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Tag: hexagonal

Who discovered the Leech lattice?

The Leech lattice was, according to wikipedia, ‘originally discovered by Ernst Witt in 1940, but he did not publish his discovery’ and it ‘was later re-discovered in 1965 by John Leech’. However, there is very little evidence to support this claim.

The facts

What is certain is that John Leech discovered in 1965 an amazingly dense 24-dimensional lattice $ {\Lambda} $ having the property that unit balls around the lattice points touch, each one of them having exactly 196560 neighbors. The paper ‘Notes on sphere packings’ appeared in 1967 in the Canad. J. Math. 19, 251-267.

Compare this to the optimal method to place pennies on a table, leading to the hexagonal tiling, each penny touching exactly 6 others. Similarly, in dimension 8 the densest packing is the E8 lattice in which every unit ball has exactly 240 neighbors.

The Leech lattice $ {\Lambda} $ can be characterized as the unique unimodular positive definite even lattice such that the length of any non-zero vector is at least two.

The list of all positive definite even unimodular lattices, $ {\Gamma_{24}} $, in dimension 24 was classified later by Hans-Volker Niemeier and are now known as the 24 Niemeier lattices.

For the chronology below it is perhaps useful to note that, whereas Niemeier’s paper did appear in 1973, it was submitted april 5th 1971 and is just a minor rewrite of Niemeier’s Ph.D. “Definite quadratische Formen der Dimension 24 und Diskriminante 1” obtained in 1968 from the University of Göttingen with advisor Martin Kneser.

The claim

On page 328 of Ernst Witt’s Collected Papers Ina Kersten recalls that Witt gave a colloquium talk on January 27, 1970 in Hamburg entitled “Gitter und Mathieu-Gruppen” (Lattices and Mathieu-groups). In this talk Witt claimed to have found nine lattices in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $ as far back as 1938 and that on January 28, 1940 he found two additional lattices $ {M} $ and $ {\Lambda} $ while studying the Steiner system $ {S(5,8,24)} $.

On page 329 of the collected papers is a scan of the abstract Witt wrote in the colloquium book in Bielefeld where he gave a talk “Uber einige unimodularen Gitter” (On certain unimodular lattices) on January 28, 1972

Here, Witt claims that he found three new lattices in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $ on January 28, 1940 as the lattices $ {M} $, $ {M’} $ and $ {\Lambda} $ ‘feiern heute ihren 32sten Gebursttag!’ (celebrate today their 32nd birthday).

He goes on telling that the lattices $ {M} $ and $ {\Lambda} $ were number 10 and 11 in his list of lattices in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $ in his paper “Eine Identität zwischen Modulformen zweiten Grades” in the Abh. Math. Sem. Univ. Hamburg 14 (1941) 323-337 and he refers in particular to page 324 of that paper.

He further claims that he computed the orders of their automorphism groups and writes that $ {\Lambda} $ ‘wurde 1967 von Leech wieder-entdeckt’ (was re-discovered by Leech in 1967) and that its automorphism group $ {G(\Lambda)} $ was studied by John Conway. Recall that Conway’s investigations of the automorphism group of the Leech lattice led to the discovery of three new sporadic groups, the Conway groups $ {Co_1,Co_2} $ and $ {Co_3} $.

However, Witt’s 1941-paper does not contain a numbered list of 24-dimensional lattices. In fact, apart from $ {E_8+E_8+E_8} $ is does not contain a single lattice in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $. The only relevant paragraph is indeed on page 324

He observes that Mordell already proved that there is just one lattice in $ {\Gamma_8} $ (the $ {E_8} $-lattice) and that the main result of his paper is to prove that there are precisely two even unimodular 16-dimensional lattices : $ {E_8+E_8} $ and another lattice, now usually called the 16-dimensional Witt-lattice.

He then goes on to observe that Schoeneberg knew that $ {\# \Gamma_{24} > 1} $ and so there must be more lattices than $ {E_8+E_8+E_8} $ in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $. Witt concludes with : “In my attempt to find such a lattice, I discovered more than 10 lattices in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $. The determination of $ {\# \Gamma_{24}} $ does not seem to be entirely trivial.”

Hence, it is fair to assume that by 1940 Ernst Witt had discovered at least 11 of the 24 Niemeier lattices. Whether the Leech lattice was indeed lattice 11 on the list is anybody’s guess.

Next time we will look more closely into the historical context of Witt’s 1941 paper.

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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(11) $ 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 $.

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Arnold’s trinities

Referring to the triple of exceptional Galois groups $L_2(5),L_2(7),L_2(11) $ and its connection to the Platonic solids I wrote : “It sure seems that surprises often come in triples…”. Briefly I considered replacing triples by trinities, but then, I didnt want to sound too mystic…

David Corfield of the n-category cafe and a dialogue on infinity (and perhaps other blogs I’m unaware of) pointed me to the paper Symplectization, complexification and mathematical trinities by Vladimir I. Arnold. (Update : here is a PDF-conversion of the paper)

The paper is a write-up of the second in a series of three lectures Arnold gave in june 1997 at the meeting in the Fields Institute dedicated to his 60th birthday. The goal of that lecture was to explain some mathematical dreams he had.

The next dream I want to present is an even more fantastic set of theorems and conjectures. Here I also have no theory and actually the ideas form a kind of religion rather than mathematics.
The key observation is that in mathematics one encounters many trinities. I shall present a list of examples. The main dream (or conjecture) is that all these trinities are united by some rectangular “commutative diagrams”.
I mean the existence of some “functorial” constructions connecting different trinities. The knowledge of the existence of these diagrams provides some new conjectures which might turn to be true theorems.

Follows a list of 12 trinities, many taken from Arnold’s field of expertise being differential geometry. I’ll restrict to the more algebraically inclined ones.

1 : “The first trinity everyone knows is”

where $\mathbb{H} $ are the Hamiltonian quaternions. The trinity on the left may be natural to differential geometers who see real and complex and hyper-Kaehler manifolds as distinct but related beasts, but I’m willing to bet that most algebraists would settle for the trinity on the right where $\mathbb{O} $ are the octonions.

2 : The next trinity is that of the exceptional Lie algebras E6, E7 and E8.

with corresponding Dynkin-Coxeter diagrams

Arnold has this to say about the apparent ubiquity of Dynkin diagrams in mathematics.

Manin told me once that the reason why we always encounter this list in many different mathematical classifications is its presence in the hardware of our brain (which is thus unable to discover a more complicated scheme).
I still hope there exists a better reason that once should be discovered.

Amen to that. I’m quite hopeful human evolution will overcome the limitations of Manin’s brain…

3 : Next comes the Platonic trinity of the tetrahedron, cube and dodecahedron

Clearly one can argue against this trinity as follows : a tetrahedron is a bunch of triangles such that there are exactly 3 of them meeting in each vertex, a cube is a bunch of squares, again 3 meeting in every vertex, a dodecahedron is a bunch of pentagons 3 meeting in every vertex… and we can continue the pattern. What should be a bunch a hexagons such that in each vertex exactly 3 of them meet? Well, only one possibility : it must be the hexagonal tiling (on the left below). And in normal Euclidian space we cannot have a bunch of septagons such that three of them meet in every vertex, but in hyperbolic geometry this is still possible and leads to the Klein quartic (on the right). Check out this wonderful post by John Baez for more on this.

4 : The trinity of the rotation symmetry groups of the three Platonics

where $A_n $ is the alternating group on n letters and $S_n $ is the symmetric group.

Clearly, any rotation of a Platonic solid takes vertices to vertices, edges to edges and faces to faces. For the tetrahedron we can easily see the 4 of the group $A_4 $, say the 4 vertices. But what is the 4 of $S_4 $ in the case of a cube? Well, a cube has 4 body-diagonals and they are permuted under the rotational symmetries. The most difficult case is to see the $5 $ of $A_5 $ in the dodecahedron. Well, here’s the solution to this riddle

there are exactly 5 inscribed cubes in a dodecahedron and they are permuted by the rotations in the same way as $A_5 $.

7 : The seventh trinity involves complex polynomials in one variable

the Laurant polynomials and the modular polynomials (that is, rational functions with three poles at 0,1 and $\infty $.

8 : The eight one is another beauty

Here ‘numbers’ are the ordinary complex numbers $\mathbb{C} $, the ‘trigonometric numbers’ are the quantum version of those (aka q-numbers) which is a one-parameter deformation and finally, the ‘elliptic numbers’ are a two-dimensional deformation. If you ever encountered a Sklyanin algebra this will sound familiar.

This trinity is based on a paper of Turaev and Frenkel and I must come back to it some time…

The paper has some other nice trinities (such as those among Whitney, Chern and Pontryagin classes) but as I cannot add anything sensible to it, let us include a few more algebraic trinities. The first one attributed by Arnold to John McKay

13 : A trinity parallel to the exceptional Lie algebra one is

between the 27 straight lines on a cubic surface, the 28 bitangents on a quartic plane curve and the 120 tritangent planes of a canonic sextic curve of genus 4.

14 : The exceptional Galois groups

explained last time.

15 : The associated curves with these groups as symmetry groups (as in the previous post)

where the ? refers to the mysterious genus 70 curve. I’ll check with one of the authors whether there is still an embargo on the content of this paper and if not come back to it in full detail.

16 : The three generations of sporadic groups

Do you have other trinities you’d like to worship?

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