The untwisting number of a knot
Ince, Kenan A
Doctor of Philosophy
The unknotting number of a knot is the minimum number of crossings one must change to turn that knot into the unknot. The algebraic unknotting number is the minimum number of crossing changes needed to transform a knot into an Alexander polynomial-one knot. We work with a generalization of unknotting number due to Mathieu-Domergue, which we call the untwisting number. The p-untwisting number is the minimum number (over all diagrams of a knot) of full twists on at most 2p strands of a knot, with half of the strands oriented in each direction, necessary to transform that knot into the unknot. First, we show that the algebraic untwisting number is equal to the algebraic unknotting number. However, we also exhibit several families of knots for which the difference between the unknotting and untwisting numbers is arbitrarily large, even when we only allow twists on a fixed number of strands or fewer. Second, we show that a common route for obstructing low unknotting number, the Montesinos trick, does not generalize to the untwisting number. However, we use a different approach to get conditions on the Heegaard Floer correction terms of the branched double cover of a knot with untwisting number one. This allows us to show that several 10-and 11-crossing knots cannot be unknotted by a single positive or negative generalized crossing change. We also use the Ozsváth-Szabó tau invariant and the Rasmussen s invariant to differentiate between the p- and q-untwisting numbers for certain p and q.