Decision problems, curvature and topology

Martin Birdson
Tue, Jul 7, 2015
PIMS, University of British Columbia
PIMS Symposium on the Geometry and Topology of Manifolds
I shall discuss a range of problems in which groups mediate between topological/geometric constructions and algorithmic problems elsewhere in mathematics, with impact in both directions. I shall begin with a discussion of sphere recognition in different dimensions. I'll explain why there is no algorithm that can determine if a compact homology sphere of dimension 5 or more has a non-trivial finite-sheeted covering. I'll sketch how ideas coming from the study of CAT(0) cube complexes were used by Henry Wilton and me to settle isomorphism problems for profinite groups, and to settle a conjecture in combinatorics concerning the extension problem for sets of partial permutations.