Recently I became very much intrigued by algebraic topology and am spending quite some time learning it. My reasons are three-fold:
- it's a beautiful theory;
- it gives geometric justification to (or perhaps rather an application of) many purely algebraic structures; and
- it has fascinating applications in quantum field theory and condensed matter theory.
Nevertheless, what I am familiar with currently are just basics: various homology and cohomology theories, homotopy theory and some standard applications (Brouwer, Borsuk-Ulam, etc., etc.). While these are of course interesting of and by themselves (and I expect spending a great amount of time on understanding all of this properly), I guess it is more or less understood for some fifty years now, so supposedly people work on topics far more advanced than this (or at the very least they use far more advanced tools to understand standard but hard problems).
So, I'd also like to know what the field is about from the modern perspective (some interesting problems and research topics, advanced tools, etc.) so that I can see a little where will the study of the subject lead me in the long run.
Sorry if the question is too broad but I am not sure where else to look (I've more or less browsed through all general articles on AT at wikipedia and tried to search MO too). I've heard few magic words like K-theory, sheaf cohomology, various spectral sequences, etc. but I don't understand these at all yet; more importantly my motivation to learn these things is lacking since I have no idea how or when these magic words are used (although I am pretty sure they are used a lot).