What is index theory? 12:10 Tue 21 Mar, 2017 :: Inkgarni Wardli 5.57 :: Dr Peter Hochs :: School of Mathematical Sciences
Index theory is a link between topology, geometry and analysis. A typical theorem in index theory says that two numbers are equal: an analytic index and a topological index. The first theorem of this kind was the index theorem of Atiyah and Singer, which they proved in 1963. Index theorems have many applications in maths and physics. For example, they can be used to prove that a differential equation must have a solution. Also, they imply that the topology of a space like a sphere or a torus determines in what ways it can be curved. Topology is the study of geometric properties that do not change if we stretch or compress a shape without cutting or glueing. Curvature does change when we stretch something out, so it is surprising that topology can say anything about curvature. Index theory has many surprising consequences like this.