Type: Seminar

Distribution: World

Expiry: 30 Jul 2010

Auth: jonh@asti.maths.usyd.edu.au

This talk will describe the quest to find all the basic building blocks for finite groups - the so-called ’finite simple groups’. Galois was the first to find non-abelian examples, and many more were created later, particularly using the work of Sophus Lie. By the early 1960s all the known ones were either of ’Lie-type’ or one of five exceptions discovered a hundred years earlier. Were there any more, and could we find a complete list? A way forward was found using work of Richard Brauer, and the great theorem of Walter Feit and John Thompson. While Thompson was advancing these new methods, Zvonimir Janko, a Croatian mathematician working in Australia, surprised the world with a very strange exceptional group, the first one for a hundred years, and it really set the cat among the pigeons. Further new exceptions came thick and fast, and they were called "sporadic groups". We shall run through some of the highpoints, including the Leech Lattice and the largest sporadic group - dubbed the Monster - which turned out to reveal strange ’moonshine’ connections between number theory and mathematical physics. The talk will include personal reminiscences and stories told me at first hand. Some but not all of these are in my book of the same title, published by Oxford University Press-see http://www.math.uic.edu/~ronan/symmetryandthemonster. Mark Ronan -- University of Illinois at Chicago