You are on page 1of 47

Knots and Braids: An introduction

Julia Collins, PhD student

Knots

What is a knot?

A knot is a circle embedded in 3-dimensional space.

=

Why in 3-dimensional space?
In 2 dimensions all knots are trivial because there is no space
to make complicated knots.

.Why in 3-dimensional space? In 4 dimensions all knots are trivial because any knot can be unknotted.

.Higher dimensions The important thing is to have a difference of two dimensions.

. Definition An n-dimensional knot is an embedding of S n in S n+2 .Higher dimensions The important thing is to have a difference of two dimensions.

For example. if n = 2.Higher dimensions The important thing is to have a difference of two dimensions. . Definition An n-dimensional knot is an embedding of S n in S n+2 . we have a 2-dimensional sphere in 4-dimensional space.

Questions of a knot theorist .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? How many knots are there? .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? How many knots are there? How are two different diagrams of the same knot related? .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? How many knots are there? How are two different diagrams of the same knot related? What is a ‘prime’ knot? .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? How many knots are there? How are two different diagrams of the same knot related? What is a ‘prime’ knot? What kind of surfaces does a knot bound? .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? How many knots are there? How are two different diagrams of the same knot related? What is a ‘prime’ knot? What kind of surfaces does a knot bound? What is the topology of the knot complement? .

Questions of a knot theorist How can we tell if two knots are the same? How many knots are there? How are two different diagrams of the same knot related? What is a ‘prime’ knot? What kind of surfaces does a knot bound? What is the topology of the knot complement? Does the knot complement admit a hyperbolic structure? .

.Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots. For example. ..

Crossing/unknotting numbers ..Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots. For example..

Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots. For example.. Crossing/unknotting numbers Smallest genus of a bounding surface ..

For example. Kauffman... HOMFLY . Jones.Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots. Crossing/unknotting numbers Smallest genus of a bounding surface Knot polynomials: Alexander.

Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots.. Crossing/unknotting numbers Smallest genus of a bounding surface Knot polynomials: Alexander.. Kauffman. Khovanov . Jones. HOMFLY Homology theories: Floer. For example.

Kauffman. For example.Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots. HOMFLY Homology theories: Floer. Khovanov Quantum invariants .. Crossing/unknotting numbers Smallest genus of a bounding surface Knot polynomials: Alexander.. Jones.

Kauffman. For example. Khovanov Quantum invariants Hyperbolic invariants .Telling knots apart Knot theorists use invariants to distinguish knots. Jones.. Crossing/unknotting numbers Smallest genus of a bounding surface Knot polynomials: Alexander.. HOMFLY Homology theories: Floer.

Knots in real life Knots come up in a surprising variety of places! .

Knots in real life Knots come up in a surprising variety of places! In your DNA .

Knots in real life Knots come up in a surprising variety of places! In dynamical systems .

Knots in real life Knots come up in a surprising variety of places! In chemistry .

Braids .

not looping back on themselves.What is a braid? A braid consists of n strings travelling from left to right. .

not looping back on themselves.What is a braid? A braid consists of n strings travelling from left to right. .

What is a braid? A braid consists of n strings travelling from left to right. not looping back on themselves. .

. not looping back on themselves.What is a braid? A braid consists of n strings travelling from left to right.

not looping back on themselves.What is a braid? A braid consists of n strings travelling from left to right. .

not looping back on themselves.What is a braid? A braid consists of n strings travelling from left to right. .

Braids and knots? Question: How do we get a knot (or link) from a braid? .

.Braids and knots? Answer: Attach the end of the strings to the beginning without introducing more crossings.

.Braids and knots? Answer: Attach the end of the strings to the beginning without introducing more crossings.

Braids and knots? Answer: Attach the end of the strings to the beginning without introducing more crossings. .

.Braids and knots? Answer: Attach the end of the strings to the beginning without introducing more crossings.

Why the knot theorists are happy Theorem Braids form a group under concatenation. .

.Why the knot theorists are happy Theorem Braids form a group under concatenation.

Why everyone else is happy .

) . (Jargon: the braid group is the fundamental group of the configuration space of n particles in R2 .Why everyone else is happy Theorem The braid group on n strands is the group of paths of n particles moving in 2 dimensions.

Braids in real life Braids come up in a surprising variety of places! In air traffic control .

Braids in real life Braids come up in a surprising variety of places! On the sun .

Braids in real life Braids come up in a surprising variety of places! In quantum computers .

Thank you for your attention! .