[Beowulf] The recently solved Lie Group problem E8

Peter St. John peter.st.john at gmail.com
Wed Mar 21 08:45:47 PDT 2007


Times have sure changed; with Wiles and Fermat's Last Theorm in newspapers
for over a year, then "A Beautiful Mind" from Hollywood; it's almost not
surprising that the solution of a difficult math problem is mentioned at
CNN.com.

The Exceptional Lie Group E8 computation just got done (some info at
http://www.aimath.org/E8/computerdetails.html about the details of the
computation itself). Reference to the system SAGE is a bit ambiguous; it's
the name of a symbolic mathematics package and apparently also a 16-node
system at the same University of Washington. Natually I was curious about
the computer, but ironically, it seems that while they can handle a matrix
with half a million rows and colums each (and each entry is a polynomial of
degree up to 22, with 7 digit coeficients), their departmental web server
can't handle the load of all of CNN's readership browsing at once :-)

The group E8 itself, together with some explanation of the recent news, is
in wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E8_%28mathematics%29

Dr Brown might explain better than I could how sometimes the best way to
understand a thing is to break it down into simple groups of symmetries.
Apparently, one of the funky things about E8 is that the "easiest way to
understand it" is itself.

Peter
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