The causal topology of neutral 4-manifolds with null boundary

Nikos Georgiou, Brendan Guilfoyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers aspects of 4-manifold topology from the point of view of the null cone of a neutral metric, a point of view we call neutral causal topology. In particular, we construct and investigate neutral 4-manifolds with null boundaries that arise from canonical 3and 4-dimensional settings. A null hypersurface is foliated by its normal and, in the neutral case, inherits a pair of totally null planes at each point. This paper focuses on these plane bundles in a number of classical settings. The first construction is the conformal compactification of flat neutral 4-space into the 4-ball. The null foliation on the boundary in this case is the Hopf fibration on the 3-sphere and the totally null planes in the boundary are integrable. The metric on the 4-ball is a conformally flat, scalar-flat, positive Ricci curvature neutral metric. The second constructions are subsets of the 4-dimensional space of oriented geodesics in a 3-dimensional space-form, equipped with its canonical neutral metric. We consider all oriented geodesics tangent to a given embedded strictly convex 2-sphere. Both totally null planes on this null hypersurface are contact, and we characterize the curves in the null boundary that are Legendrian with respect to either totally null plane bundles. The Reeb vector field associated with the alpha-planes are shown to be the oriented normal lines to geodesics in the surface. The third is a neutral geometric model for the intersection of two surfaces in a 4-manifold. The surfaces are the sets of oriented normal lines to two round spheres in Euclidean 3-space, which form Lagrangian surfaces in the 4-dimensional space of all oriented lines. The intersection of the boundaries of their normal neighbourhoods form tori that we prove are totally real and Lorentz if the spheres do not intersect. We conclude with possible topological applications of the three constructions, including neutral Kirby calculus, neutral knot invariants and neutral Casson handles, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-507
Number of pages31
JournalNew York Journal of Mathematics
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • 3-sphere
  • Contact
  • Geodesic spaces
  • Hyperbolic 3-space
  • Neutral metric
  • Null boundary
  • Spaces of constant curvature


Dive into the research topics of 'The causal topology of neutral 4-manifolds with null boundary'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this