I will report on a joint project with Frank Swenton whose goal is to develop an algorithm to determine whether an alternating knot is ribbon. We can’t do this yet but we have an algorithm that has been remarkably, and indeed mysteriously, successful in finding a great deal of new slice knots.

# Past Topology Seminar

The Monster Lie algebra m, which admits an action of the Monster finite simple group M, was constructed by Borcherds as part of his program to solve the Conway-Norton conjecture about the representation theory of M. We associate the analog of a Lie group G(m) to the Monster Lie algebra m. We give generators for large free subgroups and we describe relations in G(m).

This talk concerns a twenty-thousand-year old mistake: The natural numbers record only the result of counting and not the process of counting. As algebra is rooted in the natural numbers, the higher algebra of Joyal and Lurie is rooted in a more basic notion of number which also records the process of counting. Long advocated by Waldhausen, the arithmetic of these more basic numbers should eliminate denominators. Notable manifestations of this vision include the Bökstedt-Hsiang-Madsen topological cyclic homology, which receives a denominator-free Chern character, and the related Bhatt-Morrow-Scholze integral p-adic Hodge theory, which makes it possible to exploit torsion cohomology classes in arithmetic geometry. Moreover, for schemes smooth and proper over a finite field, the analogue of de Rham cohomology in this setting naturally gives rise to a cohomological interpretation of the Hasse-Weil zeta function by regularized determinants as envisioned by Deninger.

Fix a loop group LG, a level k∈ℕ, and let Repᵏ(LG) be corresponding category of positive energy representations.

For any pair of pants Σ (with complex structure in the interior and parametrized boundary), there is an associated functor Repᵏ(LG) × Repᵏ(LG) → Repᵏ(LG): (H,K) ↦ H⊠K, called the fusion product.

It had been widely expected (but never proven) that this operation should be unitary. Namely, that the choice of LG-invariant inner products on H and on K should induce an LG-invariant inner product on H⊠K. We show that this is not the case: there is an anomaly.

More precisely, there is an ℝ₊-torsor canonically associated to Σ. It is only after trivialising of this ℝ₊-torsor that the fusion product acquires an LG-invariant inner product. (The same statement applies when Σ is an arbitrary Riemann surface with boundary.)

Joint work with James Tener.

In this talk I will construct a reduced tensor product of braided fusion categories containing a symmetric fusion category $\mathcal{A}$. This tensor product takes into account the relative braiding with respect to objects of $\mathcal{A}$ in these braided fusion categories. The resulting category is again a braided fusion category containing $\mathcal{A}$. This tensor product is inspired by the tensor product of $G$-equivariant once-extended three-dimensional quantum field theories, for a finite group $G$.

To define this reduced tensor product, we equip the Drinfeld centre $\mathcal{Z}(\mathcal{A})$ of the symmetric fusion category $\mathcal{A}$ with an unusual tensor product, making $\mathcal{Z}(\mathcal{A})$ into a 2-fold monoidal category. Using this 2-fold structure, we introduce a new type of category enriched over the Drinfeld centre to capture the braiding behaviour with respect to $\mathcal{A}$ in the braided fusion categories, and use this encoding to define the reduced tensor product.

I will discuss ongoing work aimed at constructing higher categories of (enriched) higher categories. This should give the appropriate targets for many interesting examples of extended topological quantum field theories, including extended versions of the classical examples of TQFTs due to Turaev-Viro, Reshetikhin-Turaev, etc.

Klarrich showed that the Gromov boundary of the curve complex of a hyperbolic surface is homeomorphic to the space of ending laminations on that surface. Independent results of Bestvina-Reynolds and Hamenstädt give an analogous statement for the free factor graph of a free group, where the space of ending laminations is replaced with a space of equivalence classes of arational trees. I will give an introduction to these objects and describe some joint work with Bestvina and Horbez, where we show that the Gromov boundary of the free factor graph for a free group of rank N has topological dimension at most 2N-2.

Let \Gamma_{g,1} denote the mapping class group of a genus g surface with one parametrized boundary component. The group homology H_i(\Gamma_{g,1}) is independent of g, as long as g is large compared to i, by a famous theorem of Harer known as homological stability, now known to hold when 2g > 3i. Outside that range, the relative homology groups H_i(\Gamma_{g,1},\Gamma_{g-1,1}) contain interesting information about the failure of homological stability. In this talk, I will discuss a metastability result; the relative groups depend only on the number k = 2g-3i, as long as g is large compared to k. This is joint work with Alexander Kupers and Oscar Randal-Williams.

The smooth homotopy category is a simultaneous enlargement of the usual homotopy category and of the category of smooth manifolds. Its structure can be described very simply and explicitly by a version of van Est's theorem. It provides us with an interpolation between topology and geometry (and with a toy model of derived algebraic geometry and motivic homotopy theory, though I shall not pursue those directions). My talk will list some situations which the category seems to illuminate: one will be Kapranov's beautiful description of the Lie algebra of the 'group' of based loops in a manifold.