Questions tagged [gt.geometric-topology]

Topology of cell complexes and manifolds, classification of manifolds (e.g. smoothing, surgery), low dimensional topology (e.g. knot theory, invariants of 4-manifolds), embedding theory, combinatorial and PL topology, geometric group theory, infinite dimensional topology (e.g. Hilbert cube manifolds, theory of retracts).

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211
votes
29answers
136k 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 ...
124
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2answers
13k 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 ...
105
votes
3answers
4k views

The number $\pi$ and summation by $SL(2,\mathbb Z)$

Let $f(a,b,c,d)=\sqrt{a^2+b^2}+\sqrt{c^2+d^2}-\sqrt{(a+c)^2+(b+d)^2}$. (it is the defect in the triangle inequality) Then, we discovered by heuristic arguments and then verified by computer that $$\...
90
votes
4answers
8k 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 $n\geq 4$. ...
84
votes
1answer
8k 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 ...
77
votes
1answer
2k 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 Stiefel--...
73
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3answers
4k 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 ...
72
votes
5answers
2k views

When the automorphism group of an object determines the object

Let me start with three examples to illustrate my question (probably vague; I apologize in advance). $\mathbf{Man}$, the category of closed (compact without boundary) topological manifold. For any $M,...
71
votes
12answers
10k 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 ...
68
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4answers
7k 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? ...
62
votes
3answers
9k 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 ...
61
votes
3answers
14k 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, ...
59
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2answers
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 ...
58
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14answers
9k 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 ...
58
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4answers
4k views

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 ...
57
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28answers
5k views

Proofs where higher dimension or cardinality actually enabled much simpler proof?

I am very interested in proofs that become shorter and simpler by going to higher dimension in $\mathbb R^n$, or higher cardinality. By "higher" I mean that the proof is using higher dimension or ...
57
votes
10answers
16k 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 ...
54
votes
7answers
5k 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. ...
52
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6answers
9k 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?
52
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8answers
6k 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 ...
52
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
51
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4answers
2k views

Unusual symmetries of the Cayley-Menger determinant for the volume of tetrahedra

Suppose you have a tetrahedron $T$ in Euclidean space with edge lengths $\ell_{01}$, $\ell_{02}$, $\ell_{03}$, $\ell_{12}$, $\ell_{13}$, and $\ell_{23}$. Now consider the tetrahedron $T'$ with edge ...
51
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5answers
5k 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 ...
51
votes
2answers
2k views

How to add essentially new knots to the universe?

A knot is an embedding of a circle $S^{1}$ in $3$-dimensional Euclidean space, $\mathbb{R}^3$. Knots are considered equivalent under ambient isotopy. There are two different types of knots, tame and ...
51
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1answer
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 ...
50
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7answers
6k 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 ...
50
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9answers
6k 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 ...
50
votes
4answers
4k 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, plane,...
48
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
47
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3answers
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 ...
46
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3answers
5k views

Thurston's 24 questions: All settled?

Thurston's 1982 article on three-dimensional manifolds1 ends with $24$ "open questions":       $\cdots$ Two naive questions from an outsider: (1) Have all $24$ now been resolved? (2)...
46
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4answers
3k 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 $M$? ...
41
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8answers
6k 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 ...
41
votes
4answers
5k views

Elegant proof that any closed, oriented 3-manifold is the boundary of some oriented 4-manifold?

I'm looking for an elegant proof that any closed, oriented $3$-manifold $M$ is the boundary of some oriented $4$-manifold $B$.
41
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
40
votes
1answer
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 ...
39
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...
39
votes
1answer
980 views

Four circles on the sphere

Consider configurations consisting of 4 distinct circles on the sphere. Two configurations are equivalent if they can be mapped onto each other by a homeomorphism of the sphere. How to enumerate/...
39
votes
0answers
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 ...
38
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
38
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
38
votes
0answers
1k 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 $\mathrm{TOP}(4)/\mathrm{PL}(...
37
votes
9answers
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 ...
37
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9answers
22k views

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. ...
37
votes
4answers
4k views

Thurston's “tinker toy” problem

In the article "On Being Thurstonized" by Benson Farb (located here), a particular result of Thurston is mentioned. Namely, suppose a "tinker toy" $T$ is a contraption consisting of a multitude of ...
37
votes
1answer
820 views

Exotic $R^4$ as the universal covering space

Is there a smooth compact 4-manifold whose universal covering is an exotic $R^4$, i.e. is homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic to $R^4$? Remark. I am aware of examples (due to Mike Davis) of compact $...
37
votes
2answers
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 ...
36
votes
3answers
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 $\...
36
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
36
votes
2answers
3k 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 (...

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