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Unknotting Tunnels and Seifert Surfaces

  • Martin Scharlemann (a1) and Abigail Thompson (a2)

Abstract

Let $K$ be a knot with an unknotting tunnel $\gamma$ and suppose that $K$ is not a $2$-bridge knot. There is an invariant $\rho = p/q \in \mathbb{Q}/2 \mathbb{Z}$, with $p$ odd, defined for the pair $(K, \gamma)$.

The invariant $\rho$ has interesting geometric properties. It is often straightforward to calculate; for example, for $K$ a torus knot and $\gamma$ an annulus-spanning arc, $\rho(K, \gamma) = 1$. Although $\rho$ is defined abstractly, it is naturally revealed when $K \cup \gamma$ is put in thin position. If $\rho \neq 1$ then there is a minimal-genus Seifert surface $F$ for $K$ such that the tunnel $\gamma$ can be slid and isotoped to lie on $F$. One consequence is that if $\rho(K, \gamma) \neq 1$ then $\mathrm{genus}(K) > 1$. This confirms a conjecture of Goda and Teragaito for pairs $(K, \gamma)$ with $\rho(K, \gamma) \neq 1$.

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Research supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation. The second author also gratefully acknowledges the support of the von Neumann Fund and the Weyl Fund through the Institute for Advanced Study.

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Keywords

Unknotting Tunnels and Seifert Surfaces

  • Martin Scharlemann (a1) and Abigail Thompson (a2)

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