Algebraic degrees of stretch factors in mapping class groups

Dissertation Defense
Monday, March 31, 2014 - 11:00
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 006
Georgia Institute of Technology
  Given a closed surface S_g of genus g, a mapping class f is said to be pseudo-Anosov if it preserves a pair of transverse measured foliations such that one is expanding and the other one is contracting by a number $\lambda$. The number $\lambda$ is called a stretch factor (or dilatation) of f. Thurston showed that a stretch factor is an algebraic integer with degree bounded above by 6g-6. However, little is known about which degrees occur. Using train tracks on surfaces, we explicitly construct pseudo-Anosov maps on S_g with orientable foliations whose stretch factor $\lambda$ has algebraic degree 2g. Moreover, the stretch factor $\lambda$ is a special algebraic number, called Salem number. Using this result, we show that there is a pseudo-Anosov map whose stretch factor has algebraic degree d, for each positive even integer d such that d is less than or equal to g. Our examples also give a new approach to a conjecture of Penner.