A symplectic basis for 3-manifold triangulations

In the 1980s, Neumann and Zagier introduced a symplectic vector space associated to an ideal triangulation of a cusped 3-manifold, such as a knot complement. We give a geometric interpretation for this symplectic structure in terms of the topology of the 3-manifold, via intersections of certain curves on a Heegaard surface. We also give an algorithm to construct curves forming a symplectic basis.

A-polynomials, Ptolemy varieties and Dehn filling

The A-polynomial encodes hyperbolic geometric information on knots and related manifolds. Historically, it has been difficult to compute, and particularly difficult to determine A-polynomials of infinite families of knots. Here, we show how to compute A-polynomials by starting with a triangulation of a manifold, similar to Champanerkar, then using symplectic properties of the Neumann-Zagier matrix encoding the gluings to change the basis of the computation. The result is a simplicifation of the defining equations. Our methods are a refined version of Dimofte’s symplectic reduction, and we conjecture that the result is equivalent to equations arising from the enhanced Ptolemy variety of Zickert, which would connect these different approaches to the A-polynomial.

We apply this method to families of manifolds obtained by Dehn filling, and show that the defining equations of their A-polynomials are Ptolemy equations which, up to signs, are equations between cluster variables in the cluster algebra of the cusp torus. Thus the change in A-polynomial under Dehn filling is given by an explicit twisted cluster algebra. We compute the equations for Dehn fillings of the Whitehead link.

A-infinity algebras, strand algebras, and contact categories

In previous work we showed that the contact category algebra of a quadrangulated surface is isomorphic to the homology of a strand algebra from bordered Floer theory. Being isomorphic to the homology of a differential graded algebra, this contact category algebra has an A-infinity structure. In this paper we investigate such A-infinity structures in detail. We give explicit constructions of such A-infinity structures, and establish some of their properties, including conditions for the nonvanishing of A-infinity operations. Along the way we develop several related notions, including a detailed consideration of tensor products of strand diagrams.

Tight contact structures on Seifert surface complements

We consider complements of standard Seifert surfaces of special alternating links. On these handlebodies, we use Honda’s method to enumerate those tight contact structures whose dividing sets are isotopic to the link, and find their number to be the leading coefficient of the Alexander polynomial. The Euler classes of the contact structures are identified with hypertrees in a certain hypergraph. Using earlier work, this establishes a connection between contact topology and the Homfly polynomial. We also show that the contact invariants of our tight contact structures form a basis for sutured Floer homology. Finally, we relate our methods and results to Kauffman’s formal knot theory.

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.