BCC, day 2

There was a London Mathematical Society regional meeting in the University of Warwick today, to be followed by a workshop on finite simple groups to celebrate the birthday of Richard Lyons, one of the pioneers and heroes of the Classification.

Unfortunately, there had been almost no communication between the group theorists and the combinatorialists.

As a result, we had the ludicrous situation this afternoon that, while Tomasz Łuczak was talking, on the ground floor of the Mathematics building, about “Randomly generated groups”, Robert Guralnick was talking, on the third floor of the same building, about “Applications of the classification of finite simple groups”, followed by Colva Roney-Dougal on “Generation of finite groups”.

I sneaked away from the BCC to hear Colva’s talk; indeed part of what she was talking about was joint work we have done recently, which I will write about here at some point.

Other things that went on included the following.

Stefanie Gerke, in her talk, mentioned a fact which sociologists of science might like to consider. The high-status journal Nature published a paper in which an incorrect result was proved by a heuristic argument and checked by extensive simulation (but all the simulations they chose had a special feature). Do you think that Nature would feel any obligation to publish a mathematical proof of the correct result?

Interesting fact of the day: it is known that an automorphism of a group of order n must have order smaller than n. This turns out to be false for quasigroups; Ian Wanless announced that the smallest counterexample has order 7034, a remarkable fact I think. He conjectures that the order of the largest automorphism of a quasigroup of order n is not bounded by a linear function of n.

The day ended with the conference business meeting, where we narrowly avoided having what might have been the first contested election in the history of the BCC. In the evening we had the Conference concert.

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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