Special Colloquium

Thursday, November 30, 2023 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

Xujia Chen, Harvard University

"Why can Kontsevich's invariants detect exotic phenomena?"

In topology, the difference between the category of smooth manifolds and the category of topological manifolds has always been a delicate and intriguing problem, called the "exotic phenomena". The recent work of Watanabe (2018) uses the tool "Kontsevich's invariants" to show that the group of diffeomorphisms of the 4-dimensional ball, as a topological group, has non-trivial homotopy type. In contrast, the group of homeomorphisms of the 4-dimensional ball is contractible. Kontsevich's invariants, defined by Kontsevich in the early 1990s from perturbative Chern-Simons theory, are invariants of (certain) 3-manifolds / fiber bundles / knots and links (it is the same argument in different settings). Watanabe's work implies that these invariants detect exotic phenomena, and, since then, they have become an important tool in studying the topology of diffeomorphism groups. It is thus natural to ask: how to understand the role smooth structure plays in Kontsevich's invariants? My recent work provides a perspective on this question: the real blow-up operation essentially depends on the smooth structure, therefore, given a manifold / fiber bundle X, the topology of some manifolds / bundles obtained by doing some real blow-ups on X can be different for different smooth structures on X.

Zoom link: https://uwaterloo.zoom.us/j/2433704471?pwd=aXJoSDh0NDF0aFREbkthSnFBOUI4UT09