Polytopes, dualities, and Floer homology

This article is an exposition of a body of existing results, together with an announcement of recent results. We discuss a theory of polytopes associated to bipartite graphs and trinities, developed by Kálmán, Postnikov and others. This theory exhibits a variety of interesting duality and triality relations, and extends into knot theory, 3-manifold topology and Floer homology. In recent joint work with Kálmán, we extend this story into contact topology and contact invariants in sutured Floer homology.

Strand algebras and contact categories

We demonstrate an isomorphism between the homology of the strand algebra of bordered Floer homology, and the category algebra of the contact category introduced by Honda. This isomorphism provides a direct correspondence between various notions of Floer homology and arc diagrams, on the one hand, and contact geometry and topology on the other. In particular, arc diagrams correspond to quadrangulated surfaces, idempotents correspond to certain basic dividing sets, strand diagrams correspond to contact structures, and multiplication of strand diagrams corresponds to stacking of contact structures. The contact structures considered are cubulated, and the cubes are shown to behave equivalently to local fragments of strand diagrams.

Counting curves on surfaces

Joint with Norman Do and Musashi Koyama.

In this paper we consider an elementary, and largely unexplored, combinatorial problem in low-dimensional topology. Consider a real 2-dimensional compact surface S, and fix a number of points F on its boundary. We ask: how many configurations of disjoint arcs are there on S whose boundary is F?

We find that this enumerative problem, counting curves on surfaces, has a rich structure. For instance, we show that the curve counts obey an effective recursion, in the general framework of topological recursion. Moreover, they exhibit quasi-polynomial behaviour.

This “elementary curve-counting” is in fact related to a more advanced notion of “curve-counting” from algebraic geometry or symplectic geometry. The asymptotics of this enumerative problem are closely related to the asymptotics of volumes of moduli spaces of curves, and the quasi-polynomials governing the enumerative problem encode intersection numbers on moduli spaces. Furthermore, among several other results, we show that generating functions and differential forms for these curve counts exhibit structure that is reminiscent of the mathematical physics of free energies, partition functions, topological recursion, and quantum curves.

Strings, fermions and the topology of curves on annuli

In previous work with Schoenfeld, we considered a string-type chain complex of curves on surfaces, with differential given by resolving crossings, and computed the homology of this complex for discs.

In this paper we consider the corresponding “string homology” of annuli. We find this homology has a rich algebraic structure which can be described, in various senses, as fermionic. While for discs we found an isomorphism between string homology and the sutured Floer homology of a related 3-manifold, in the case of annuli we find the relationship is more complex, with string homology containing further higher-order structure.

Topological recursion and a quantum curve for monotone Hurwitz numbers

Joint with Norman Do and Alastair Dyer.

Classical Hurwitz numbers count branched covers of the Riemann sphere with prescribed ramification data, or equivalently, factorisations in the symmetric group with prescribed cycle structure data. Monotone Hurwitz numbers restrict the enumeration by imposing a further monotonicity condition on such factorisations. In this paper, we prove that monotone Hurwitz numbers arise from the topological recursion of Eynard and Orantin applied to a particular spectral curve. We furthermore derive a quantum curve for monotone Hurwitz numbers. These results extend the collection of enumerative problems known to be governed by the paradigm of topological recursion and quantum curves, as well as the list of analogues between monotone Hurwitz numbers and their classical counterparts.

Twisty itsy bitsy topological field theory

We extend the topological field theory (“itsy bitsy topological field theory”‘) of our previous work from mod-2 to twisted coefficients. This topological field theory is derived from sutured Floer homology but described purely in terms of surfaces with signed points on their boundary (occupied surfaces) and curves on those surfaces respecting signs (sutures). It has information-theoretic (“itsy”) and quantum-field-theoretic (“bitsy”) aspects. In the process we extend some results of sutured Floer homology, consider associated ribbon graph structures, and construct explicit admissible Heegaard decompositions.

Contact topology and holomorphic invariants via elementary combinatorics

In recent times a great amount of progress has been achieved in symplectic and contact geometry, leading to the development of powerful invariants of 3-manifolds such as Heegaard Floer homology and embedded contact homology. These invariants are based on holomorphic curves and moduli spaces, but in the simplest cases, some of their structure reduces to some elementary combinatorics and algebra which may be of interest in its own right. In this note, which is essentially a light-hearted exposition of some previous work of the author, we give a brief introduction to some of the ideas of contact topology and holomorphic curves, discuss some of these elementary results, and indicate how they arise from holomorphic invariants.

Dimensionally-reduced sutured Floer homology as a string homology

Joint with Eric Schoenfeld.

We show that the sutured Floer homology of a sutured 3-manifold of the form [latex](D^2 \times S^1, F \times S^1)[/latex] can be expressed as the homology of a string-type complex, generated by certain sets of curves on [latex](D^2, F)[/latex] and with a differential given by resolving crossings. We also give some generalisations of this isomorphism, computing “hat” and “infinity” versions of this string homology. In addition to giving interesting elementary facts about the algebra of curves on surfaces, these isomorphisms are inspired by, and establish further, connections between invariants from Floer homology and string topology.