Moonshine for everyone

Today, Samuel Dehority, Xavier Gonzalez, Neekon Vafa and Roger Van Peski arXived their paper Moonshine for all finite groups.

Originally, Moonshine was thought to be connected to the Monster group. McKay and Thompson observed that the first coefficients of the normalized elliptic modular invariant

J(\tau) = q^{-1} + 196884 q + 21493760 q^2 + 864229970 q^3 + \ldots

could be written as sums of dimensions of the first few irreducible representations of the monster group:

1=1,~\quad 196884=196883+1,~\quad 21493760=1+196883+21296876,~\quad … \]

Soon it transpired that there ought to be an infinite dimensional graded vectorspace, the moonshine module

V^{\sharp} = \bigoplus_{n=-1}^{\infty}~V^{\sharp}_n \]

with every component $V^{\sharp}_n$ being a representation of the monster group $\mathbb{M}$ of which the dimension coincides with the coefficient of $q^n$ in $J(\tau)$.

It only got better, for any conjugacy class $[ g ]$ of the monster, if you took the character series

T_g(\tau) = \sum_{n=-1}^{\infty} Tr(g | V^{\sharp}_n) q^n \]

you get a function invariant under the action of the subgroup

\Gamma_0(n) = \{ \begin{bmatrix} a & b \\ c & d \end{bmatrix}~:~c = 0~mod~n \} \]

acting via transformations $\tau \mapsto \frac{a \tau + b}{c \tau + d}$ on the upper half plane where $n$ is the order of $g$ (or, for the experts, almost).

Soon, further instances of ‘moonshine’ were discovered for other simple groups, the unifying feature being that one associates to a group $G$ a graded representation $V$ such that the character series of this representation for an element $g \in G$ is an invariant modular function with respect to the subgroup $\Gamma_0(n)$ of the modular group, with $n$ being the order of $g$.

Today, this group of people proved that there is ‘moonshine’ for any finite group whatsoever.

They changed the definition of moonshine slightly to introduce the notion of moonshine of depth $d$ which meant that they want the dimension sequence of their graded module to be equal to $J(\tau)$ under the action of the normalized $d$-th Hecke operator, which means equal to

\sum_{ac=d,0 \leq b < c} J(\frac{a \tau + b}{c}) \]
as they are interested in the asymptotic behaviour of the components $V_n$ with respect to the regular representation of $G$.

What baffled me was their much weaker observation (remark 2) saying that you get ‘moonshine’ in the form described above, that is, a graded representation $V$ such that for every $g \in G$ you get a character series which is invariant under $\Gamma_0(n)$ with $n=ord(g)$ (and no smaller divisor of $n$), for every finite group $G$.

And, more importantly, you can explain this to any student taking a first course in group theory as all you need is Cayley’s theorem stating that any finite group is a subgroup of some symmetric group $S_n$.

Here’s the idea: take the original monster-moonshine module $V^{\sharp}$ but forget all about the action of $\mathbb{M}$ (that is, consider it as a plain vectorspace) and consider the graded representation

V = (V^{\sharp})^{\otimes n} \]

with the natural action of $S_n$ on the tensor product.

Now, embed a la Cayley $G$ into $S_n$ then you know that the order of $g \in G$ is the least common multiple of the cycle lengths of the permutation it it send to. Now, it is fairly trivial to see that the character series of $V$ with respect to $g$ (having cycle lengths $(k_1,k_2,\dots,k_l)$, including cycles of length one) is equal to the product

J(k_1 \tau) J(k_2 \tau) \dots J(k_l \tau) \]

which is invariant under $\Gamma_0(n)$ with $n = lcm(k_i)$ (but no $\Gamma_0(m)$ with $m$ a proper divisor of $n$).

For example, for $G=S_4$ we have as character series of $(V^{\sharp})^{\otimes 4}$

(1)(2)(3)(4) \mapsto J(\tau)^4 \]

(12)(3)(4) \mapsto J(2 \tau) J(\tau)^2 \]

(12)(34) \mapsto J(2 \tau)^2 \]

(123)(4) \mapsto J(3 \tau) J(\tau) \]

(1234) \mapsto J(4 \tau) \]

Clearly, the main results of the paper are much more subtle, but I’m already happy with this version of ‘moonshine for everyone’!

Stirring a cup of coffee

Please allow for a couple of end-of-semester bluesy ramblings. I just finished grading the final test of the last of five courses I lectured this semester.

Most of them went, I believe, rather well.

As always, it was fun to teach an introductory group theory course to second year physics students.

Personally, I did enjoy our Lie theory course the most, given for a mixed public of both mathematics and physics students. We did the spin-group $SU(2)$ and its connection with $SO_3(\mathbb{R})$ in gruesome detail, introduced the other classical groups, and proved complete reducibility of representations. The funnier part was applying this to the $U(1) \times SU(2) \times SU(3)$-representation of the standard model and its extension to the $SU(5)$ GUT.

Ok, but with a sad undertone, was the second year course on representations of finite groups. Sad, because it was the last time I’m allowed to teach it. My younger colleagues decided there’s no place for RT on the new curriculum.


The final lecture is often an eye-opener, or at least, I hope it is/was.

Here’s the idea: someone whispers in your ear that there might be a simple group of order $60$. Armed with only the Sylow-theorems and what we did in this course we will determine all its conjugacy classes, its full character table, and finish proving that this mysterious group is none other than $A_5$.

Right now I’m just a tad disappointed only a handful of students came close to solving the same problem for order $168$ this afternoon.

Clearly, I gave them ample extra information: the group only has elements of order $1,2,3,4$ and $7$ and the centralizer of one order $2$ element is the dihedral group of order $8$. They had to determine the number of distinct irreducible representations, that is, the number of conjugacy classes. Try it yourself (Solution at the end of this post).

For months I felt completely deflated on Tuesday nights, for I had to teach the remaining two courses on that day.

There’s this first year Linear Algebra course. After teaching for over 30 years it was a first timer for me, and probably for the better. I guess 15 years ago I would have been arrogant enough to insist that the only way to teach linear algebra properly was to do representations of quivers…

Now, I realise that linear algebra is perhaps the only algebra course the majority of math-students will need in their further career, so it is best to tune its contents to the desires of the other colleagues: inproducts, determinants as volumes, Markov-processes and the like.

There are thousands of linear algebra textbooks, the one feature they all seem to lack is conciseness. What kept me going throughout this course was trying to come up with the shortest proofs ever for standard results. No doubt, next year the course will grow on me.

Then, there was a master course on algebraic geometry (which was supposed to be on scheme theory, moduli problems such as the classification of fat points (as in the car crash post, etale topology and the like) which had a bumpy start because class was less prepared on varieties and morphisms than I had hoped for.

Still, judging on the quality of the papers students are beginning to hand in (today I received one doing serious stuff with stacks) we managed to cover a lot of material in the end.

I’m determined to teach that first course on algebraic geometry myself next year.

Which brought me wondering about the ideal content of such a course.

Half a decade ago I wrote a couple of posts such as Mumford’s treasure map, Grothendieck’s functor of points, Manin’s geometric axis and the like, which are still quite readable.

In the functor of points-post I referred to a comment thread Algebraic geometry without prime ideals at the Secret Blogging Seminar.

As I had to oversee a test this afternoon, I printed out all comments (a full 29 pages!) and had a good time reading them. At the time I favoured the POV advocated by David Ben-Zvi and Jim Borger (functor of points instead of locally ringed schemes).

Clearly they are right, but then so was I when I thought the ‘right’ way to teach linear algebra was via quiver-representations…

We’ll see what I’ll try out next year.

You may have wondered about the title of this post. It’s derived from a paper Raf Bocklandt (of the Korteweg-de Vries Institute in Amsterdam) arXived some days ago: Reflections in a cup of coffee, which is an extended version of a Brouwer-lecture he gave. Raf has this to say about the Brouwer fixed-point theorem.

“The theorem is usually explained in worldly terms by looking at a cup of coffee. In this setting it states that no matter how you stir your cup, there will always be a point in the liquid that did not change position and if you try to move that part by further stirring you will inevitably move some other part back into its original position. Legend even has it that Brouwer came up with the idea while stirring in a real cup, but whether this is true we’ll never know. What is true however is that Brouwers refections on the topic had a profound impact on mathematics and would lead to lots of new developments in geometry.”

I wish you all a pleasant end of 2016 and a much better 2017.

As to the 168-solution: Sylow says there are 8 7-Sylows giving 48 elements of order 7. The centralizer of each of them must be $C_7$ (given the restriction on the order of elements) so two conjugacy classes of them. Similarly each conjugacy class of an order 3 element must contain 56 elements. There is one conjugacy class of an order 2 element having 21 elements (because the centralizer is $D_4$) giving also a conjugacy class of an order 4 element consisting of 42 elements. Together with the identity these add up to 168 so there are 6 irreducible representations.

let’s spend 3K on (math)books

Santa gave me 3000 Euros to spend on books. One downside: I have to give him my wish-list before monday. So, I’d better get started. Clearly, any further suggestions you might have will be much appreciated, either in the comments below or more directly via email.

Today I’ll focus on my own interests: algebraic geometry, non-commutative geometry and representation theory. I do own a fair amount of books already which accounts for the obvious omissions in the lists below (such as Hartshorne, Mumford or Eisenbud-Harris in AG, Fulton-Harris in RT or the ‘bibles’ in NCG).

[section_title text=”Algebraic geometry”]

Here, I base myself on (and use quotes from) the excellent answer by Javier Alvarez to the MathOverflow post Best Algebraic Geometry text book? (other than Hartshorne).

In no particular order:

Lectures on Curves, Surfaces and Projective Varieties by Ettore Carletti, Dionisio Gallarati, and Giacomo Monti Bragadin and Mauro C. Beltrametti.
“which starts from the very beginning with a classical geometric style. Very complete (proves Riemann-Roch for curves in an easy language) and concrete in classic constructions needed to understand the reasons about why things are done the way they are in advanced purely algebraic books. There are very few books like this and they should be a must to start learning the subject. (Check out Dolgachev’s review.)”

A Royal Road to Algebraic Geometry by Audun Holme. “This new title is wonderful: it starts by introducing algebraic affine and projective curves and varieties and builds the theory up in the first half of the book as the perfect introduction to Hartshorne’s chapter I. The second half then jumps into a categorical introduction to schemes, bits of cohomology and even glimpses of intersection theory.”

Liu Qing – “Algebraic Geometry and Arithmetic Curves”. “It is a very complete book even introducing some needed commutative algebra and preparing the reader to learn arithmetic geometry like Mordell’s conjecture, Faltings’ or even Fermat-Wiles Theorem.”

Görtz; Wedhorn – Algebraic Geometry I, Schemes with Examples and Exercises. labeled ‘the best on schemes’ by Alvarez. “Tons of stuff on schemes; more complete than Mumford’s Red Book. It does a great job complementing Hartshorne’s treatment of schemes, above all because of the more solvable exercises.”

Kollár – Lectures on Resolution of Singularities. “Great exposition, useful contents and examples on topics one has to deal with sooner or later.”

Kollár; Mori – Birational Geometry of Algebraic Varieties. “Considered as harder to learn from by some students, it has become the standard reference on birational geometry.”

And further, as a follow-up on their previous book on the computational side of AG:

Using Algebraic Geometry by Cox, Little and O’Shea.

[section_title text=”Non-commutative geometry”]


Noncommutative Geometry and Particle Physics by Walter van Suijlekom. Blurb: “This book provides an introduction to noncommutative geometry and presents a number of its recent applications to particle physics. It is intended for graduate students in mathematics/theoretical physics who are new to the field of noncommutative geometry, as well as for researchers in mathematics/theoretical physics with an interest in the physical applications of noncommutative geometry. In the first part, we introduce the main concepts and techniques by studying finite noncommutative spaces, providing a “light” approach to noncommutative geometry. We then proceed with the general framework by defining and analyzing noncommutative spin manifolds and deriving some main results on them, such as the local index formula. In the second part, we show how noncommutative spin manifolds naturally give rise to gauge theories, applying this principle to specific examples. We subsequently geometrically derive abelian and non-abelian Yang-Mills gauge theories, and eventually the full Standard Model of particle physics, and conclude by explaining how noncommutative geometry might indicate how to proceed beyond the Standard Model.”

An Invitation To Noncommutative Geometry by Matilde Marcolli. Blurb: “This is the first existing volume that collects lectures on this important and fast developing subject in mathematics. The lectures are given by leading experts in the field and the range of topics is kept as broad as possible by including both the algebraic and the differential aspects of noncommutative geometry as well as recent applications to theoretical physics and number theory.”

Noncommutative Geometry and Physics: Renormalisation, Motives, Index Theory. Blurb: “This collection of expository articles grew out of the workshop “Number Theory and Physics” held in March 2009 at The Erwin Schrödinger International Institute for Mathematical Physics, Vienna. The common theme of the articles is the influence of ideas from noncommutative geometry (NCG) on subjects ranging from number theory to Lie algebras, index theory, and mathematical physics. Matilde Marcolli’s article gives a survey of relevant aspects of NCG in number theory, building on an introduction to motives for beginners by Jorge Plazas and Sujatha Ramdorai.”

Feynman Motives by Matilde Marcolli. Blurb: “This book presents recent and ongoing research work aimed at understanding the mysterious relation between the computations of Feynman integrals in perturbative quantum field theory and the theory of motives of algebraic varieties and their periods. One of the main questions in the field is understanding when the residues of Feynman integrals in perturbative quantum field theory evaluate to periods of mixed Tate motives.” But then, check out Matilde’s recent FaceBook status-update.

[section_title text=”Representation theory”]


An Introduction to the Langlands Program by J. Bernstein (editor). Blurb: “This book presents a broad, user-friendly introduction to the Langlands program, that is, the theory of automorphic forms and its connection with the theory of L-functions and other fields of mathematics. Each of the twelve chapters focuses on a particular topic devoted to special cases of the program. The book is suitable for graduate students and researchers.”

Representation Theory of Finite Groups: An Introductory Approach by Benjamin Steinberg.

Representation Theory of Finite Monoids by Benjamin Steinberg. Blurb: “This first text on the subject provides a comprehensive introduction to the representation theory of finite monoids. Carefully worked examples and exercises provide the bells and whistles for graduate accessibility, bringing a broad range of advanced readers to the forefront of research in the area. Highlights of the text include applications to probability theory, symbolic dynamics, and automata theory. Comfort with module theory, a familiarity with ordinary group representation theory, and the basics of Wedderburn theory, are prerequisites for advanced graduate level study.”

How am I doing? 914 dollars…

Way to go, same exercise tomorrow. Again, suggestions/warnings welcome!

Quiver Grassmannians can be anything

A standard Grassmannian $Gr(m,V)$ is the manifold having as its points all possible $m$-dimensional subspaces of a given vectorspace $V$. As an example, $Gr(1,V)$ is the set of lines through the origin in $V$ and therefore is the projective space $\mathbb{P}(V)$. Grassmannians are among the nicest projective varieties, they are smooth and allow a cell decomposition.

A quiver $Q$ is just an oriented graph. Here’s an example

A representation $V$ of a quiver assigns a vector-space to each vertex and a linear map between these vertex-spaces to every arrow. As an example, a representation $V$ of the quiver $Q$ consists of a triple of vector-spaces $(V_1,V_2,V_3)$ together with linear maps $f_a~:~V_2 \rightarrow V_1$ and $f_b,f_c~:~V_2 \rightarrow V_3$.

A sub-representation $W \subset V$ consists of subspaces of the vertex-spaces of $V$ and linear maps between them compatible with the maps of $V$. The dimension-vector of $W$ is the vector with components the dimensions of the vertex-spaces of $W$.

This means in the example that we require $f_a(W_2) \subset W_1$ and $f_b(W_2)$ and $f_c(W_2)$ to be subspaces of $W_3$. If the dimension of $W_i$ is $m_i$ then $m=(m_1,m_2,m_3)$ is the dimension vector of $W$.

The quiver-analogon of the Grassmannian $Gr(m,V)$ is the Quiver Grassmannian $QGr(m,V)$ where $V$ is a quiver-representation and $QGr(m,V)$ is the collection of all possible sub-representations $W \subset V$ with fixed dimension-vector $m$. One might expect these quiver Grassmannians to be rather nice projective varieties.

However, last week Markus Reineke posted a 2-page note on the arXiv proving that every projective variety is a quiver Grassmannian.

Let’s illustrate the argument by finding a quiver Grassmannian $QGr(m,V)$ isomorphic to the elliptic curve in $\mathbb{P}^2$ with homogeneous equation $Y^2Z=X^3+Z^3$.

Consider the Veronese embedding $\mathbb{P}^2 \rightarrow \mathbb{P}^9$ obtained by sending a point $(x:y:z)$ to the point

\[ (x^3:x^2y:x^2z:xy^2:xyz:xz^2:y^3:y^2z:yz^2:z^3) \]

The upshot being that the elliptic curve is now realized as the intersection of the image of $\mathbb{P}^2$ with the hyper-plane $\mathbb{V}(X_0-X_7+X_9)$ in the standard projective coordinates $(x_0:x_1:\cdots:x_9)$ for $\mathbb{P}^9$.

To describe the equations of the image of $\mathbb{P}^2$ in $\mathbb{P}^9$ consider the $6 \times 3$ matrix with the rows corresponding to $(x^2,xy,xz,y^2,yz,z^2)$ and the columns to $(x,y,z)$ and the entries being the multiplications, that is

$$\begin{bmatrix} x^3 & x^2y & x^2z \\ x^2y & xy^2 & xyz \\ x^2z & xyz & xz^2 \\ xy^2 & y^3 & y^2z \\ xyz & y^2z & yz^2 \\ xz^2 & yz^2 & z^3 \end{bmatrix} = \begin{bmatrix} x_0 & x_1 & x_2 \\ x_1 & x_3 & x_4 \\ x_2 & x_4 & x_5 \\ x_3 & x_6 & x_7 \\ x_4 & x_7 & x_8 \\ x_5 & x_8 & x_9 \end{bmatrix}$$

But then, a point $(x_0:x_1: \cdots : x_9)$ belongs to the image of $\mathbb{P}^2$ if (and only if) the matrix on the right-hand side has rank $1$ (that is, all its $2 \times 2$ minors vanish). Next, consider the quiver

and consider the representation $V=(V_1,V_2,V_3)$ with vertex-spaces $V_1=\mathbb{C}$, $V_2 = \mathbb{C}^{10}$ and $V_2 = \mathbb{C}^6$. The linear maps $x,y$ and $z$ correspond to the columns of the matrix above, that is

$$(x_0,x_1,x_2,x_3,x_4,x_5,x_6,x_7,x_8,x_9) \begin{cases} \rightarrow^x~(x_0,x_1,x_2,x_3,x_4,x_5) \\ \rightarrow^y~(x_1,x_3,x_4,x_6,x_7,x_8) \\ \rightarrow^z~(x_2,x_4,x_5,x_7,x_8,x_9) \end{cases}$$

The linear map $h~:~\mathbb{C}^{10} \rightarrow \mathbb{C}$ encodes the equation of the hyper-plane, that is $h=x_0-x_7+x_9$.

Now consider the quiver Grassmannian $QGr(m,V)$ for the dimension vector $m=(0,1,1)$. A base-vector $p=(x_0,\cdots,x_9)$ of $W_2 = \mathbb{C}p$ of a subrepresentation $W=(0,W_2,W_3) \subset V$ must be such that $h(x)=0$, that is, $p$ determines a point of the hyper-plane.

Likewise the vectors $x(p),y(p)$ and $z(p)$ must all lie in the one-dimensional space $W_3 = \mathbb{C}$, that is, the right-hand side matrix above must have rank one and hence $p$ is a point in the image of $\mathbb{P}^2$ under the Veronese.

That is, $Gr(m,V)$ is isomorphic to the intersection of this image with the hyper-plane and hence is isomorphic to the elliptic curve.

The general case is similar as one can view any projective subvariety $X \rightarrow \mathbb{P}^n$ as isomorphic to the intersection of the image of a specific $d$-uple Veronese embedding $\mathbb{P}^n \rightarrow \mathbb{P}^N$ with a number of hyper-planes in $\mathbb{P}^N$.

ADDED For those desperate to read the original comments-section, here’s the link.

Klein’s dessins d’enfant and the buckyball

We saw that the icosahedron can be constructed from the alternating group $A_5 $ by considering the elements of a conjugacy class of order 5 elements as the vertices and edges between two vertices if their product is still in the conjugacy class.

This description is so nice that one would like to have a similar construction for the buckyball. But, the buckyball has 60 vertices, so they surely cannot correspond to the elements of a conjugacy class of $A_5 $. But, perhaps there is a larger group, somewhat naturally containing $A_5 $, having a conjugacy class of 60 elements?

This is precisely the statement contained in Galois’ last letter. He showed that 11 is the largest prime p such that the group $L_2(p)=PSL_2(\mathbb{F}_p) $ has a (transitive) permutation presentation on p elements. For, p=11 the group $L_2(11) $ is of order 660, so it permuting 11 elements means that this set must be of the form $X=L_2(11)/A $ with $A \subset L_2(11) $ a subgroup of 60 elements… and it turns out that $A \simeq A_5 $…

Actually there are TWO conjugacy classes of subgroups isomorphic to $A_5 $ in $L_2(11) $ and we have already seen one description of these using the biplane geometry (one class is the stabilizer subgroup of a ‘line’, the other the stabilizer subgroup of a point).

Here, we will give yet another description of these two classes of $A_5 $ in $L_2(11) $, showing among other things that the theory of dessins d’enfant predates Grothendieck by 100 years.

In the very same paper containing the first depiction of the Dedekind tessellation, Klein found that there should be a degree 11 cover $\mathbb{P}^1_{\mathbb{C}} \rightarrow \mathbb{P}^1_{\mathbb{C}} $ with monodromy group $L_2(11) $, ramified only in the three points ${ 0,1,\infty } $ such that there is just one point lying over $\infty $, seven over 1 of which four points where two sheets come together and finally 5 points lying over 0 of which three where three sheets come together. In 1879 he wanted to determine this cover explicitly in the paper “Ueber die Transformationen elfter Ordnung der elliptischen Funktionen” (Math. Annalen) by describing all Riemann surfaces with this ramification data and pick out those with the correct monodromy group.

He manages to do so by associating to all these covers their ‘dessins d’enfants’ (which he calls Linienzuges), that is the pre-image of the interval [0,1] in which he marks the preimages of 0 by a bullet and those of 1 by a +, such as in the innermost darker graph on the right above. He even has these two wonderful pictures explaining how the dessin determines how the 11 sheets fit together. (More examples of dessins and the correspondences of sheets were drawn in the 1878 paper.)

The ramification data translates to the following statements about the Linienzuge : (a) it must be a tree ($\infty $ has one preimage), (b) there are exactly 11 (half)edges (the degree of the cover),
(c) there are 7 +-vertices and 5 o-vertices (preimages of 0 and 1) and (d) there are 3 trivalent o-vertices and 4 bivalent +-vertices (the sheet-information).

Klein finds that there are exactly 10 such dessins and lists them in his Fig. 2 (left). Then, he claims that one the two dessins of type I give the correct monodromy group. Recall that the monodromy group is found by giving each of the half-edges a number from 1 to 11 and looking at the permutation $\tau $ of order two pairing the half-edges adjacent to a +-vertex and the order three permutation $\sigma $ listing the half-edges by cycling counter-clockwise around a o-vertex. The monodromy group is the group generated by these two elements.

Fpr example, if we label the type V-dessin by the numbers of the white regions bordering the half-edges (as in the picture Fig. 3 on the right above) we get
$\sigma = (7,10,9)(5,11,6)(1,4,2) $ and $\tau=(8,9)(7,11)(1,5)(3,4) $.

Nowadays, it is a matter of a few seconds to determine the monodromy group using GAP and we verify that this group is $A_{11} $.

Of course, Klein didn’t have GAP at his disposal, so he had to rule out all these cases by hand.

gap> g:=Group((7,10,9)(5,11,6)(1,4,2),(8,9)(7,11)(1,5)(3,4));
Group([ (1,4,2)(5,11,6)(7,10,9), (1,5)(3,4)(7,11)(8,9) ])
gap> Size(g);
gap> IsSimpleGroup(g);

Klein used the fact that $L_2(7) $ only has elements of orders 1,2,3,5,6 and 11. So, in each of the remaining cases he had to find an element of a different order. For example, in type V he verified that the element $\tau.(\sigma.\tau)^3 $ is equal to the permutation (1,8)(2,10,11,9,6,4,5)(3,7) and consequently is of order 14.

Perhaps Klein knew this but GAP tells us that the monodromy group of all the remaining 8 cases is isomorphic to the alternating group $A_{11} $ and in the two type I cases is indeed $L_2(11) $. Anyway, the two dessins of type I correspond to the two conjugacy classes of subgroups $A_5 $ in the group $L_2(11) $.

But, back to the buckyball! The upshot of all this is that we have the group $L_2(11) $ containing two classes of subgroups isomorphic to $A_5 $ and the larger group $L_2(11) $ does indeed have two conjugacy classes of order 11 elements containing exactly 60 elements (compare this to the two conjugacy classes of order 5 elements in $A_5 $ in the icosahedral construction). Can we construct the buckyball out of such a conjugacy class?

To start, we can identify the 12 pentagons of the buckyball from a conjugacy class C of order 11 elements. If $x \in C $, then so do $x^3,x^4,x^5 $ and $x^9 $, whereas the powers ${ x^2,x^6,x^7,x^8,x^{10} } $ belong to the other conjugacy class. Hence, we can divide our 60 elements in 12 subsets of 5 elements and taking an element x in each of these, the vertices of a pentagon correspond (in order) to $~(x,x^3,x^9,x^5,x^4) $.

Group-theoretically this follows from the fact that the factorgroup of the normalizer of x modulo the centralizer of x is cyclic of order 5 and this group acts naturally on the conjugacy class of x with orbits of size 5.

Finding out how these pentagons fit together using hexagons is a lot subtler… and in The graph of the truncated icosahedron and the last letter of Galois Bertram Kostant shows how to do this.

Fix a subgroup isomorphic to $A_5 $ and let D be the set of all its order 2 elements (recall that they form a full conjugacy class in this $A_5 $ and that there are precisely 15 of them). Now, the startling observation made by Kostant is that for our order 11 element $x $ in C there is a unique element $a \in D $ such that the commutator$~b=[x,a]=x^{-1}a^{-1}xa $ belongs again to D. The unique hexagonal side having vertex x connects it to the element $b.x $which belongs again to C as $b.x=(ax)^{-1}.x.(ax) $.

Concluding, if C is a conjugacy class of order 11 elements in $L_2(11) $, then its 60 elements can be viewed as corresponding to the vertices of the buckyball. Any element $x \in C $ is connected by two pentagonal sides to the elements $x^{3} $ and $x^4 $ and one hexagonal side connecting it to $\tau x = b.x $.