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Knots (and the Universe?)


Cynthia Curtis
The College of New Jersey

May 20, 2013
4:30 pm
Bailey Hall 207

Refreshments will be served in Bailey Hall 204 at 4:15


All of us have been frustrated by a badly knotted shoelace. In fact, though, any knot in a shoelace can be untied since the ends are loose. A mathematical knot is a knot in an (infinitely thin) string with the ends glued together to make a knotted loop, so that the knot cannot be untied. Mathematicians use techniques from linear algebra, combinatorics, abstract algebra, and geometry to try to recognize when two knots are truly different, meaning that one cannot be moved about in space to look like the other. It turns out that it is very difficult to tell whether a given knot is actually unknotted! I will explain how mathematicians use crayons, matrices, and polynomials to help show that two knots are different. Knot theory has applications in biology, chemistry, statistical mechanics, and mathematics. If there is interest, I will end my talk by explaining why understanding knots is important to understanding the shape of our universe.

For additional information, send e-mail to math@union.edu or call (518) 388-6246.
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