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- String Theoretic Illuminations of Moonshine

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Many of the rich interactions between mathematics and physics arise using general mathematical frameworks that describe a host of physical phenomena: from differential equations, to algebra, to topology and geometry. On the other hand, mathematics also possesses many examples of "exceptional objects": they constitute the finite set of leftovers that appear in numerous classification problems. For example, groups of symmetries in three dimensions appear in two infinite families (cyclic groups and dihedral groups of n-sided polygons) and the symmetry groups of the five Platonic solids--- the 'exceptional' structures.

The mathematical subject of moonshine refers to surprising relationships between other kinds of special/exceptional objects that arise from the theory of finite groups and from number theory. Increasingly, string theory has been a source of insights in and explanations for moonshine. It is even the source of new examples of moonshine that further implicate special objects in geometry. We will review moonshine, survey these developments, and highlight some of the (many!) exciting mysteries that remain.

©2012 Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics