What the mathematics of knots reveals about the shape of the universe

Sybillla/Shutterstock

Sybillla/Shutterstock

The following is an extract from our Lost in Space-Time newsletter. Each month, we hand over the keyboard to a physicist or mathematician to tell you about fascinating ideas from their corner of the universe. You can sign up for Lost in Space-Time for free here.

The mathematical study of knots started with a mistake. In the 1800s, mathematician and physicist William Thomson, also known as Lord Kelvin, suggested that the elemental building blocks of matter were knotted vortices in the ether: invisible microscopic currents in the background…


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