Past Topology Seminar

20 February 2017
Andre Henriques

Elliptic cohomology is a family of generalised cohomology theories
$Ell_E^*$ parametrised by an elliptic curve $E$ (over some ring $R$).
Just like many other cohomology theories, elliptic cohomology admits
equivariant versions. In this talk, I will recall an old conjectural
description of elliptic cohomology, due to G. Segal, S. Stolz and P.
Teichner. I will explain how that conjectural description led me to
suspect that there should exist a generalisation of equivariant
elliptic cohomology, where the group of equivariance gets replaced by
a fusion category. Finally, I will construct $C$-equivariant elliptic
cohomology when $C$ is a fusion category, and $R$ is a ring of
characteristc zero.

13 February 2017
Noah Snyder

The cobordism hypothesis gives a correspondence between the
framed local topological field theories with values in C and a fully
dualizable objects in C.  Changing framing gives an O(n) action on the
space of local TFTs, and hence by the cobordism hypothesis it gives a
(homotopy coherent) action of O(n) on the space of fully dualizable
objects in C.  One example of this phenomenon is that O(3) acts on the
space of fusion categories.  In fact, O(3) acts on the larger space of
finite tensor categories.  I'll describe this action explicitly and
discuss its relationship to the double dual, Radford's theorem,
pivotal structures, and spherical structures.  This is part of work in
progress joint with Chris Douglas and Chris Schommer-Pries.

6 February 2017
Mark Hagen

Given two actions of a group $G$ on trees $T_1,T_2$, Guirardel introduced the "core", a $G$--cocompact CAT(0) subspace of $T_1\times
T_2$.  The covolume of the core is a natural notion of "intersection number" for the two tree actions (for example, if $G$ is a surface group
and $T_1,T_2$ are Bass-Serre trees associated to splittings along some curves, this "intersection number" is the one you'd expect).  We
generalise this construction by considering a fixed finitely-presented group $G$ equipped with finitely many essential, cocompact actions on
CAT(0) cube complexes $X_1,...,X_d$.  Inside $X=X_1\times ... \times X_d$, we find a $G$--invariant subcomplex $C$ which, although not convex
or necessarily CAT(0), has each component isometrically embedded with respect to the $\ell_1$ metric on $X$ (the key point is this change from
the CAT(0) to the $\ell_1$ viewpoint).  In the case where $d=2$ and $X_1,X_2$ are simplicial trees, $C$ is the Guirardel core.  Many
features of the Guirardel core generalise, and I will summarise these. For example, if the cubulations $G\to Aut(X_i)$ are "essentially
different", then $C$ is connected and $G$--cocompact.  Time permitting, I will discuss an application, namely a new proof of Nielsen realisation
for finite subgroups of $Out(F_n)$.  This talk is based on ongoing joint work with Henry Wilton.

23 January 2017

Large-scale homology computations are often rendered tractable by discrete Morse theory. Every discrete Morse function on a given cell complex X produces a Morse chain complex whose chain groups are spanned by critical cells and whose homology is isomorphic to that of X. However, the space-level information is typically lost because very little is known about how critical cells are attached to each other. In this talk, we discretize a beautiful construction of Cohen, Jones and Segal in order to completely recover the homotopy type of X from an overlaid discrete Morse function.

16 January 2017
David Hume

Coarse embeddings occur completely naturally in geometric group theory: every finitely generated subgroup of a finitely generated group is coarsely embedded. Since even very nice classes of groups - hyperbolic groups or right-angled Artin groups for example - are known to have 'wild' collections of subgroups, there are precious few invariants that one may use to prove a statement of the form '$H$ does not coarsely embed into $G$' for two finitely generated groups $G,H$.
The growth function and the asymptotic dimension are two coarse invariants which which have been extensively studied, and a more recent invariant is the separation profile of Benjamini-Schramm-Timar.

In this talk I will describe a new spectrum of coarse invariants, which include both the separation profile and the growth function, and can be used to tackle many interesting problems, for instance: Does there exist a coarse embedding of the Baumslag-Solitar group $BS(1,2)$ or the lamplighter group $\mathbb{Z}_2\wr\mathbb{Z}$ into a hyperbolic group?

This is part of an ongoing collaboration with John Mackay and Romain Tessera.

28 November 2016
Simon Gritschacher

I will begin the talk by reviewing the definition of commutative K-theory, a generalized cohomology theory introduced by Adem and Gomez. It is a refinement of topological K-theory, where the transition functions of a vector bundle satisfy a commutativity condition. The theory is represented by an infinite loop space which is called a “classifying space for commutativity”.  I will describe the homotopy type of this infinite loop space. Then I will discuss the graded ring structure on its homotopy groups, which corresponds to the tensor product of vector bundles.

21 November 2016
Matthew Kahle

Configuration spaces of points in a manifold are well studied. Giving the points thickness has obvious physical meaning: the configuration space of non-overlapping particles is equivalent to the phase space, or energy landscape, of a hard spheres gas. But despite their intrinsic appeal, relatively little is known so far about the topology of such spaces. I will overview some recent work in this area, including a theorem with Yuliy Baryshnikov and Peter Bubenik that related the topology of these spaces to mechanically balanced, or jammed, configurations. I will also discuss work in progress with Robert MacPherson on hard disks in an infinite strip, where we understand the asymptotics of the Betti numbers as the number of disks tends to infinity. In the end, we see a kind of topological analogue of a liquid-gas phase transition.

14 November 2016
Daniele Celoria

(Joint work with Marco Golla and József Bodnár)
We will give a general overview of the plethora of concordance invariants which can be extracted from Ozsváth-Szabó-Rasmussen's knot Floer homology. 
We will then focus on the $\nu^+$ invariant and prove some of its useful properties. 
Furthermore we will show how it can be used to obstruct the existence of cobordisms between algebraic knots.

14 November 2016
Steffen Tillmann

I will report on joint work with Michael Weiss (

Let K be a subset of a smooth manifold M. In some cases, functor calculus methods lead to a homotopical formula for M \ K in terms of the spaces M \ S,  where S runs through the finite subsets of K. This is for example the case when K is a smooth compact sub manifold of co-dimension greater or equal to three.



7 November 2016
Richard Webb

A cornerstone of the study of mapping class groups is the
Nielsen--Thurston classification theorem. I will outline a
polynomial-time algorithm that determines the Nielsen--Thurston type and
the canonical curve system of a mapping class. Time permitting, I shall
describe a polynomial-time algorithm to compute the quotient orbifold of
a periodic mapping class, and I shall discuss the conjugacy problem for
the mapping class group. This is joint work with Mark Bell.