Abstract:
We introduce a global Cauchy-Riemann($CR$)-invariant and discuss its behavior on the moduli space of $CR$-structures. We argue that this study is related to the Smale conjecture in 3-topology and the problem of counting complex structures. Furthermore, we propose a contact-analogue of Ray-Singer's analytic torsion. This ``contact torsion'' is expected to be able to distinguish among ``contact lens'' spaces. We also propose the study of a certain kind of monopole equation associated with a contact structure.

Abstract:
This article sketches various ideas in contact geometry that have become useful in low-dimensional topology. Specifically we (1) outline the proof of Eliashberg and Thurston's results concerning perturbations of foliatoins into contact structures, (2) discuss Eliashberg and Weinstein's symplectic handle attachments, and (3) briefly discuss Giroux's insights into open book decompositions and contact geometry. Bringing these pieces together we discuss the construction of ``symplectic caps'' which are a key tool in the application of contact/symplectic geometry to low-dimensional topology.

Abstract:
We study geometry, topology and deformation spaces of noncompact complex hyperbolic manifolds (geometrically finite, with variable negative curvature), whose properties make them surprisingly different from real hyperbolic manifolds with constant negative curvature. This study uses an interaction between K\"ahler geometry of the complex hyperbolic space and the contact structure at its infinity (the one-point compactification of the Heisenberg group), in particular an established structural theorem for discrete group actions on nilpotent Lie groups.

Abstract:
Using $S^1$-equivariant symplectic homology, in particular its mean Euler characteristic, of the natural filling of links of Brieskorn-Pham polynomials, we prove the existence of infinitely many inequivalent contact structures on various manifolds, including in dimension 5 the k-fold connected sums of $S^2\times S^3$ and certain rational homology spheres. We then apply our result to show that on these manifolds the moduli space of classes of positive Sasakian structures has infinitely many components. We also apply our results to give lower bounds on the number of components of the moduli space of Sasaki-Einstein metrics on certain homotopy spheres. Finally a new family of Sasaki-Einstein metrics of real dimension 20 on $S^5$ is exhibited.

Abstract:
We show, using a theorem of Milnor and Margulis, that string theory on compact negatively curved spaces grows new effective dimensions as the space shrinks, generalizing and contextualizing the results in hep-th/0510044. Milnor's theorem relates negative sectional curvature on a compact Riemannian manifold to exponential growth of its fundamental group, which translates in string theory to a higher effective central charge arising from winding strings. This exponential density of winding modes is related by modular invariance to the infrared small perturbation spectrum. Using self-consistent approximations valid at large radius, we analyze this correspondence explicitly in a broad set of time-dependent solutions, finding precise agreement between the effective central charge and the corresponding infrared small perturbation spectrum. This indicates a basic relation between geometry, topology, and dimensionality in string theory.

Abstract:
This paper has four main parts. In the first part, we construct a noncommutative residue for the hypoelliptic calculus on Heisenberg manifolds, that is, for the class of Heisenberg PsiDOs introduced by Beals-Greiner and Taylor. This noncommutative residue appears as the residual trace on integer order Heisenberg PsiDOs induced by the analytic extension of the usual trace to non-integer order Heisenberg PsiDOs. Moreover, it agrees with the integral of the density defined by the logarithmic singularity of the Schwartz kernel of the corresponding Heisenberg PsiDO. In addition, we show that this noncommutative residue provides us with the unique trace up to constant multiple on the algebra of integer order Heisenberg PsiDOs. In the second part, we give some analytic applications of this construction concerning zeta functions of hypoelliptic operators, logarithmic metric estimates for Green kernels of hypoelliptic operators, and the extension of the Dixmier trace to the whole algebra of integer order Heisenberg PsiDOs. In the third part, we present examples of computations of noncommutative residues of some powers of the horizontal sublaplacian and the contact Laplacian on contact manifolds. In the fourth part, we present two applications in CR geometry. First, we give some examples of geometric computations of noncommutative residues of some powers of the horizontal sublaplacian and of the Kohn Laplacian. Second, we make use of the framework of noncommutative geometry and of our noncommutative residue to define lower dimensional volumes in pseudohermitian geometry, e.g., we can give sense to the area of any 3-dimensional CR manifold. On the way we obtain a spectral interpretation of the Einstein-Hilbert action in pseudohermitian geometry.

Abstract:
These notes are an expanded version of an introductory lecture on contact geometry given at the 2001 Georgia Topology Conference. They are intended to present some of the "topological" aspects of three dimensional contact geometry.

Abstract:
In a granular solid, mechanical equilibrium requires a delicate balance of forces at the disordered grain scale. To understand how macroscopic rigidity can emerge in this amorphous solid, it is crucial that we understand how Newton's laws pass from the disordered grain scale to the laboratory scale. In this work, we introduce an exact discrete calculus, in which Newton's laws appear as differential relations at the scale of a single grain. Using this calculus, we introduce gauge variables which describe identically force- and torque-balanced configurations. In a first, intrinsic formulation, we use the topology of the contact network, but not its geometry. In a second, extrinsic formulation, we introduce geometry with the Delaunay triangulation. These formulations show, with exact methods, how topology and geometry in a disordered medium are related by constraints. In particular, we derive Airy's expression for a divergence-free, symmetric stress tensor in two and three dimensions.

Abstract:
This is an introductory text on the more topological aspects of contact geometry, written for the Handbook of Differential Geometry vol. 2. After discussing (and proving) some of the fundamental results of contact topology (neighbourhood theorems, isotopy extension theorems, approximation theorems), I move on to a detailed exposition of the original proof of the Lutz-Martinet theorem. The text ends with a guide to the literature.