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Category: geometry

RH and the Ishango bone

“She simply walked into the pond in Kensington Gardens Sunday morning and drowned herself in three feet of water.”

This is the opening sentence of The Ishango Bone, a novel by Paul Hastings Wilson. It (re)tells the story of a young mathematician at Cambridge, Amiele, who (dis)proves the Riemann Hypothesis at the age of 26, is denied the Fields medal, and commits suicide.

In his review of the novel on MathFiction, Alex Kasman casts he story in the 1970ties, based on the admission of the first female students to Trinity.

More likely, the correct time frame is in the first decade of this century. On page 121 Amiele meets Alain Connes, said to be a “past winner of the Crafoord Prize”, which Alain obtained in 2001. In fact, noncommutative geometry and its interaction with quantum physics plays a crucial role in her ‘proof’.



The Ishango artefact only appears in the Coda to the book. There are a number of theories on the nature and grouping of the scorings on the bone. In one column some people recognise the numbers 11, 13, 17 and 19 (the primes between 10 and 20).

In the book, Amiele remarks that the total number of lines scored on the bone (168) “happened to be the exact total of all the primes between 1 and 1000” and “if she multiplied 60, the total number of lines in one side column, by 168, the grand total of lines, she’d get 10080,…,not such a far guess from 9592, the actual total of primes between 1 and 100000.” (page 139-140)

The bone is believed to be more than 20000 years old, prime numbers were probably not understood until about 500 BC…



More interesting than these speculations on the nature of the Ishango bone is the description of the tools Amiele thinks to need to tackle the Riemann Hypothesis:

“These included algebraic geometry (which combines commutative algebra with the language and problems of geometry); noncommutative geometry (concerned with the geometric approach to associative algebras, in which multiplication is not commutative, that is, for which $x$ times $y$ does not always equal $y$ times $x$); quantum field theory on noncommutative spacetime, and mathematical aspects of quantum models of consciousness, to name a few.” (page 115)

The breakthrough came two years later when Amiele was giving a lecture on Grothendieck’s dessins d’enfant.

“Dessin d’enfant, or ‘child’s drawing’, which Amiele had discovered in Grothendieck’s work, is a type of graph drawing that seemed technically simple, but had a very strong impression on her, partly due to the familiar nature of the objects considered. (…) Amiele found subtle arithmetic invariants associated with these dessins, which were completely transformed, again, as soon as another stroke was added.” (page 116)

Amiele’s ‘disproof’ of RH is outlined on pages 122-124 of “The Ishango Bone” and is a mixture of recognisable concepts and ill-defined terms.

“Her final result proved that Riemann’s Hypothesis was false, a zero must fall to the east of Riemann’s critical line whenever the zeta function of point $q$ with momentum $p$ approached the aelotropic state-vector (this is a simplification, of course).” (page 123)

More details are given in a footnote:

“(…) a zero must fall to the east of Riemann’s critical line whenever:

\[
\zeta(q_p) = \frac{( | \uparrow \rangle + \Psi) + \frac{1}{2}(1+cos(\Theta))\frac{\hbar}{\pi}}{\int(\Delta_p)} \]

(…) The intrepid are invited to try the equation for themselves.” (page 124)

Wilson’s “The Ishango Bone” was published in 2012. A fair number of topics covered (the Ishango bone, dessin d’enfant, Riemann hypothesis, quantum theory) also play a prominent role in the 2015 paper/story by Michel Planat “A moonshine dialogue in mathematical physics”, but this time with additional story-line: monstrous moonshine

Such a paper surely deserves a separate post.



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The Langlands program and non-commutative geometry

The Bulletin of the AMS just made this paper by Julia Mueller available online: “On the genesis of Robert P. Langlands’ conjectures and his letter to Andre Weil” (hat tip +ChandanDalawat and +DavidRoberts on Google+).

It recounts the story of the early years of Langlands and the first years of his mathematical career (1960-1966)leading up to his letter to Andre Weil in which he outlines his conjectures, which would become known as the Langlands program.

Langlands letter to Weil is available from the IAS.

The Langlands program is a vast net of conjectures. For example, it conjectures that there is a correspondence between

– $n$-dimensional representations of the absolute Galois group $Gal(\overline{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q})$, and

– specific data coming from an adelic quotient-space $GL_n(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}})/GL_n(\mathbb{Q})$.

For $n=1$ this is essentially class field theory with the correspondence given by Artin’s reciprocity law.

Here we have on the one hand the characters of the abelianised absolute Galois group

\[
Gal(\overline{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q})^{ab} \simeq Gal(\mathbb{Q}(\pmb{\mu}_{\infty})/\mathbb{Q}) \simeq \widehat{\mathbb{Z}}^{\ast} \]

and on the other hand the connected components of the idele class space

\[
GL_1(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}})/GL_1(\mathbb{Q}) = \mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}^{\ast} / \mathbb{Q}^{\ast} = \mathbb{R}_+^{\ast} \times \widehat{\mathbb{Z}}^{\ast} \]

For $n=2$ it involves the study of Galois representations coming from elliptic curves. A gentle introduction to the general case is Mark Kisin’s paper What is … a Galois representation?.

One way to look at some of the quantum statistical systems studied via non-commutative geometry is that they try to understand the “bad” boundary of the Langlands space $GL_n(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}})/GL_n(\mathbb{Q})$.

Here, the Bost-Connes system corresponds to the $n=1$ case, the Connes-Marcolli system to the $n=2$ case.

If $\mathbb{A}’_{\mathbb{Q}}$ is the subset of all adeles having almost all of its terms in $\widehat{\mathbb{Z}}_p^{\ast}$, then there is a well-defined map

\[
\pi~:~\mathbb{A}’_{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast} \rightarrow \mathbb{R}_+ \qquad (x_{\infty},x_2,x_2,\dots) \mapsto | x_{\infty} | \prod_p | x_p |_p \]

The inverse image of $\pi$ over $\mathbb{R}_+^{\ast}$ are exactly the idele classes $\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}^{\ast}/\mathbb{Q}^{\ast}$, so we can view them as the nice locus of the horrible complicated quotient of adele-classes $\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb{Q}^*$. And we can view the adele-classes as a ‘closure’ of the idele classes.

But, the fiber $\pi^{-1}(0)$ has horrible topological properties because $\mathbb{Q}^*$ acts ergodically on it due to the fact that $log(p)/log(q)$ is irrational for distinct primes $p$ and $q$.

This is why it is better to view the adele-classes not as an ordinary space (one with bad topological properties), but rather as a ‘non-commutative’ space because it is controlled by a non-commutative algebra, the Bost-Connes algebra.

For $n=2$ there’s a similar story with a ‘bad’ quotient $M_2(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}})/GL_2(\mathbb{Q})$, being the closure of an ‘open’ nice piece which is the Langlands quotient space $GL_2(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}})/GL_2(\mathbb{Q})$.

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A forgotten type and roots of unity (again)

The monstrous moonshine picture is the finite piece of Conway’s Big Picture needed to understand the 171 moonshine groups associated to conjugacy classes of the monster.

Last time I claimed that there were exactly 7 types of local behaviour, but I missed one. The forgotten type is centered at the number lattice $84$.

Locally around it the moonshine picture looks like this
\[
\xymatrix{42 \ar@{-}[dr] & 28 \frac{1}{3} \ar@[red]@{-}[d] & 41 \frac{1}{2} \ar@{-}[ld] \\ 28 \ar@[red]@{-}[r] & \color{grey}{84} \ar@[red]@{-}[r] \ar@[red]@{-}[d] \ar@{-}[rd] & 28 \frac{2}{3} \\ & 252 & 168} \]

and it involves all square roots of unity ($42$, $42 \frac{1}{2}$ and $168$) and $3$-rd roots of unity ($28$, $28 \frac{1}{3}$, $28 \frac{2}{3}$ and $252$) centered at $84$.

No, I’m not hallucinating, there are indeed $3$ square roots of unity and $4$ third roots of unity as they come in two families, depending on which of the two canonical forms to express a lattice is chosen.

In the ‘normal’ expression $M \frac{g}{h}$ the two square roots are $42$ and $42 \frac{1}{2}$ and the three third roots are $28, 28 \frac{1}{3}$ and $28 \frac{2}{3}$. But in the ‘other’ expression
\[
M \frac{g}{h} = (\frac{g’}{h},\frac{1}{h^2M}) \]
(with $g.g’ \equiv 1~mod~h$) the families of $2$-nd and $3$-rd roots of unity are
\[
\{ 42 \frac{1}{2} = (\frac{1}{2},\frac{1}{168}), 168 = (0,\frac{1}{168}) \} \]
and
\[
\{ 28 \frac{1}{3} = (\frac{1}{3},\frac{1}{252}), 28 \frac{2}{3} = (\frac{2}{3},\frac{1}{252}), 252 = (0 , \frac{1}{252}) \} \]
As in the tetrahedral snake post, it is best to view the four $3$-rd roots of unity centered at $84$ as the vertices of a tetrahedron with center of gravity at $84$. Power maps in the first family correspond to rotations along the axis through $252$ and power maps in the second family are rotations along the axis through $28$.

In the ‘normal’ expression of lattices there’s then a total of 8 different local types, but two of them consist of just one number lattice: in $8$ the local picture contains all square, $4$-th and $8$-th roots of unity centered at $8$, and in $84$ the square and $3$-rd roots.

Perhaps surprisingly, if we redo everything in the ‘other’ expression (and use the other families of roots of unity), then the moonshine picture has only 7 types of local behaviour. The forgotten type $84$ appears to split into two occurrences of other types (one with only square roots of unity, and one with only $3$-rd roots).

I wonder what all this has to do with the action of the Bost-Connes algebra on the big picture or with Plazas’ approach to moonshine via non-commutative geometry.

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Penrose tiles in Helsinki


(image credit: Steve’s travels & stuff)

A central street in Helsinki has been paved with Penrose tiles.


(image credit: Sattuman soittoa)

From a Finnish paper:

“The street could also be an object to mathematical awe. The stone under one’s feet is embroidered with some profound geometry, namely, Penrose tiling.

In 1974, a British mathematician Roger Penrose realised a plane could be fully covered with a few simple rules such that the pattern constantly changes. These kind of discontinuous patterns are interesting to mathematicians since the patterns can be used to solve other geometrical problems. Together, the tiles can randomly form patterns reminding a star or the Sun but they do not regularly recur in the tiling.

Similar features are found in the old Arabic ornaments. The tiling of the Central Street prom was selected by Yrjö Rossi.

If your kid stays put to stare at the tiling, they might have what they need in order to become a mathematician.”

(via Reddit/m)

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nc-geometry and moonshine?

A well-known link between Conway’s Big Picture and non-commutative geometry is given by the Bost-Connes system.

This quantum statistical mechanical system encodes the arithmetic properties of cyclotomic extensions of $\mathbb{Q}$.

The corresponding Bost-Connes algebra encodes the action by the power-maps on the roots of unity.

It has generators $e_n$ and $e_n^*$ for every natural number $n$ and additional generators $e(\frac{g}{h})$ for every element in the additive group $\mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}$ (which is of course isomorphic to the multiplicative group of roots of unity).

The defining equations are
\[
\begin{cases}
e_n.e(\frac{g}{h}).e_n^* = \rho_n(e(\frac{g}{h})) \\
e_n^*.e(\frac{g}{h}) = \Psi^n(e(\frac{g}{h}).e_n^* \\
e(\frac{g}{h}).e_n = e_n.\Psi^n(e(\frac{g}{h})) \\
e_n.e_m=e_{nm} \\
e_n^*.e_m^* = e_{nm}^* \\
e_n.e_m^* = e_m^*.e_n~\quad~\text{if $(m,n)=1$}
\end{cases}
\]

Here $\Psi^n$ are the power-maps, that is $\Psi^n(e(\frac{g}{h})) = e(\frac{ng}{h}~mod~1)$, and the maps $\rho_n$ are given by
\[
\rho_n(e(\frac{g}{h})) = \sum e(\frac{i}{j}) \]
where the sum is taken over all $\frac{i}{j} \in \mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}$ such that $n.\frac{i}{j}=\frac{g}{h}$.

Conway’s Big Picture has as its vertices the (equivalence classes of) lattices $M,\frac{g}{h}$ with $M \in \mathbb{Q}_+$ and $\frac{g}{h} \in \mathbb{Q}/\mathbb{Z}$.

The Bost-Connes algebra acts on the vector-space with basis the vertices of the Big Picture. The action is given by:
\[
\begin{cases}
e_n \ast \frac{c}{d},\frac{g}{h} = \frac{nc}{d},\rho^m(\frac{g}{h})~\quad~\text{with $m=(n,d)$} \\
e_n^* \ast \frac{c}{d},\frac{g}{h} = (n,c) \times \frac{c}{nd},\Psi^{\frac{n}{m}}(\frac{g}{h})~\quad~\text{with $m=(n,c)$} \\
e(\frac{a}{b}) \ast \frac{c}{d},\frac{g}{h} = \frac{c}{d},\Psi^c(\frac{a}{b}) \frac{g}{h}
\end{cases}
\]

This connection makes one wonder whether non-commutative geometry can shed a new light on monstrous moonshine?

This question is taken up by Jorge Plazas in his paper Non-commutative geometry of groups like $\Gamma_0(N)$

Plazas shows that the bigger Connes-Marcolli $GL_2$-system also acts on the Big Picture. An intriguing quote:

“Our interest in the $GL_2$-system comes from the fact that its thermodynamic properties encode the arithmetic theory of modular functions to an extend which makes it possible for us to capture aspects of moonshine theory.”

Looks like the right kind of paper to take along when I disappear next week for some time in the French mountains…

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