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Così simili eppure così diversi!

Così simili eppure così diversi!

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Una giovane matematica statunitense, Lisa Piccirillo, ha risolto in breve tempo un importante problema topologico nel campo della teoria dei nodi e relativo al cosiddetto nodo di Conway. Ne parlano Quanta Magazine e MaddMaths!. Lo studio della Piccirillo è stato pubblicato nel febbraio scorso sulla prestigiosa rivista Annals of Mathematics.

In the summer of 2018, at a conference on low-dimensional topology and geometry, Lisa Piccirillo heard about a nice little math problem. It seemed like a good testing ground for some techniques she had been developing as a graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin.

“I didn’t allow myself to work on it during the day,” she said, “because I didn’t consider it to be real math. I thought it was, like, my homework.”

The question asked whether the Conway knot — a snarl discovered more than half a century ago by the legendary mathematician John Horton Conway — is a slice of a higher-dimensional knot. “Sliceness” is one of the first natural questions knot theorists ask about knots in higher-dimensional spaces, and mathematicians had been able to answer it for all of the thousands of knots with 12 or fewer crossings — except one. The Conway knot, which has 11 crossings, had thumbed its nose at mathematicians for decades.

Before the week was out, Piccirillo had an answer: The Conway knot is not “slice.” A few days later, she met with Cameron Gordon, a professor at UT Austin, and casually mentioned her solution.

“I said, ‘What?? That’s going to the Annals right now!’” Gordon said, referring to Annals of Mathematics, one of the discipline’s top journals.


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