Link Invariants
Examples
Related concepts
In 1928, J. W. Alexander published a paper “Topological Invariants of Knots and Links” in which he defined a polynomial invariant of knots and developed new insights including the braid relations. There are several ways to look at these invariants, some of these use the knot group previously defined by Max Dehn, but there are also various combinatorial methods derived from Alexander’s original one. One of the best known methods is via Fox derivatives and is described in the classical text by Richard Crowell and Ralph Fox.
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Consider some 3-manifold given as a surface fiber bundle over the circle (notice the virtually fibered conjecture). For a fiber surface $T$, the translation of the fibre around the base-space circle determines an element in the mapping-class group of $T$, a homeomorphism $h\colon T \to T$ well defined up to isotopy; this element is called the holonomy of the fiber surface; the Alexander polynomial is the characteristic polynomial of the map the holonomy induces on $H_1(T)$.
See Sikora 01, analogy 2.2 (10)) for the comparison in arithmetic topology, where Alexander-Fox theory is the analog of Iwasawa theory (Morishita, section 7).
In Remark 3.3 of Sugiyama 04, the Alexander polynomial is described as the L-function of the knot complement, taken there with the trivial represenation. As such it resembles the local zeta function of a curve.
R. H. Crowell and R. H. Fox, Introduction to Knot Theory, Springer, Graduate Texts 57, 1963.
Various approaches to the Alexander polynomial are described in introductory texts such as
N. D. Gilbert and T. Porter, Knots and Surfaces, Oxford U.P., 1994.
John Stallings, Constructions of fibered knots and links, Proceedings of Symposia in Pure Mathematics, Volume 32,1987 (pdf)
An analogue in number theory is Iwasawa polynomial. Cf. for number theoretic analogies
Barry Mazur, Remarks on the Alexander polynomial, pdf
Masanori Morishita, Analogies between Knots and Primes, 3-Manifolds and Number Rings, (arxiv)
Masanori Morishita, Knots and primes: an introduction to arithmetic topology, Springer 2012, chapter 12
Ken-ichi Sugiyama, The properties of an L-function from a geometric point of view, 2007 pdf
Ken-ichi Sugiyama, A topological $\mathrm{L}$ -function for a threefold, 2004 pdf;
Ken-ichi Sugiyama An analog of the Iwasawa conjecture for a compact hyperbolic threefold, math.GT/0606010
Adam S. Sikora, Analogies between group actions on 3-manifolds and number fields, arXiv:0107210