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Ricci flow

Hamilton succeeded in proving that any smooth closed three-manifold which admits a metric of * positive * Ricci curvature also admits a unique Thurston geometry, namely a spherical metric, which does indeed act like an attracting fixed point under the Ricci flow, renormalized to preserve volume. (Under the unrenormalized Ricci flow, the manifold collapses to a point in finite time.) This doesn't prove the full geometrization conjecture because the most difficult case turns out to concern manifolds with * negative * Ricci curvature and more specifically those with negative sectional curvature. (A strange and interesting fact is that all closed three-manifolds admit metrics with negative Ricci curvatures! This was proved by L. Zhiyong Gao and Shing-Tung Yau in 1986.) Indeed, a triumph of nineteenth century geometry was the proof of the [uniformization theorem] , the analogous topological classification of smooth two-manifolds, where Hamilton showed that the Ricci flow does indeed evolve a negatively curved two-manifold into a two-dimensional multi-holed torus which is locally isometric to the hyperbolic plane. This topic is closely related to important topics in analysis, number theory, dynamical systems, mathematical physics, and even cosmology.

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