Abstract:
We use the rational Witt class of a knot in the 3-sphere as a tool for addressing questions about its unknotting number. We apply these tools to several low crossing knots (151 knots with 11 crossing and 100 knots with 12 crossings) and to the family of n-stranded pretzel knots for various values of n>2. In many cases we obtain new lower bounds and in some cases explicit values for their unknotting numbers. Our results are mainly concerned with unknotting number one but we also address, somewhat more marginally, the case of higher unknotting numbers.

Abstract:
We generalize the Manolescu-Owens smooth concordance invariant delta(K) of knots K in the 3-sphere to invariants delta_{p^n}(K) obtained by considering covers of order p^n, with p prime. Our main result shows that for any odd prime p, the direct sum of delta_{p^n} as n ranges through the natural numbers, yields a homomorphism of infinite rank from the smooth concordance group to Z^\infty. We also show that unlike delta, these new invariants typically are not multiples of the knot signature, even for alternating knots. A significant portion of the article is devoted to exploring examples.

Abstract:
In his pioneering work from 1969, Jerry Levine introduced a complete set of invariants of algebraic concordance of knots. The evaluation of these invariants requires a factorization of the Alexander polynomial of the knot, and is therefore in practice often hard to realize. We thus propose the study of an alternative set of invariants of algebraic concordance - the rational Witt classes of knots. Though these are rather weaker invariants than those defined by Levine, they have the advantage of lending themselves to quite manageable computability. We illustrate this point by computing the rational Witt classes of all pretzel knots. We give many examples and provide applications to obstructing sliceness for pretzel knots. We also obtain explicit formulae for the determinants and signatures of all pretzel knots. This article is dedicated to Jerry Levine and his lasting mathematical legacy; on the occasion of the conference "Fifty years since Milnor and Fox" held at Brandeis University on June 2-5, 2008.

Abstract:
We demonstrate that the operation of taking disjoint unions of J-holomorphic curves (and thus obtaining new J-holomorphic curves) has a Seiberg-Witten counterpart. The main theorem asserts that, given two solutions (A_i, psi_i), i=0,1 of the Seiberg-Witten equations for the Spin^c-structure W^+_{E_i}= E_i direct sum (E_i tensor K^{-1}) (with certain restrictions), there is a solution (A, psi) of the Seiberg-Witten equations for the Spin^c-structure W_E with E= E_0 tensor E_1, obtained by `grafting' the two solutions (A_i, psi_i).

Abstract:
It is a well known fact that every embedded symplectic surface $\Sigma$ in a symplectic 4-manifold $(X^4,\omega)$ can be made $J$-holomorphic for some almost-complex structure $J$ compatible with $\omega$. In this paper we investigate when such a $J$ can be chosen from a generic set of almost-complex structures. As an application we give examples of smooth and non-empty Seiberg-Witten and Gromov-Witten moduli spaces whose associated invariants are zero.

Abstract:
We use an algorithm by Ozsvath and Szabo to find closed formulae for the ranks of the hat version of the Heegaard Floer homology groups for non-zero Dehn surgeries on knots in the 3-sphere. As applications we provide new bounds on the number of distinct ranks of the Heegaard Floer groups a Dehn surgery can have. These in turn give a new lower bound on the rational Dehn surgery genus of a rational homology 3-sphere. We also provide novel obstructions for a knot to be a potential counterexample to the Cabling Conjecture.

Abstract:
We provide a new obstruction for a rational homology 3-sphere to arise by Dehn surgery on a given knot in the 3-sphere. The obstruction takes the form of an inequality involving the genus of the knot, the surgery coefficient, and a count of L-structures on the 3-manifold, that is spin-c structures with the simplest possible associated Heegaard Floer group. Applications include an obstruction for two framed knots to yield the same 3-manifold, an obstruction that is particularly effective when working with families of framed knots. We introduce the rational and integral Dehn surgery genera for a rational homology 3-sphere, and use our inequality to provide bounds, and in some cases exact values, for these genera. We also demonstrate that the difference between the integral and rational Dehn surgery genera can be arbitrarily large.

Abstract:
We prove that the signature of an even, symmetric form on a finite rank integral lattice, has signature divisible by 8, provided its associated linking form vanishes in the Witt group of linking forms. Our result generalizes the well know fact that an even, unimodular form has signature divisible by 8. We give applications to signatures of 4n-dimensional manifolds, signatures of classical knots, and provide new restrictions to solutions of certain Diophantine equations.

Abstract:
We determine the smooth concordance order of the 3-stranded pretzel knots P(p,q,r) with p,q,r odd. We show that each one of finite order is, in fact, ribbon, thereby proving the slice-ribbon conjecture for this family of knots. As corollaries we give new proofs of results first obtained by Fintushel-Stern and Casson-Gordon.

Abstract:
We extend the techniques in a previous paper to calculate the Heegaard Floer homology groups for fibered 3-manifolds M whose monodromy is a power of a Dehn twist about a genus-1 separating circle on a surface of genus g > 1. We only consider non-torsion Spin^c-structures on M.