A chum of mine who is the uberest of ubergeeks when it comes to things mathematical phoned me last night in great excitment to tell me that the most important number in the world had just been mentioned on the radio, but not in a high brow science show.. it was mentioned in a light entertaint program For 196883 is the calling card of the "Monster Group"
In the heady word of "hard sums" there are four famous challenges, Fermat's Last Theorem, the Riemann Hypothesis, Poincare's Conjecture, and the quest for the 'Monster group' of Symmetry.
My chum had to tried to explain Monster symmetries to me before ...Think of the Monster group as a preposterous snowflake with more than 1,050 symmetries that exists in a space of 196,883 dimensions. Up until last night the only reason I remembered this wonderful factoid was that it is the best way for a 24 dimensional grocer to pack eggs.
Astonishingly, or so i am told, a deep relationship between elliptic curves, the Monster Group, and string theory Richard Borcherds from MIT has showed that the Monster is the group of symmetries of 26-dimensional strings (yes those strings...the ones in string theory) expressed in a form known as vertex algebra. It would appear that 196,883 may hold clues to the very existence of the reality in which we live so i suppose this is a good enough reason for it to be on a BBC radio 4 programme!