From WordPress to ePublishing (1)

Perhaps, the tips and tricks I did receive to turn a selection of wordpress-posts into a proper ePub-file may be of use to others, so I will describe the procedure here in some detail.

It makes a difference whether or not some of the posts contain TeX. This time, I’ll sketch the process for non-LaTeX posts and hence we will turn the Bourbaki-code posts into ePub-format to read on your iPad, rather than merely into a pdf-file as last time. Next time, I’ll add some tricks to repeat this when some of your posts do contain LaTeX.

1. Install the ePub export plugin

Get the epub export wordpress plugin, install and activate it in the usual way. ePub Export automatically creates an ePub file when a post or page is published or updated. The ePubs are stored in the uploads directory. For later use, remember that your uploads directories are located under BLOGHOME/wp-content/uploads.

2. Update the posts you want to include

Decide which posts you want to include in your eBook, edit them (or not) and press for each one of them the update-button. This will populate today’s uploads-directory with a number of epub-files. Transfer them all, for example using Transmit, to a directory on your home-computer, named say MyFirstEBook.



3. Unpack the epub-files

The crucial fact to remember about epub-files is that they are really zipped archives containing xhtml-, css- and other files and directories. As we want to edit some of those, we first have to unpack the directories. So, change the .epub extensions to .zip and double-click on them to create the directories.



The crucial files in each directory are preface.xhtml (containing title author and blog-name), text.html (containing the blog-post) and the images-directory (containing copies of all the images used in the post).

4. Rename the directories user-friendly

As all the posts will be chapters in our eBook in some specific order, we will rename the numbers of the directories to something more user-friendly such as shortened blog-titles. To do this, double-click in each of the directories on the preface.xhtml file. This will open Safari and will show the title of the blog-post. Use it to rename that directory. For convenience let us call the directory corresponding to the first chapter in our book MasterDirectory

5. Move all images to the master directory

For each of the other chapter-directories, drag all the files contained in the images-subdirectory to MasterDirectory/images.

6. Edit the MasterDirectory/text.xhtml file

Because we will have to open and copy-paste all the text.xhtml files of the different directories, it is perhaps best to rename momentarily the MasterDirectory/text.xhtml file to something like master.xhtml.

Now, open this file with a text-processor such as TextWrangler. Edit it to remove unwanted html-code (such as links to other posts at the start if you are using the series-plugin, or previous/next post links at the end). Also add the title of the blog-post between h1-tags (and if you want to include a table of contents later, give it an anchor-name).

Go to the directory of your second chapter, open that text.xhtml file and copy/paste only the post-content over to the master-xhtml file at the appropriate place. As before, add title/anchor before the copied post-content.

Repeat this procedure, in order, for all the chapters of your eBook.

Once finished, doubleclick the master.xhtml file and correct remaining errors (as it is an xhtml-file, it is rather picky about opening and closing tags) and see whether all your images are included. If you’re satisfied with it, rename the master.xhtml to text.xhtml (don’t forget this!).

7. Edit the MasterDirectory/preface.xhtml file

Open the preface.xhtml file and change the first blogpost-title to the title of your booklet, alter your name (by default it uses your wp-nick) and add a frontipiece-picture if you so desire.

8. Re-package the directory into an epub-file

This is the (only) tricky part. E-book readers require that the mimetype file is the first one in the zip document. What’s more, to be fully compliant, this file should start at a very specific point – a 30-byte offset from the beginning of the zip file (so that the mimetype text itself starts at byte 38).

Here’s how to do this on a Mac (Linux-users being the geeks they are will have given up on reading this post a while ago and as to Windows-users, yeah well …). Open Terminal.app and cd to your MasterDirectory. Now type:

zip -X MyFirstEBook.epub mimetype

Next, type:

zip -rg MyFirstEBook.epub * -x *.DS_Store

(of course you’ll have to change your book-title to whatever you want). If you want to know more about these 2 magical commands, read this post.

9. Edit metadata

Get Calibre and add the MyFirstEBook.epub to Calibre by clicking on the ‘Add Books’ button.



You can preview your eBook by clicking on the ‘View’-button. Next, click the ‘Edit metadata’-button and alter the title and author entries (and whatever else you want to include) and click the OK button. Then click ‘Save to disk’.

10. Read your eBook on your iPad

Finally, we want to see how it looks on the iPad. Mail MyFirstEBook.epub to yourself as attachement, open it with iBooks and enjoy!

What’s Pippa got to do with the Bourbaki wedding?

Last time we’ve seen that on June 3rd 1939, the very day of the Bourbaki wedding, Malraux’ movie ‘L’espoir’ had its first (private) viewing, and we mused whether Weil’s wedding card was a coded invitation to that event.

But, there’s another plausible explanation why the Bourbaki wedding might have been scheduled for June 3rd : it was intended to be a copy-cat Royal Wedding…

The media-hype surrounding the wedding of Prince William to Pippa’s sister led to a hausse in newspaper articles on iconic royal weddings of the past.

One of these, the marriage of Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson, was held on June 3rd 1937 : “This was the scandal of the century, as far as royal weddings go. Edward VIII had just abdicated six months before in order to marry an American twice-divorced commoner. The British Establishment at the time would not allow Edward VIII to stay on the throne and marry this woman (the British Monarch is also the head of the Church of England), so Edward chose love over duty and fled to France to await the finalization of his beloved’s divorce. They were married in a private, civil ceremony, which the Royal Family boycotted.”

But, what does this wedding have to do with Bourbaki?

For starters, remember that the wedding-card-canular was concocted in the spring of 1939 in Cambridge, England. So, if Weil and his Anglo-American associates needed a common wedding-example, the Edward-Wallis case surely would spring to mind. One might even wonder about the transposed symmetry : a Royal (Betti, whose father is from the Royal Poldavian Academy), marrying an American (Stanislas Pondiczery).

Even Andre Weil must have watched this wedding with interest (perhaps even sympathy). He too had to wait a considerable amount of time for Eveline’s divorce (see this post) to finalize, so that they could marry on october 30th 1937, just a few months after Edward & Wallis.



But, there’s more. The royal wedding took place at the Chateau de Cande, just south of Tours (the A on the google-map below). Now, remember that the 2nd Bourbaki congress was held at the Chevalley family-property in Chancay (see the Escorial post) a bit to the north-east of Tours (the marker on the map). As this conference took place only a month after the Royal Wedding (from 10th till 20th of July 1937), the event surely must have been the talk of the town.

Early on, we concluded that the Bourbaki-Petard wedding took place at 12 o’clock (‘a l’heure habituelle’). So did the Edward-Wallis wedding. More precisely, the civil ceremony began at 11.47 and the local mayor had to come to the castle for the occasion, and, afterwards the couple went into the music-room, which was converted into an Anglican chapel for the day, at precisely 12 o’clock.

The emphasis on the musical organ in the Bourbaki wedding-invitation allowed us to identify the identity of ‘Monsieur Modulo’ to be Olivier Messiaen as well as that of the wedding church. Now, the Chateau de Cande also houses an impressive organ, the Skinner opus 718 organ.

For the wedding ceremony, Edward and Wallis hired the services of one of the most renowned French organists at the time : Marcel Dupre who was since 1906 Widor’s assistent, and, from 1934 resident organist in the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris. Perhaps more telling for our story is that Dupre was, apart from Paul Dukas, the most influential teacher of Olivier Messiaen.

On June 3rd, 1937 Dupre performed the following pieces. During the civil ceremony, an extract from the 29e Bach cantate, canon in re-minor by Schumann and the prelude of the fugue in do-minor of himself. When the couple entered the music room he played the march of the Judas Macchabee oratorium of Handel and the cortege by himself. During the religious ceremony he performed his own choral, adagium in mi-minor by Cesar Franck, the traditional ‘Oh Perfect Love’, the Jesus-choral by Bach and the toccata of the 5th symphony of Widor. Compare this level of detail to the minimal musical hint given in the Bourbaki wedding-invitation

“Assistent Simplexe de la Grassmannienne (lemmas chantees par la Scholia Cartanorum)”

This is one of the easier riddles to solve. The ‘simplicial assistent of the Grassmannian’ is of course Hermann Schubert (Schubert cell-decomposition of Grassmannians). But, the composer Franz Schubert only left us one organ-composition : the Fugue in E-minor.

I have tried hard to get hold of a copy of the official invitation for the Edward-Wallis wedding, but failed miserably. There must be quite a few of them still out there, of the 300 invited people only 16 showed up… You can watch a video newsreel film of the wedding.

As Claude Chevalley’s father had an impressive diplomatic career behind him and lived in the neighborhood, he might have been invited, and, perhaps the (unused) invitation was lying around at the time of the second Bourbaki-congress in Chancay,just one month after the Edward-Wallis wedding…

NeB : 7 years and now an iPad App

Exactly 7 years ago I wrote my first post. This blog wasn’t called NeB yet and it used pMachine, a then free blogging tool (later transformed into expression engine), rather than WordPress.

Over the years NeB survived three hardware-upgrades of ‘the Matrix’ (the webserver hosting it), more themes than I care to remember, and a couple of dramatic closure announcements…

But then we’re still here, soldiering on, still uncertain whether there’s a point to it, but grateful for tiny tokens of appreciation.

Such as this morning’s story: Chandan deemed it necessary to correct two spelling mistakes in a 2 year old Fun-math post on Weil and the Riemann hypothesis (also reposted on Neb here). Often there’s a story behind such sudden comments, and a quick check of MathOverflow revealed this answer and the comments following it.

I thank Ed Dean for linking to the Fun-post, Chandan for correcting the misspellings and Georges for the kind words. I agree with Georges that a cut&copy of a blogpost-quoted text does not require a link to that post (though it is always much appreciated). It is rewarding to see such old posts getting a second chance…

Above the Google Analytics graph of the visitors coming here via a mobile device (at most 5 on a good day…). Anticipating much more iPads around after tonights presents-session I’ve made NeB more accessible for iPods, iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices.

The first time you get here via your Mac-device of choice you’ll be given the option of saving NeB as an App. It has its own icon (lowest row middle, also the favicon of NeB) and flashy start-up screen.

Of course, the whole point trying to make NeB more readable for Mobile users you get an overview of the latest posts together with links to categories and tags and the number of comments. Sliding through you can read the post, optimized for the device.

I do hope you will use the two buttons at the end of each post, the first to share or save it and the second to leave a comment.

I wish you all a lot of mathematical (and other) fun in 2011 :: lieven.

Seating the first few billion Knights

The odd Knight of the round table problem asks for a consistent placement of the n-th Knight in the row at an odd root of unity, compatible with the two different realizations of the algebraic closure of the field with two elements.

The first identifies the multiplicative group of its non-zero elements with the group of all odd complex roots of unity, under complex multiplication. The second uses Conway’s ‘simplicity rules’ in ONAG to define an addition and multiplication on the set of all ordinal numbers.

Here’s the seating arrangement for the first 15 knights. Conway proved that all finite ordinals smaller than $2^{2^i} $ form a subfield of $\overline{\mathbb{F}}_2 $. The first non-trivial one being $\{ 0,1,2,3 \} $ with smallest multiplicative generator $2 $, whence we place Knight 2 at $e^{2 i \pi/3} $ and as $2^2=3 $ we know where to place the third Knight.

The next subfield is made of the numbers $\{ 0,1,2,\ldots,13,14,15 \} $ and its non-zero numbers form a cyclic group of order 15. Hence we need to find the smallest generator of this group satisfying the additional property of being compatible with the earlier seating, that is, its fifth power must equal to 2. Checking the multiplication table reproduced here one verifies that the wanted generator is 4 and so we place Knight 4 at $e^{\frac{2 \pi i}{15}} $ and as all the ordinals smaller than 16 are powers of 4 this tells us where to place the Knights until we get to the 15th in the row.

In february we were able to seat the first few thousand Knights by showing by hand that 32 is the smallest ordinal such that its 15-th power is equal to 4 and using SAGE that 1051 is the smallest ordinal whose 257-th power equals 32. These calculations enabled us to seat the Knights until we get to the 65536-th in the row.

Today I managed to show that 1361923 is the smallest ordinal such that its 65537-th power equals 1051. You can verify this statement in SAGE using the method explained in the february post


sage: R.< x,y,z,t,u >=GF(2)[]

sage: S.< a,b,c,d,e > =
R.quotient((x^2+x+1,y^2+y+x,z^2+z+x*y,t^2+t+x*y*z,u^2+u+x*y*z*t))

sage: (c*e+b*e+a*b*c*d+b*c*d+a*b*d+a+1)^65537
c^2 + b*d + a + 1

(It takes a bit longer to check minimality of 1361923). That is, we have to seat Knight 1361923 at $e^{\frac{2 \pi i}{4294967295}} $ and because all the numbers smaller than 4294967296 are powers of 1361923 we have seating arrangements for the first 4294967295 Knights!

I did try the same method in february but ran into time- and memory-problems on my 2.4Ghz 2Gb MacBook. Today I upgraded from Sage 3.3 to Sage 4.6 and this version is a lot faster (using the 64-bit architecture) and also appears to be much better at memory-management. Thank you, Sage-community!

Wishing you all a lot of mathematical (and other) fun in the prime-number year 2011.

atb :: lieven.

So, who did discover the Leech lattice?

For the better part of the 30ties, Ernst Witt (1) did hang out with the rest of the ‘Noetherknaben’, the group of young mathematicians around Emmy Noether (3) in Gottingen.

In 1934 Witt became Helmut Hasse‘s assistent in Gottingen, where he qualified as a university lecturer in 1936. By 1938 he has made enough of a name for himself to be offered a lecturer position in Hamburg and soon became an associate professor, the down-graded position held by Emil Artin (2) until he was forced to emigrate in 1937.

A former fellow student of him in Gottingen, Erna Bannow (4), had gone earlier to Hamburg to work with Artin. She continued her studies with Witt and finished her Ph.D. in 1939. In 1940 Erna Bannow and Witt married.

So, life was smiling on Ernst Witt that sunday january 28th 1940, both professionally and personally. There was just one cloud on the horizon, and a rather menacing one. He was called up by the Wehrmacht and knew he had to enter service in february. For all he knew, he was spending the last week-end with his future wife… (later in february 1940, Blaschke helped him to defer his military service by one year).

Still, he desperately wanted to finish his paper before entering the army, so he spend most of that week-end going through the final version and submitted it on monday, as the published paper shows.

In the 70ties, Witt suddenly claimed he did discover the Leech lattice $ {\Lambda} $ that sunday. Last time we have seen that the only written evidence for Witt’s claim is one sentence in his 1941-paper Eine Identität zwischen Modulformen zweiten Grades. “Bei dem Versuch, eine Form aus einer solchen Klassen wirklich anzugeben, fand ich mehr als 10 verschiedene Klassen in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $.”

But then, why didn’t Witt include more details of this sensational lattice in his paper?

Ina Kersten recalls on page 328 of Witt’s collected papers : “In his colloquium talk “Gitter und Mathieu-Gruppen” in Hamburg on January 27, 1970, Witt said that in 1938, he had found nine lattices in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $ and that later on January 28, 1940, while studying the Steiner system $ {S(5,8,24)} $, he had found two additional lattices $ {M} $ and $ {\Lambda} $ in $ {\Gamma_{24}} $. He continued saying that he had then given up the tedious investigation of $ {\Gamma_{24}} $ because of the surprisingly low contribution

$ \displaystyle | Aut(\Lambda) |^{-1} < 10^{-18} $

to the Minkowski density and that he had consented himself with a short note on page 324 in his 1941 paper.”

In the last sentence he refers to the fact that the sum of the inverse orders of the automorphism groups of all even unimodular lattices of a given dimension is a fixed rational number, the Minkowski-Siegel mass constant. In dimension 24 this constant is

$ \displaystyle \sum_{L} \frac{1}{| Aut(L) |} = \frac {1027637932586061520960267}{129477933340026851560636148613120000000} \approx 7.937 \times 10^{-15} $

That is, Witt was disappointed by the low contribution of the Leech lattice to the total constant and concluded that there might be thousands of new even 24-dimensional unimodular lattices out there, and dropped the problem.

If true, the story gets even better : not only claims Witt to have found the lattices $ {A_1^{24}=M} $ and $ {\Lambda} $, but also enough information on the Leech lattice in order to compute the order of its automorphism group $ {Aut(\Lambda)} $, aka the Conway group $ {Co_0 = .0} $ the dotto-group!

Is this possible? Well fortunately, the difficulties one encounters when trying to compute the order of the automorphism group of the Leech lattice from scratch, is one of the better documented mathematical stories around.

The books From Error-Correcting Codes through Sphere Packings to Simple Groups by Thomas Thompson, Symmetry and the monster by Mark Ronan, and Finding moonshine by Marcus du Sautoy tell the story in minute detail.

It took John Conway 12 hours on a 1968 saturday in Cambridge to compute the order of the dotto group, using the knowledge of Leech and McKay on the properties of the Leech lattice and with considerable help offered by John Thompson via telephone.

But then, John Conway is one of the fastest mathematicians the world has known. The prologue of his book On numbers and games begins with : “Just over a quarter of a century ago, for seven consecutive days I sat down and typed from 8:30 am until midnight, with just an hour for lunch, and ever since have described this book as “having been written in a week”.”

Conway may have written a book in one week, Ernst Witt did complete his entire Ph.D. in just one week! In a letter of August 1933, his sister told her parents : “He did not have a thesis topic until July 1, and the thesis was to be submitted by July 7. He did not want to have a topic assigned to him, and when he finally had the idea, he started working day and night, and eventually managed to finish in time.”

So, if someone might have beaten John Conway in fast-computing the dottos order, it may very well have been Witt. Sadly enough, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to make Witt’s claim highly unlikely.

For starters, psychology. Would you spend your last week-end together with your wife to be before going to war performing an horrendous calculation?

Secondly, mathematical breakthroughs often arise from newly found insight. At that time, Witt was also working on his paper on root lattices “Spiegelungsgrupen and Aufzähling halbeinfacher Liescher Ringe” which he eventually submitted in january 1941. Contained in that paper is what we know as Witt’s lemma which tells us that for any integral lattice the sublattice generated by vectors of norms 1 and 2 is a direct sum of root lattices.

This leads to the trick of trying to construct unimodular lattices by starting with a direct sum of root lattices and ‘adding glue’. Although this gluing-method was introduced by Kneser as late as 1967, Witt must have been aware of it as his 16-dimensional lattice $ {D_{16}^+} $ is constructed this way.

If Witt wanted to construct new 24-dimensional even unimodular lattices in 1940, it would be natural for him to start off with direct sums of root lattices and trying to add vectors to them until he got what he was after. Now, all of the Niemeier-lattices are constructed this way, except for the Leech lattice!

I’m far from an expert on the Niemeier lattices but I would say that Witt definitely knew of the existence of $ {D_{24}^+} $, $ {E_8^3} $ and $ {A_{24}^+} $ and that it is quite likely he also constructed $ {(D_{16}E_8)^+, (D_{12}^2)^+, (A_{12}^2)^+, (D_8^3)^+} $ and possibly $ {(A_{17}E_7)^+} $ and $ {(A_{15}D_9)^+} $. I’d rate it far more likely Witt constructed another two such lattices on sunday january 28th 1940, rather than discovering the Leech lattice.

Finally, wouldn’t it be natural for him to include a remark, in his 1941 paper on root lattices, that not every even unimodular lattices can be obtained from sums of root lattices by adding glue, the Leech lattice being the minimal counter-example?

If it is true he was playing around with the Steiner systems that sunday, it would still be a pretty good story he discovered the lattices $ {(A_2^{12})^+} $ and $ {(A_1^{24})^+} $, for this would mean he discovered the Golay codes in the process!

Which brings us to our next question : who discovered the Golay code?

Return to LaTeX

To most mathematicians, a good LaTeX-frontend (such as TeXShop for Mac-users) is the crucial tool to get the work done. We use it to draft ideas, write papers and courses, or even to take notes during lectures.

However, after six years of blogging, my own LaTeX-routine became rusty. I rarely open a new tex-document, and when I do, I’d rather copy-paste the long preamble from an old file than to start from scratch with a minimal list of packages and definitions needed for the job at hand. The few times I put a paper on the arXiv, the resulting text resembles a blog-post more than a mathematical paper, here’s an example.

As I desperately need to get some math-writing done, I need to pull myself away from the lure of an ever-open WordPress admin browser-screen and reacquaint myself with the far more efficient LaTeX-environment.

Perhaps even my blogging will benefit from the change. Whereas I used to keep on adding to most of my tex-files in order to keep them up-to-date, I rarely edit a blog-post after hitting the ’publish’ button. If I really want to turn some of my better posts into a book, I need them in a format suitable for neverending polishing, without annoying the many RSS-feed aggregators out there.

Who better than Terry Tao to teach me a more proficient way of blogging? A few days ago, Terry announced he will soon have his 5th (!!) book out, after three years of blogging…

How does he manage to do this? Well, as far as I know, Terry blogs in LaTeX and then uses a python-script called LaTeX2WP ’a program that converts a LaTeX file into something that is ready to be cut and pasted into WordPress. This way, you can write, and preview, your post in LaTeX, then run LaTeX2WP, and post into WordPress whatever comes out.’ More importantly, one retains a pure-tex-file of the post on which one can keep on editing to get it into a (book)-publishable form, eventually.

Nice, but one can do even better, as Eric from Curious Reasoning worked out. He suggests to install two useful python-packages : WordPressLib “with this library you can control remotely a WordPress installation. Use of library is very simple, you can write a small scripts or full applications that allows you to automate publishing of articles on your blog/site powered by WordPress” and plasTeX “plasTeX is a LaTeX document processing framework written entirely in Python. It currently comes bundled with an XHTML renderer (including multiple themes), as well as a way to simply dump the document to a generic form of XML”. Installation is easy : download and extract the files somewhere, go there and issue a **sudo python setup.py install** to add the packages to your python.

Finally, get Eric’s own wplatex package and install it as explained there. WpLaTeX has all the features of LaTeX2WP and much more : one can add titles, tags and categories automatically and publish the post from the command-line without ever having to enter the taboo WordPress-admin page! Here’s what I’ve written by now in TeXShop

I’ve added the screenshot and the script will know where to find it online for the blog-version as well as on my hard-disk for the tex-version. Very handy is the iftex … fi versus ifblog … fi alternative which allows you to add pure HTML to get the desired effect, when needed. Remains only to go into Terminal and issue the command

wplpost -x http://www.neverendingbooks.org/xmlrpc.php ReturnToLatex.tex

(if your blog is on WordPress.com it even suffices to give its name, rather than this work-around for stand-alone wordpress blogs). The script asks for my username and password and will convert the tex-file and post it automatic.