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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2,3 torus (or trefoil) knot has a stick number of six. q = 3 and 2 × 3 = 6.
2,3 torus (or trefoil) knot has a stick number of six. q = 3 and 2 × 3 = 6.

In the mathematical theory of knots, the stick number is a knot invariant that intuitively gives the smallest number of straight "sticks" stuck end to end needed to form a knot. Specifically, given any knot K, the stick number of K, denoted by stick(K), is the smallest number of edges of a polygonal path equivalent to K.

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Known values

Six is the lowest stick number for any nontrivial knot. There are few knots whose stick number can be determined exactly. Gyo Taek Jin determined the stick number of a (pq)-torus knot T(pq) in case the parameters p and q are not too far from each other (Jin 1997):

The same result was found independently around the same time by a research group around Colin Adams, but for a smaller range of parameters (Adams et al. 1997).


Square knot = trefoil + trefoil reflection.
Square knot = trefoil + trefoil reflection.
Figure-eight knot, stick number 7
Figure-eight knot, stick number 7

The stick number of a knot sum can be upper bounded by the stick numbers of the summands (Adams et al. 1997, Jin 1997):

Related invariants

The stick number of a knot K is related to its crossing number c(K) by the following inequalities (Negami 1991, Calvo 2001, Huh & Oh 2011):

These inequalities are both tight for the trefoil knot, which has a crossing number of 3 and a stick number of 6.

Further reading

Introductory material

  • Adams, C. C. (May 2001), "Why knot: knots, molecules and stick numbers", Plus Magazine. An accessible introduction into the topic, also for readers with little mathematical background.
  • Adams, C. C. (2004), The Knot Book: An elementary introduction to the mathematical theory of knots, Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society, ISBN 0-8218-3678-1.

Research articles

External links

This page was last edited on 16 May 2018, at 12:16
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