In mathematical language, a knot is an embedding of a circle in 3-dimensional Euclidean space, R3 (in topology, a circle isn’t bound to the classical geometric concept, but to all of its homeomorphisms).

Two mathematical knots are equivalent if one can be transformed into the other via a deformation of R3 upon itself; these transformations correspond to manipulations of a knotted string that do not involve cutting it or passing through itself.

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A knot in three dimensions can be untied when placed in four-dimensional space. This is done by changing crossings. Suppose one strand is behind another as seen from a chosen point. Lift it into the fourth dimension, so there is no obstacle (the front strand having no component there); then slide it forward, and drop it back, now in front.

Analogies for the plane would be lifting a string up off the surface, or removing a dot from inside a circle.

Knots can be described in various ways. Using different description methods, there may be more than one description of the same knot. For example, a common method of describing a knot is a planar diagram called a knot diagram, in which any knot can be drawn in many different ways.

Therefore, a fundamental problem in knot theory is determining when two descriptions represent the same knot.

A complete algorithmic solution to this problem exists, which has unknown complexity. In practice, knots are often distinguished using a knot invariant, a “quantity” which is the same when computed from different descriptions of a knot. Important invariants include knot polynomials, knot groups, and hyperbolic invariants.

The original motivation for the founders of knot theory was to create a table of knots and links, which are knots of several components entangled with each other. More than six billion knots and links have been tabulated since the beginnings of knot theory in the 19th century.

To gain further insight, mathematicians have generalized the knot concept in several ways. Knots can be considered in other three-dimensional spaces and objects other than circles can be used.

Higher-dimensional knots are n-dimensional spheres in m-dimensional Euclidean space.

A knot in three dimensions can be untied when placed in four-dimensional space. This is done by changing crossings. Suppose one strand is behind another as seen from a chosen point. Lift it into the fourth dimension, so there is no obstacle (the front strand having no component there); then slide it forward, and drop it back, now in front.

Analogies for the plane would be lifting a string up off the surface, or removing a dot from inside a circle.

Knots can be described in various ways. Using different description methods, there may be more than one description of the same knot. For example, a common method of describing a knot is a planar diagram called a knot diagram, in which any knot can be drawn in many different ways.

Therefore, a fundamental problem in knot theory is determining when two descriptions represent the same knot.

A complete algorithmic solution to this problem exists, which has unknown complexity. In practice, knots are often distinguished using a knot invariant, a “quantity” which is the same when computed from different descriptions of a knot. Important invariants include knot polynomials, knot groups, and hyperbolic invariants.

The original motivation for the founders of knot theory was to create a table of knots and links, which are knots of several components entangled with each other. More than six billion knots and links have been tabulated since the beginnings of knot theory in the 19th century.

To gain further insight, mathematicians have generalized the knot concept in several ways. Knots can be considered in other three-dimensional spaces and objects other than circles can be used.

Higher-dimensional knots are n-dimensional spheres in m-dimensional Euclidean space.

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