# Portal:Mathematics

## The Mathematics Portal

Mathematics is the study of representing and reasoning about abstract objects (such as numbers, points, spaces, sets, structures, and games). Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered. (Full article...)

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An animation showing how an obliquely cut torus reveals a pair of intersecting circles known as Villarceau circles, named after the French astronomer and mathematician Yvon Villarceau. These are two of the four circles that can be drawn through any given point on the torus. (The other two are oriented horizontally and vertically, and are the analogs of lines of latitude and longitude drawn through the given point.) The circles have no known practical application and seem to be merely a curious characteristic of the torus. However, Villarceau circles appear as the fibers in the Hopf fibration of the 3-sphere over the ordinary 2-sphere, and the Hopf fibration itself has interesting connections to fluid dynamics, particle physics, and quantum theory.

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Knot theory is the branch of topology that studies mathematical knots, which are defined as embeddings of a circle S1 in 3-dimensional Euclidean space, R3. This is basically equivalent to a conventional knotted string with the ends of the string joined together to prevent it from becoming undone. Two mathematical knots are considered equivalent if one can be transformed into the other via continuous deformations (known as ambient isotopies); these transformations correspond to manipulations of a knotted string that do not involve cutting the string or passing the string through itself.

Knots can be described in various ways, but the most common method is by planar diagrams (known as knot projections or knot diagrams). Given a method of description, a knot will have many descriptions, e.g., many diagrams, representing it. A fundamental problem in knot theory is determining when two descriptions represent the same knot. One way of distinguishing knots is by using a knot invariant, a "quantity" which remains the same even with different descriptions of a knot.

Research in knot theory began with the creation of knot tables and the systematic tabulation of knots. While tabulation remains an important task, today's researchers have a wide variety of backgrounds and goals. Classical knot theory, as initiated by Max Dehn, J. W. Alexander, and others, is primarily concerned with the knot group and invariants from homology theory such as the Alexander polynomial.

The discovery of the Jones polynomial by Vaughan Jones in 1984, and subsequent contributions from Edward Witten, Maxim Kontsevich, and others, revealed deep connections between knot theory and mathematical methods in statistical mechanics and quantum field theory. A plethora of knot invariants have been invented since then, utilizing sophisticated tools as quantum groups and Floer homology. (Full article...)

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