Choose a homotopically non-trivial curve “at random” on a compact orientable surface- what properties is it likely to have? We address this when, by “choose at random”, one means running a random walk on the Cayley graph for the fundamental group with respect to the standard generating set. In particular, we focus on self-intersection number and the location of the metric in Teichmuller space minimizing the geodesic length of the curve. As an application, we show how to improve bounds (due to Dowdall) on dilatation of a point-pushing pseudo-Anosov homeomorphism in terms of the self-intersection number of the defining curve, for a “random” point-pushing map. This represents joint work with Jonah Gaster.

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Last updated: 13 Sep 2024