Friday, April 4, 2003

Friday April 4, 2003

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 3:33 PM

The Eight

Today, the fourth day of the fourth month, plays an important part in Katherine Neville's The Eight.  Let us honor this work, perhaps the greatest bad novel of the twentieth century, by reflecting on some properties of the number eight.  Consider eight rectangular cells arranged in an array of four rows and two columns.  Let us label these cells with coordinates, then apply a permutation.




IMAGE- Knight figure for April 4


The resulting set of arrows that indicate the movement of cells in a permutation (known as a Singer 7-cycle) outlines rather neatly, in view of the chess theme of The Eight, a knight.  This makes as much sense as anything in Neville's fiction, and has the merit of being based on fact.  It also, albeit rather crudely, illustrates the "Mathematics and Art" theme of this year's Mathematics Awareness Month.  (See the 4:36 PM entry.)



The visual appearance of the "knight" permutation is less important than the fact that it leads to a construction (due to R. T. Curtis) of the Mathieu group M24 (via the Curtis Miracle Octad Generator), which in turn leads logically to the Monster group and to related "moonshine" investigations in the theory of modular functions.   See also "Pieces of Eight," by Robert L. Griess.

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