We present a programme towards a combinatorial language for higher (stratified) Morse-Cerf theory. Our starting point will be the interpretation of a Morse function as a constructible bundle (of manifolds) over R^1. Generalising this, we describe a surprising combinatorial classification of constructible bundles on flag foliated R^n (the latter structure of a "flag foliation” is needed for us to capture the notions of "singularities of higher Morse-Cerf functions" independently of differentiable structure). We remark that flag foliations can also be seen to provide a notion of directed topology and in this sense higher Morse-Cerf singularities are closely related to coherences in higher category theory. The main result we will present is the algorithmic decidability of existence of mutual refinements of constructible bundles. Using this result, we discuss how "combinatorial stratified higher Morse-Cerf theory" opens up novel paths to the computational treatment of interesting questions in manifold topology.

# Past Topology Seminar

The tunnel number of a graph embedded in a 3-dimensional manifold is the fewest number of arcs needed so that the union of the graph with the arcs has handlebody exterior. The behavior of tunnel number with respect to connected sum of knots can vary dramatically, depending on the knots involved. However, a classical theorem of Scharlemann and Schultens says that the tunnel number of a composite knot is at least the number of factors. For theta graphs, trivalent vertex sum is the operation which most closely resembles the connected sum of knots. The analogous theorem of Scharlemann and Schultens no longer holds, however. I will provide a sharp lower bound for the tunnel number of composite theta graphs, using recent work on a new knot invariant which is additive under connected sum and trivalent vertex sum. This is joint work with Maggy Tomova.

I will give a brief survey of some problems in curvature free geometry and sketch

a new proof of the following:

Theorem (Guth). There is some $\delta (n)>0$ such that if $(M^n,g)$ is a closed aspherical Riemannian manifold and $V(R)$ is the volume of the largest ball of radius $R$ in the universal cover of $M$, then $V(R)\geq \delta(n)R^n$ for all $R$.

I will also discuss some recent related questions and results.

The relationship between the large-scale geometry of a group and its algebraic structure can be studied via three notions: a group's quasi-isometry class, a group's abstract commensurability class, and geometric actions on proper geodesic metric spaces. A common model geometry for groups G and G' is a proper geodesic metric space on which G and G' act geometrically. A group G is action rigid if every group G' that has a common model geometry with G is abstractly commensurable to G. For example, a closed hyperbolic n-manifold group is not action rigid for all n at least three. In contrast, we show that free products of closed hyperbolic manifold groups are action rigid. Consequently, we obtain the first examples of Gromov hyperbolic groups that are quasi-isometric but do not virtually have a common model geometry. This is joint work with Daniel Woodhouse.

For a semisimple modular tensor category the Reshetikhin-Turaev construction yields an extended three-dimensional topological field theory and hence by restriction a modular functor. By work of Lyubachenko-Majid the construction of a modular functor from a modular tensor category remains possible in the non-semisimple case. We explain that the latter construction is the shadow of a derived modular functor featuring homotopy coherent mapping class group actions on chain complex valued conformal blocks and a version of factorization and self-sewing via homotopy coends. On the torus we find a derived version of the Verlinde algebra, an algebra over the little disk operad (or more generally a little bundles algebra in the case of equivariant field theories). The concepts will be illustrated for modules over the Drinfeld double of a finite group in finite characteristic. This is joint work with Christoph Schweigert (Hamburg).

Knots and their groups are a traditional topic of geometric topology. In this talk, I will explain how aspects of the subject can be approached as a homotopy theorist, rephrasing old results and leading to new ones. Part of this reports on joint work with Tyler Lawson.

(joint work with E. Piguet-Nakazawa)

In 2014, Andersen and Kashaev defined an infinite-dimensional TQFT from quantum Teichmüller theory. This Teichmüller TQFT is an invariant of triangulated 3-manifolds, in particular knot complements.

The associated volume conjecture states that the Teichmüller TQFT of an hyperbolic knot complement contains the volume of the knot as a certain asymptotical coefficient, and Andersen-Kashaev proved this conjecture for the first two hyperbolic knots.

In this talk I will present the construction of the Teichmüller TQFT and how we approached this volume conjecture for the infinite family of twist knots, by constructing new geometric triangulations of the knot complements.

No prerequisites in Quantum Topology are needed.

This is a report on work in progress with Jingyin Huang. The complement of an arrangement of linear hyperplanes in a complex vector space has a natural “Borel-Serre bordification” as a smooth manifold with corners. Its universal cover is analogous to the Borel-Serre bordification of an arithmetic lattice acting on a symmetric space as well as to the Harvey bordification of Teichmuller space. In the first case the boundary of this bordification is homotopy equivalent to a spherical building; in the second case it is homotopy equivalent to curve complex of the surface. In the case of a reflection arrangement the boundary of its universal cover is the “curve complex” of the corresponding spherical Artin group. By definition this is the simplicial complex of all conjugates of proper, irreducible, spherical parabolic subgroups in the Artin group. A cohomological method is used to show that the curve complex of a spherical Artin group has the homotopy type of a wedge of spheres.

For any word w in a free group of rank r>0, and any compact group G, w induces a `word map' from G^r to G by substitutions of elements of G for the letters of w. We may also choose the r elements of G independently with respect to Haar measure on G, and then apply the word map. This gives a random element of G whose distribution depends on w. An interesting observation is that this distribution doesn't change if we change w by an automorphism of the free group. It is a wide open question whether the measures induced by w on compact groups determine w up to automorphisms.

My talk will be mostly about the case G = U(n), the n by n complex unitary matrices. The technical tool we use is a precise formula for the moments of the distribution induced by w on U(n). In the formula, there is a surprising appearance of concepts from infinite group theory, more specifically, Euler characteristics of mapping class groups of surfaces. I'll explain how our formula allows us to make progress on the question described above.

This is joint work with Doron Puder (Tel Aviv).

A group is said to satisfy the Tits Alternative if its finitely generated subgroups exhibit a striking dichotomy: they are either "big" (they contain a non-abelian free subgroup) or "small" (they are virtually soluble). Many groups of geometric interest have been shown to satisfy the Tits Alternative: linear groups, mapping class groups of hyperbolic surfaces, etc. In this talk, I will explain how one can use ideas from group actions in negative curvature to prove such a dichotomy. In particular, I will show how one can prove a strengthening of the Tits Alternative for a large class of Artin groups. This is joint work with Piotr Przytycki.