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Dylan Wilson
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Can every set of Stiefel-Whitney characteristic numbers be realized as coming from a manifold?

Well I just learned a very cool fact over tea: apparently there are finitely many (unoriented) cobordism classes of compact manifolds in any given dimension! The cobordism class is completely determined by the Stiefel-Whitney characteristic numbers (which were explained to me as "the various numbers one gets by cupping characteristic classes of the tangent bundle together and applying them to the fundamental class, all mod 2")... so that's pretty awesome.

While I get over this initial shock, I was wondering if anyone knew the answer to the following: we have an upper bound on the number of cobordism classes by looking at the number of possible Stiefel-Whitney numbers. But is this upper bound realized?

In other words, given a sequence of zeros and ones (the right number of them), can I always construct a manifold that has precisely that sequence of zeros and ones as its Stiefel-Whitney numbers?

Dylan Wilson
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