# Tagged Questions

Knot theory is dealing with embedding of curves in manifolds of dimension 3. A knot is a single circle embedded in the affine space of dimension 3 as a smooth curve not crossing itself. Many knot invariants are known and can be used to distinguish knots.

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### Are there any very hard unknots?

Some years ago I took a long piece of string, tied it into a loop, and tried to twist it up into a tangle that I would find hard to untangle. No matter what I did, I could never cause the later me any ...
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### Tying knots with reflecting lightrays

Let a lightray bounce around inside a cube whose faces are (internal) mirrors. If its slopes are rational, it will eventually form a cycle. For example, starting with a point $p_0$ in the interior of ...
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### 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 ...
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### Prime numbers as knots: Alexander polynomial

A naive and idle number theory question from a topologist (but not a knot theorist): I have heard it said (and this came up recently at MO) that there is a fruitful analogy between Spec $\mathbb Z$ ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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. ...
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### What part is left unsolved in the Unknotting problem? (after results of Bar-Natan, Khovanov, Kronheimer and Mrowka)

Kronheimer and Mrowka showed that the Khovanov homology detects the unknot. Bar-Natan showed a program to compute the Khovanov homology fast: there was no rigorous complexity analysis of the ...
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### Random knot on six vertices

This question is inspired by Joseph O'Rourke's beautiful question on random knots. Choose an random ordered 6-tuple of points on the unit sphere in $\mathbf{R}^3$, and form a knot by connecting ...
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### probabilistic knot theory

Take a smooth closed curve in the plane. At each self-intersection, randomly choose one of the two pieces and lift it up just out of the plane. (Perturb the curve so there are no triple ...
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### Does this knot invariant distinguish trefoil chiralities?

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 ...
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### Intuitive explanation for the use of matrix factorizations in knot theory

Hello! I read through parts of Khovanov/Rozansky's paper on the categorification of the HOMFLY polynomial using Matrix Factorizations. Technically, I can follow (though it seems to me that quite a ...
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### Applications of knot theory

An answer of André Henriques' inspired the following closely related CW question. Parts of the following is extracted from his answer and my comments. I regularly teach a knot theory class. ...
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### The Jones polynomial at specific values of $t$.

I've been calculating some Jones polynomials lately and I was just curious if there was a physical meaning to evaluating the Jones polynomial at a particular value of $t$. For example, if I take the ...
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### Resources for graphical languages / Penrose notation / Feynman diagrams / birdtracks?

There is an idea I've recently gotten interested in that doesn't seem to have a good agreed-upon name ("diagrammatic algebra?"). It centers around the use of two-dimensional diagrams of dots, ...
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### Metrics on the 3-sphere with knotted geodesics

According to answers to this question every metrics on $S^3$ admits a simple closed geodesic. Given a knot (or link) $K$, it's also quite simple to build a metric on $S^3$ such that $K$ is a geodesic ...
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### How expensive is knowledge? Knots, Links, 3 and 4-manifold algorithms. [closed]

With geometrization, Rubinstein's 3-sphere recognition algorithm and the Manning algorithm, 3-manifold theory has reached a certain maturity where many questions are "readily" answerable about ...
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### Why, in terms of quantum groups, does the knot determinant appear as an evaluation of both the Jones and Alexander polynomials?

The Jones polynomial can be computed from the representation theory of $\mathcal{U}_q(\mathfrak{sl}(2))$. The Alexander polynomial has an analogous description in terms of the representation theory of ...
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### Why is it so hard to implement Haken's Algorithm for knot theory?

Why is it so hard to implement Haken's Algorithm for recognizing whether a knot is unknotted? (Is there a computer implementation of this algorithm?)
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### Can surfaces be interestingly knotted in five-dimensional space?

It's possible this question is trivial, in which case it will be answered quickly. In any case, I realized that it's a basic question the answer to which I should know but do not. Everybody loves ...
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### Who thought that the Alexander polynomial was the only knot invariant of its kind?

I apologize that this is vague, but I'm trying to understand a little bit of the historical context in which the zoo of quantum invariants emerged. For some reason, I have in my head the folklore: ...
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### HOMFLY and homology; also superalgebras

My understanding is that an analogy along the following lines is (roughly) true: "The Alexander polynomial is to knot Floer homology is to gl(1|1) as the Jones polynomial is to Khovanov homology is ...
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### can you fool SnapPea?

A while back I thought I had some simple knots that "fooled" SnapPea. But I no longer remember those examples, if I ever had them to begin with. What I'm looking for is a non-hyperbolizable knot ...