the 171 moonshine groups

Monstrous moonshine associates to every element of order $n$ of the monster group $\mathbb{M}$ an arithmetic group of the form
\[
(n|h)+e,f,\dots \]
where $h$ is a divisor of $24$ and of $n$ and where $e,f,\dots$ are divisors of $\frac{n}{h}$ coprime with its quotient.

In snakes, spines, and all that we’ve constructed the arithmetic group
\[
\Gamma_0(n|h)+e,f,\dots \]
which normalizes $\Gamma_0(N)$ for $N=h.n$. If $h=1$ then this group is the moonshine group $(n|h)+e,f,\dots$, but for $h > 1$ the moonshine group is a specific subgroup of index $h$ in $\Gamma_0(n|h)+e,f,\dots$.

I’m sure one can describe this subgroup explicitly in each case by analysing the action of the finite group $(\Gamma_0(n|h)+e,f,\dots)/\Gamma_0(N)$ on the $(N|1)$-snake. Some examples were worked out by John Duncan in his paper Arithmetic groups and the affine E8 Dynkin diagram.

But at the moment I don’t understand the general construction given by Conway, McKay and Sebbar in On the discrete groups of moonshine. I’m stuck at the last sentence of (2) in section 3. Nothing a copy of Charles Ferenbaugh Ph. D. thesis cannot fix.

The correspondence between the conjugacy classes of the Monster and these arithmetic groups takes up 3 pages in Conway & Norton’s Monstrous Moonshine. Here’s the beginning of it.

Snakes, spines, threads and all that

Conway introduced his Big Picture to make it easier to understand and name the groups appearing in Monstrous Moonshine.

For $M \in \mathbb{Q}_+$ and $0 \leq \frac{g}{h} < 1$, $M,\frac{g}{h}$ denotes (the projective equivalence class of) the lattice \[ \mathbb{Z} (M \vec{e}_1 + \frac{g}{h} \vec{e}_2) \oplus \mathbb{Z} \vec{e}_2 \] which we also like to represent by the $2 \times 2$ matrix \[ \alpha_{M,\frac{g}{h}} = \begin{bmatrix} M & \frac{g}{h} \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix} \] A subgroup $G$ of $GL_2(\mathbb{Q})$ is said to fix $M,\frac{g}{h}$ if
\[
\alpha_{M,\frac{g}{h}}.G.\alpha_{M,\frac{g}{h}}^{-1} \subset SL_2(\mathbb{Z}) \]
The full group of all elements fixing $M,\frac{g}{h}$ is the conjugate
\[
\alpha_{M,\frac{g}{h}}^{-1}.SL_2(\mathbb{Z}).\alpha_{M,\frac{g}{h}} \]
For a number lattice $N=N,0$ the elements of this group are all of the form
\[
\begin{bmatrix} a & \frac{b}{N} \\ cN & d \end{bmatrix} \qquad \text{with} \qquad \begin{bmatrix} a & b \\ c & d \end{bmatrix} \in SL_2(\mathbb{Z}) \]
and the intersection with $SL_2(\mathbb{Z})$ (which is the group of all elements fixing the lattice $1=1,0$) is the congruence subgroup
\[
\Gamma_0(N) = \{ \begin{bmatrix} a & b \\ cN & d \end{bmatrix}~|~ad-Nbc = 1 \} \]
Conway argues that this is the real way to think of $\Gamma_0(N)$, as the joint stabilizer of the two lattices $N$ and $1$!

The defining definition of 24 tells us that $\Gamma_0(N)$ fixes more lattices. In fact, it fixes exactly the latices $M \frac{g}{h}$ such that
\[
1~|~M~|~\frac{N}{h^2} \quad \text{with} \quad h^2~|~N \quad \text{and} \quad h~|~24 \]
Conway calls the sub-graph of the Big Picture on these lattices the snake of $(N|1)$.

Here’s the $(60|1)$-snake (note that $60=2^2.3.5$ so $h=1$ or $h=2$ and edges corresponding to the prime $2$ are coloured red, those for $3$ green and for $5$ blue).

\[
\xymatrix{& & & 15 \frac{1}{2} \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & \\
& & 5 \frac{1}{2} \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & & \\
& 15 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 30 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 60 \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] \\
5 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 10 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 20 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & \\
& 3 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 6 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & 12 \\
1 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 2 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & 4 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] & \\
& & & 3\frac{1}{2} & & \\
& & 1 \frac{1}{2} & & &} \]

The sub-graph of lattices fixed by $\Gamma_0(N)$ for $h=1$, that is all number-lattices $M=M,0$ for $M$ a divisor of $N$ is called the thread of $(N|1)$. Here’s the $(60|1)$-thread

\[
\xymatrix{
& 15 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 30 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 60 \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] \\
5 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 10 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 20 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & \\
& 3 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 6 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 12 \\
1 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 2 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 4 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] &
} \]

If $N$ factors as $N = p_1^{e_1} p_2^{e_2} \dots p_k^{e_k}$ then the $(N|1)$-thread is the product of the $(p_i^{e_i}|1)$-threads and has a symmetry group of order $2^k$.

It is generated by $k$ involutions, each one the reflexion in one $(p_i^{e_i}|1)$-thread and the identity on the other $(p_j^{e_j}|1)$-threads.
In the $(60|1)$-thread these are the reflexions in the three mirrors of the figure.

So, there is one involution for every divisor $e$ of $N$ such that $(e,\frac{N}{e})=1$. For such an $e$ there are matrices, with $a,b,c,d \in \mathbb{Z}$, of the form
\[
W_e = \begin{bmatrix} ae & b \\ cN & de \end{bmatrix} \quad \text{with} \quad ade^2-bcN=e \]
Think of Bezout and use that $(e,\frac{N}{e})=1$.

Such $W_e$ normalizes $\Gamma_0(N)$, that is, for any $A \in \Gamma_0(N)$ we have that $W_e.A.W_e^{-1} \in \Gamma_0(N)$. Also, the determinant of $W_e^e$ is equal to $e^2$ so we can write $W_e^2 = e A$ for some $A \in \Gamma_0(N)$.

That is, the transformation $W_e$ (left-multiplication) sends any lattice in the thread or snake of $(N|1)$ to another such lattice (up to projective equivalence) and if we apply $W_e^2$ if fixes each such lattice (again, up to projective equivalence), so it is the desired reflexion corresponding with $e$.

Consider the subgroup of $GL_2(\mathbb{Q})$ generated by $\Gamma_0(N)$ and some of these matrices $W_e,W_f,\dots$ and denote by $\Gamma_0(N)+e,f,\dots$ the quotient modulo positive scalar matrices, then
\[
\Gamma_0(N) \qquad \text{is a normal subgroup of} \qquad \Gamma_0(N)+e,f,\dots \]
with quotient isomorphic to some $(\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z})^l$ isomorphic to the subgroup generated by the involutions corresponding to $e,f,\dots$.

More generally, consider the $(n|h)$-thread for number lattices $n=n,0$ and $h=h,0$ such that $h | n$ as the sub-graph on all number lattices $l=l,0$ such that $h | l | n$. If we denote with $\Gamma_0(n|h)$ the point-wise stabilizer of $n$ and $h$, then we have that
\[
\Gamma(n|h) = \begin{bmatrix} h & 0 \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix}^{-1}.\Gamma_0(\frac{n}{h}).\begin{bmatrix} h & 0 \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix} \]
and we can then denote with
\[
\Gamma_0(n|h)+e,f,\dots \]
the conjugate of the corresponding group $\Gamma_0(\frac{n}{h})+e,f,\dots$.

If $h$ is the largest divisor of $24$ such that $h^2$ divides $N$, then Conway calls the spine of the $(N|1)$-snake the subgraph on all lattices of the snake whose distance from its periphery is exactly $log(h)$.

For $N=60$, $h=2$ and so the spine of the $(60|1)$-snake is the central piece connected with double black edges

\[
\xymatrix{& & & 15 \frac{1}{2} \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & \\
& & 5 \frac{1}{2} \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & & \\
& 15 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & & 30 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[black]@{=}[dd] & & 60 \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] \\
5 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 10 \ar@[black]@{=}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[black]@{=}[dd] & & 20 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[blue]@{-}[dd] & \\
& 3 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 6 \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & 12 \\
1 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] & & 2 \ar@[black]@{=}[ru] \ar@[red]@{-}[rr] \ar@[red]@{-}[dd] & & 4 \ar@[green]@{-}[ru] & \\
& & & 3\frac{1}{2} & & \\
& & 1 \frac{1}{2} & & &} \]

which is the $(30|2)$-thread.

The upshot of all this is to have a visual proof of the Atkin-Lehner theorem which says that the full normalizer of $\Gamma_0(N)$ is the group $\Gamma_0(\frac{N}{h}|h)+$ (that is, adding all involutions) where $h$ is the largest divisor of $24$ for which $h^2|N$.

Any element of this normalizer must take every lattice in the $(N|1)$-snake fixed by $\Gamma_0(N)$ to another such lattice. Thus it follows that it must take the snake to itself.
Conversely, an element that takes the snake to itself must conjugate into itself the group of all matrices that fix every point of the snake, that is to say, must normalize $\Gamma_0(N)$.

But the elements that take the snake to itself are precisely those that take the spine to itself, and since this spine is just the $(\frac{N}{h}|h)$-thread, this group is just $\Gamma_0(\frac{N}{h}|h)+$.

Reference: J.H. Conway, “Understanding groups like $\Gamma_0(N)$”, in “Groups, Difference Sets, and the Monster”, Walter de Gruyter-Berlin-New York, 1996

The defining property of 24

From Wikipedia on 24:

“$24$ is the only number whose divisors, namely $1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 24$, are exactly those numbers $n$ for which every invertible element of the commutative ring $\mathbb{Z}/n\mathbb{Z}$ is a square root of $1$. It follows that the multiplicative group $(\mathbb{Z}/24\mathbb{Z})^* = \{ \pm 1, \pm 5, \pm 7, \pm 11 \}$ is isomorphic to the additive group $(\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z})^3$. This fact plays a role in monstrous moonshine.”

Where did that come from?

In the original “Monstrous Moonshine” paper by John Conway and Simon Norton, section 3 starts with:

“It is a curious fact that the divisors $h$ of $24$ are precisely those numbers $h$ for which $x.y \equiv 1~(mod~h)$ implies $x \equiv y~(mod~h)$.”

and a bit further they even call this fact:

“our ‘defining property of $24$'”.

The proof is pretty straightforward.

We want all $h$ such that every unit in $\mathbb{Z}/h \mathbb{Z}$ has order two.

By the Chinese remainder theorem we only have to check this for prime powers dividing $h$.

$5$ is a unit of order $4$ in $\mathbb{Z}/16 \mathbb{Z}$.

$2$ is a unit of order $6$ in $\mathbb{Z}/ 9 \mathbb{Z}$.

A generator of the cyclic group $(\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z})^*$ is a unit of order $p-1 > 2$ in $\mathbb{Z}/p \mathbb{Z}$, for any prime number $p \geq 5$.

This only leaves those $h$ dividing $2^3.3=24$.

But, what does it have to do with monstrous moonshine?

Moonshine assigns to elements of the Monster group $\mathbb{M}$ a specific subgroup of $SL_2(\mathbb{Q})$ containing a cofinite congruence subgroup

\[
\Gamma_0(N) = \{ \begin{bmatrix} a & b \\ cN & d \end{bmatrix}~|~a,b,c,d \in \mathbb{Z}, ad-Nbc = 1 \} \]

for some natural number $N = h.n$ where $n$ is the order of the monster-element, $h^2$ divides $N$ and … $h$ is a divisor of $24$.

To begin to understand how the defining property of $24$ is relevant in this, take any strictly positive rational number $M$ and any pair of coprime natural numbers $g < h$ and associate to $M \frac{g}{h}$ the matrix \[ \alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}} = \begin{bmatrix} M & \frac{g}{h} \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix} \] We say that $\Gamma_0(N)$ fixes $M \frac{g}{h}$ if we have that
\[
\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}} \Gamma_0(N) \alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}^{-1} \subset SL_2(\mathbb{Z}) \]

For those in the know, $M \frac{g}{h}$ stands for the $2$-dimensional integral lattice
\[
\mathbb{Z} (M \vec{e}_1 + \frac{g}{h} \vec{e}_2) \oplus \mathbb{Z} \vec{e}_2 \]
and the condition tells that $\Gamma_0(N)$ preserves this lattice under base-change (right-multiplication).

In “Understanding groups like $\Gamma_0(N)$” Conway describes the groups appearing in monstrous moonshine as preserving specific finite sets of these lattices.

For this, it is crucial to determine all $M\frac{g}{h}$ fixed by $\Gamma_0(N)$.

\[
\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}.\begin{bmatrix} 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix}.\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}^{-1} = \begin{bmatrix} 1 & M \\ 0 & 1 \end{bmatrix} \]

so we must have that $M$ is a natural number, or that $M\frac{g}{h}$ is a number-like lattice, in Conway-speak.

\[
\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}.\begin{bmatrix} 1 & 0 \\ N & 1 \end{bmatrix}.\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}^{-1} = \begin{bmatrix} 1 + \frac{Ng}{Mh} & – \frac{Ng^2}{Mh^2} \\ \frac{N}{M} & 1 – \frac{Ng}{Mh} \end{bmatrix} \]

so $M$ divides $N$, $Mh$ divides $Ng$ and $Mh^2$ divides $Ng^2$. As $g$ and $h$ are coprime it follows that $Mh^2$ must divide $N$.

Now, for an arbitrary element of $\Gamma_0(N)$ we have

\[
\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}.\begin{bmatrix} a & b \\ cN & d \end{bmatrix}.\alpha_{M\frac{g}{h}}^{-1} = \begin{bmatrix} a + c \frac{Ng}{Mh} & Mb – c \frac{Ng^2}{Mh^2} – (a-d) \frac{g}{h} \\ c \frac{N}{M} & d – c \frac{Ng}{Mh} \end{bmatrix} \]
and using our divisibility requirements it follows that this matrix belongs to $SL_2(\mathbb{Z})$ if $a-d$ is divisible by $h$, that is if $a \equiv d~(mod~h)$.

We know that $ad-Nbc=1$ and that $h$ divides $N$, so $a.d \equiv 1~(mod~h)$, which implies $a \equiv d~(mod~h)$ if $h$ satisfies the defining property of $24$, that is, if $h$ divides $24$.

Concluding, $\Gamma_0(N)$ preserves exactly those lattices $M\frac{g}{h}$ for which
\[
1~|~M~|~\frac{N}{h^2}~\quad~\text{and}~\quad~h~|~24 \]

A first step towards figuring out the Moonshine Picture.

Monsters and Moonshine : a booklet

I’ve LaTeXed $48=2 \times 24$ posts into a 114 page booklet Monsters and Moonshine for you to download.

The $24$ ‘Monsters’ posts are (mostly) about finite simple (sporadic) groups : we start with the Scottish solids (hoax?), move on to the 14-15 game groupoid and a new Conway $M_{13}$-sliding game which uses the sporadic Mathieu group $M_{12}$. This Mathieu group appears in musical compositions of Olivier Messiaen and it can be used also to get a winning strategy of ‘mathematical blackjack’. We discuss Galois’ last letter and the simple groups $L_2(5),L_2(7)$ and $L_2(11)$ as well as other Arnold ‘trinities’. We relate these groups to the Klein quartic and the newly discovered ‘buckyball’-curve. Next we investigate the history of the Leech lattice and link to online games based on the Mathieu-groups and Conway’s dotto group. Finally, preparing for moonshine, we discover what the largest sporadic simple group, the Monster-group, sees of the modular group.

The $24$ ‘Moonshine’ posts begin with the history of the Dedekind (or Klein?) tessellation of the upper half plane, useful to determine fundamental domains of subgroups of the modular group $PSL_2(\mathbb{Z})$. We investigate Grothendieck’s theory of ‘dessins d’enfants’ and learn how modular quilts classify the finite index subgroups of the modular group. We find generators of such groups using Farey codes and use those to give a series of simple groups including as special members $L_2(5)$ and the Mathieu-sporadics $M_{12}$ and $M_{24}$ : the ‘iguanodon’-groups. Then we move to McKay-Thompson series and an Easter-day joke pulled by John McKay. Apart from the ‘usual’ monstrous moonshine conjectures (proved by Borcherds) John McKay also observed a strange appearance of $E(8)$ in connection with multiplications of involutions in the Monster-group. We explain Conway’s ‘big picture’ which makes it easy to work with the moonshine groups and use it to describe John Duncan’s solution of the $E(8)$-observation.

I’ll try to improve the internal referencing over the coming weeks/months, include an index and add extra material as we will be studying moonshine for the Mathieu groups as well as a construction of the Monster-group in next semester’s master-seminar. All comments, corrections and suggestions for extra posts are welcome!

If you are interested you can also download two other booklets : The Bourbaki Code (38 pages) containing all Bourbaki-related posts and absolute geometry (63 pages) containing the posts related to the “field with one element” and its connections to (noncommutative) geometry and number theory.



I’ll try to add to the ‘absolute geometry’-booklet the posts from last semester’s master-seminar (which were originally posted at angs@t/angs+) and write some new posts covering the material that so far only exists as prep-notes. The links above will always link to the latest versions of these booklets.

the Reddit (after)effect

Sunday january 2nd around 18hr NeB-stats went crazy.

Referrals clarified that the post ‘What is the knot associated to a prime?’ was picked up at Reddit/math and remained nr.1 for about a day.

Now, the dust has settled, so let’s learn from the experience.

A Reddit-mention is to a blog what doping is to a sporter.

You get an immediate boost in the most competitive of all blog-stats, the number of unique vistors (blue graph), but is doesn’t result in a long-term effect, and, it may even be harmful to more essential blog-stats, such as the average time visitors spend on your site (yellow graph).

For NeB the unique vistors/day fluctuate normally around 300, but peaked to 1295 and 1733 on the ‘Reddit-days’. In contrast, the avg. time on site is normally around 3 minutes, but dropped the same days to 44 and 30 seconds!

Whereas some of the Reddits spend enough time to read the post and comment on it, the vast majority zap from one link to the next. Having monitored the Reddit/math page for two weeks, I’m convinced that post only made it because it was visually pretty good. The average Reddit/math-er is a viewer more than a reader…

So, should I go for shorter, snappier, more visual posts?

Let’s compare Reddits to those coming from the three sites giving NeB most referrals : Google search, MathOverflow and Wikipedia.

This is the traffic coming from Reddit/math, as always the blue graph are the unique visitors, the yellow graph their average time on site, blue-scales to the left, yellow-scales to the right.

Here’s the same graph for Google search. The unique visitors/day fluctuate around 50 and their average time on site about 2 minutes.

The math-related search terms most used were this month : ‘functor of point approach’, ‘profinite integers’ and ‘bost-connes sytem’.

More rewarding to me are referrals from MathOverflow.

The number of visitors depends on whether the MathO-questions made it to the front-page (for example, the 80 visits on december 15, came from the What are dessins d’enfants?-topic getting an extra comment that very day, and having two references to NeB-posts : The best rejected proposal ever and Klein’s dessins d’enfant and the buckyball), but even older MathO-topics give a few referrals a day, and these people sure take their time reading the posts (+ 5 minutes).

Other MathO-topics giving referrals this month were Most intricate and most beautiful structures in mathematics (linking to Looking for F-un), What should be learned in a first serious schemes course? (linking to Mumford’s treasure map (btw. one of the most visited NeB-posts ever)), How much of scheme theory can you visualize? (linking again to Mumford’s treasure map) and Approaches to Riemann hypothesis using methods outside number theory (linking to the Bost-Connes series).

Finally, there’s Wikipedia

giving 5 to 10 referrals a day, with a pretty good time-on-site average (around 4 minutes, peaking to 12 minutes). It is rewarding to see NeB-posts referred to in as diverse Wikipedia-topics as ‘Fifteen puzzle’, ‘Field with one element’, ‘Evariste Galois’, ‘ADE classification’, ‘Monster group’, ‘Arithmetic topology’, ‘Dessin d’enfant’, ‘Groupoid’, ‘Belyi’s theorem’, ‘Modular group’, ‘Cubic surface’, ‘Esquisse d’un programme’, ‘N-puzzle’, ‘Shabat polynomial’ and ‘Mathieu group’.

What lesson should be learned from all this data? Should I go for shorter, snappier and more visual posts, or should I focus on the small group of visitors taking their time reading through a longer post, and don’t care about the appallingly high bounce rate the others cause?