ with fibers points and arcs, and whose product with ...

**35**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### Status of PL topology

I posted this question on math stackexchange but received no answers. Since I know there are more people knowledgeable in geometric and piecewise-linear (PL) topology here, I'm reposting the question. ...

**34**

votes

**9**answers

4k views

### Classification problem for non-compact manifolds

Background
It is well-known that the compact two-dimensional manifolds are completely classified (by their orientability and their Euler characteristic).
I'm also under the impression that there is ...

**34**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Can cotangent bundles see exotic smooth structures?

I have two questions that are inspired by a couple of questions here on MO (referenced below), as well as by a conversation with some other grad students at a summer school.
Caveat: I'm not a ...

**34**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Knot security (When to trust your life with a knot)

This question is related to a a question about self-tightening knots.
I am supervising a senior thesis and my student is interested in knots. My student is also a rock climber and has an ...

**34**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Meaning/Origin of Seiberg-Witten Equations/Invariants

Having now seen and "understood" (quotes necessary) the Seiberg-Witten equations on a closed oriented Riemannian 4-manifold $X$, I have no real understanding of where they came from.
We take an ...

**34**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Pach's “Animals”: What if the genus is positive?

Janos Pach asked a deep question 23 years ago (1988) that remains unsolved today:
Can every animal—a topological ball in $\mathbb{R^3}$ composed of unit cubes glued face-to-face—be ...

**34**

votes

**0**answers

2k views

### Minimal volume of 4-manifolds

This question came up in a talk of Dieter Kotschick yesterday. The minimal volume of a manifold is the infimum of volumes of Riemannian metrics on the manifold with sectional curvatures bounded in ...

**33**

votes

**9**answers

2k views

### In knot theory: Benefits of working in $S^3$ instead of $\mathbb{R}^3$?

In several textbooks on knot theory (e.g. Lickorish's, Rolfsen's) knots are considered in $\mathbb{R}^3$ or $S^3$. The reason for working in $S^3$ is sometimes given at the beginning of a text as that ...

**32**

votes

**7**answers

3k views

### What are the open subsets of $\mathbb{R}^n$ that are diffeomorphic to $\mathbb{R}^n$

Hello,
I would like to know if there is a known necessary and sufficient
property on an open subset of $\mathbb{R}^n$ such that it is diffeomorphic to $\mathbb{R}^n$ :
For example :
1) Are all ...

**32**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Are there only countably many compact topological manifolds?

Up to homeomorphism, there are 2 one-dimensional topological manifolds and countably many 2- and 3-dimensional compact manifolds, respectively, since each manifold in these dimensions can be ...

**32**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Drawing of the eight Thurston geometries?

Do you know of a picture, drawing, or other concise visual representation of the eight three-dimensional Thurston geometries?
I am imagining something akin to the standard picture (of a sphere, ...

**31**

votes

**5**answers

7k views

### Poincaré Conjecture and the Shape of the Universe

Has the solution of the Poincaré Conjecture helped science to figure out the shape of the universe?

**31**

votes

**3**answers

4k views

### Mazur's unpublished manuscript on primes and knots?

The story of the analogy between knots and primes, which now has a literature, started with an unpublished note by Barry Mazur.
I'm not absolutely sure this is the one I mean, but in his paper, ...

**31**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### What else is Seiberg-Witten Theory equal to?

In low-dimensional topology there have been a bunch of invariants defined, and Seiberg-Witten Theory seems to make its appearance in [a lot of] them:
1) Heegaard Floer homology = SW Floer homology ...

**30**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### Why do people study representations of 3-manifold groups into $SL(n,\mathbb{C})$?

Varieties of representations and characters of $3$-manifold groups in $SL(2,\mathbb{C})$ have been intensively studied. They have provided tools to identify geometric structures on manifolds, and are ...

**30**

votes

**0**answers

1k views

### What is the three-dimensional hyperbolic volume of a four-manifold?

Every smooth closed orientable 4-manifold may be constructed via a handle decomposition. Before asking a couple of questions, I recall some well-known facts about handle-decompositions of 4-manifolds.
...

**29**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Fundamental groups of noncompact surfaces

I got fantastic answers to my previous question (about modern references for the fact that surfaces can be triangulated), so I thought I'd ask a related question. A basic fact about surface topology ...

**29**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Usefulness of using TQFTs

What is a topological feature, that a (some) tqft (e.g. in 3 or 4 dim) sees but homology/cohomology/homotopy groups dont? Or: what is an example where using classical theories is hard, but using a ...

**29**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Extending a diffeomorphism of S^2 to D^3

A fundamental result in 3-dimensional smooth topology, which in computer jargon we might refer to as "a primitive", is the statement that any ($C^\infty$) diffeomorphism of S2 extends to a ...

**29**

votes

**1**answer

584 views

### Classifiying sphere eversions

For a year I have been giving lectures on a (probalby) new way to present an explicit sphere eversion. These lectures include a review of many other explicit eversions that have been described, as ...

**29**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### Is the universal covering of an open subset of $\mathbb{R}^n$ diffeomorphic to an open subset of $\mathbb{R}^n$ ?

Is the universal covering of a connected open subset $U$ of ℝn diffeomorphic to an open subset of ℝn (standard differentiable structure)?
If not true in general, is there any condition ...

**29**

votes

**1**answer

797 views

### “Affine communication” for topological manifolds

There is a situation that comes up regularly in algebraic topology when giving proofs of facts about manifolds, like Poincare duality and the like. The typical sequence goes like this:
Prove ...

**29**

votes

**1**answer

722 views

### Open immersions of open manifolds

For concreteness, I will work in the category of smooth manifolds, but my question makes sense in topological and PL category as well. Recall that a manifold $M$ is called open if every connected ...

**28**

votes

**1**answer

4k views

### Math and Wormholes

Hopefully, MathOverflow is the correct place for this.
I had a student approach me and ask me what kinds of mathematics goes into the study of wormholes. She specifically asked whether there is any ...

**28**

votes

**6**answers

5k views

### Triangulating surfaces

I've had a few undergraduate students ask me for references for the classical fact (due to Rado) that closed topological surfaces can be triangulated. I know two sources for this, namely Ahlfors's ...

**28**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Is there a reset sequence?

There is a question someone (I'm hazy as to who) told me years ago. I found it fascinating for a time, but then I forgot about it, and I'm out of touch with any subsequent developments. Can anyone ...

**28**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Square roots of $\mathbb R^{2n}$

Recently, Richard Dore asked us if $\mathbb R^3$ is the cartesian square of some space, and Tyler Lawson answered beautifully in the negative.
The even powers of $\mathbb R$ were left out in that ...