Topology and geometry: extremal and typical

A Zoom seminar

This is an online seminar for the COVID era organized by Fedya Manin and Shmuel Weinberger. It will focus on whatever interests us, but mainly quantitative questions in geometry and topology.

Zoom links are distributed via a mailing list. Please sign up if you would like to attend.

Confirmed speakers include:

Schedule and abstracts

The seminar will run on Mondays, roughly biweekly. Unless otherwise specified, the talks will be at noon Eastern Time, which (for now) is: Our apologies to friends in Australia and East Asia for whom this is a terrible time.

Expand the items in this list to see abstracts.

August 17, 2020:
Robert Young (NYU)

How do you build a complicated surface? How can you decompose a surface into simple pieces? Understanding how to construct an object can help you understand how to break it down. In this talk, we will present some constructions and decompositions of surfaces based on uniform rectifiability. We will use these decompositions to study problems in geometric measure theory and metric geometry, such as how to measure the nonorientability of a surface and how to optimize an embedding of the Heisenberg group into L1 (joint with Assaf Naor).

August 31, 2020:
Panos Papasoglu (Oxford)

The Uryson width of an n-manifold gives a way to describe how closely it resembles an $(n-1)$-dimensional complex. It turns out that this is a useful tool to approach several geometric problems.

In this talk we will give a brief survey of some questions in ‘curvature-free’ geometry and sketch a novel approach to the classical systolic inequality of Gromov. Our approach follows up recent work of Guth relating Uryson width and local volume growth. For example we deduce also the following result of Guth: there is an $\epsilon_n>0$ such that for any $R>0$ and any compact aspherical n-manifold M there is a ball B(R)$ of radius R in the universal cover of M such that $\operatorname{vol}(B(R))\geq \epsilon_n R^n$.

September 14, 2020:
Mark Pengitore (Ohio State)

In this talk, we will relate homological filling functions and the existence of coarse embeddings. In particular, we will demonstrate that a coarse embedding of a group into a group of geometric dimension 2 induces an inequality on homological Dehn functions in dimension 2. As an application of this, we are able to show that if a finitely presented group coarsely embeds into a hyperbolic group of geometric dimension 2, then it is hyperbolic. Another application is a characterization of subgroups of groups with quadratic Dehn function. If there is enough time, we will talk about various higher dimensional generalizations of our main result.

September 21, 2020 (note odd week):
Alexey Balitskiy (MIT)

The Urysohn d-width of a metric space quantifies how well it can be approximated by a d-dimensional simplicial complex. We discuss various questions of the following flavor: how does knowledge of the width of certain pieces of a riemannian manifold help us to estimate the total width of the whole manifold? Here are two examples.

  1. A waist-type inequality: If the euclidean 3-ball is sliced into a 1-parametric family of (possibly singular) surfaces with $\operatorname{rank} H_1 \le b$ then at least one of them has 1-width at least ~1/b (so it's "essentially 2-dimensional").
  2. The width can behave counterintuitively: it can happen that an n-manifold has substantial $(n-1)$-width but all its unit balls are "almost 1-dimensional" (that is, of small 1-width).
Based on joint work with Sasha Berdnikov.

October 12, 2020:
Rina Rotman (Toronto)

I am planning to present the following result of mine: Let $M^n$ be a closed Riemannian manifold of dimension n and $\operatorname{Ric} \geq (n-1)$. Then the length of a shortest periodic geodesic can be at most $8\pi n$.

The technique involves quantitative Morse theory on loop spaces. We will discuss some related results in geometry of loop spaces on Riemannian manifolds.

October 26, 2020:
Radmila Sazdanović (NCSU)

A multitude of knot invariants, including quantum invariants and their categorifications, have been introduced to aid with characterizing and classifying knots and their topological properties. Relations between knot invariants and their relative strengths at distinguishing knots are still mostly elusive. We use Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Ball Mapper, and machine learning to examine the structure of data consisting of various polynomial knot invariants and the relations between them. Although of different origins, these methods confirm and illuminate similar substructures in knot data. These approaches also enable comparison between numerical invariants of knots such as the signature and s-invariant via their distribution within the Alexander and Jones polynomial data. Although this work focuses on knot theory the ideas presented can be applied to other areas of pure mathematics and possibly in data science. The hybrid approach introduced here can be useful for infinite data sets where representative sampling is impossible or impractical.

November 9, 2020:
Alex Nabutovsky (Toronto)

We will discuss the isoperimetric inequality for Hausdorff content and compact metric spaces in (possibly infinite-dimensional) Banach spaces. We will also discuss some of its implications for systolic geometry, in particular, systolic inequalities of a new type that are true for much wider classes of non-simply connected Riemannian manifolds than Gromov’s classical systolic inequality.

Joint work with Y. Liokumovich, B. Lishak, and R. Rotman.

November 23, 2020:
Dima Burago (Penn State)

This is not quite a research talk. This is a collection of problems (in random order). Some of them arose from my research (often with collaborators), some are known or folklore known, and there is some progress in our work. The problems are followed by comments which often contain announcements of recent results of mine (with co-authors) and brief discussions. At many places, I may be rather vague and also omit known definitions and discussions of known results.

December 7, 2020:
Sahana Vasudevan (MIT), TBA

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