Topological Complexity of Spaces of Polygons

Don Davis , Lehigh University
Fine Hall 214

The topological complexity of a topological space X is the number of rules required to specify how to move between any two points of X.  If X is the space of all configurations of a robot, this can be interpreted as the number of rules required to program the robot to move from any configuration to any other. A polygon in the plane or in 3-space can be thought of as linked arms of a robot. We compute the topological complexity of the space of polygons of fixed side lengths. Our result is complete for polygons in 3-space, and partial for polygons in the plane.