**String Theory Intricacies:** Following the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began to erupt at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland the year 2010, a series of flight cancellations caused Miranda Cheng stranded in Paris.

In the meantime, waiting for the ash to be cleared, Cheng, then a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University studying string theory was thinking about the implications of a research paper that was recently published online.

Three coauthors of the paper were able to point out a numerical correlation between a number of mathematical objects. “That smells like a different moonshine,” Cheng recalled thinking. “Could that be other moonshine?”

She was a victim of an essay on”the ” monstrous moonshine,” a mathematical structure that was born in a similar way to a bit of numerology. In the late 1970s, mathematical genius John McKay noticed that 196,884 the very first significant coefficient of an object, known as”the *j*-function is the sum of one and 196.883 the two first dimensions that a massive collection of symmetries known as”the monster group” could be described.

In 1992, scientists had traced this bizarre (hence “moonshine”) connection to its unlikely origin the theory of string, one of the theories that could be used to explain an underlying theory in physics which describes elementary particles as tiny, oscillating strings.

Its *j*-function describes the string’s oscillations according to a specific model of string theory, and the monster group encapsulates the symmetries in the space-time fabric which the strings are a part of.

When Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption “this was old-fashioned stuff,” Cheng said -an mathematical volcano that in the eyes of physicists were concerned, was inactive. Its string theory-based model behind this monstrous moonshine did not resemble the space-time geometry or particles from the actual world. However, Cheng recognized that the latest moonshine, if indeed it was a real one, could be distinct. It was made up of K3 surfacesthe geometric objects she and other string theorists are studying as possible models to play with of real-world space-time.

When she returned back home from Paris, Cheng had found more proof that the moonshine phenomenon of the present existed.

Cheng and her coworkers John Duncan and Jeff Harvey slowly uncovered evidence of not one, but 23 new moonshines, mathematical structures that link symmetry groups on one hand, and fundamental objects in the field of number theory, referred to as the mock modular form (a class that also includes an j-function) *J*-function) in the second.

It is believed that the existence of moonshines, as argued by them in the Umbral Moonshine conjecture at the end of 2012 has been confirmed to be true by Duncan and colleagues late in the year.

While Cheng is at it, Cheng, 37, is searching for the source to the string theory K3 which underlies the 23 moonshines -a specific model where space-time has the shape of the K3 surface. Cheng, along with other string theorists are hoping to utilize the mathematical principles of umbral moonshine in order to study the characteristics associated with the K3 model in depth.

This, in turn, could be a key element in understanding the physics of the actual world, which isn’t able to be explored directly, like within dark holes.

A professor assistant of The University of Amsterdam on leave from France’s National Center for Scientific Research, Cheng spoke with *Quanta Magazine* about moonshines’ mysteries and her hopes for the string theory and unimaginable journey from high school punk rock dropout to researcher who studies some of the most complex concepts in physics and math. A condensed and edited version of the interview is available.

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##### The magazine QUANTA: You apply string theory on K3 surfaces. What are they and why are they so important?

MIRANDA CHENG The string theory claims that there are 10 dimensions to space-time. Because we can only see the four dimensions, the rest have to be curled or “compactified” which is too small to perceive, similar to that of the diameter of thin wire.

There are a myriad possible scenarios — perhaps similar to 10,000 ^{500} to describe the ways that extra dimensions could be compressed, and it’s difficult to determine what type of compactification will be more accurate in describing reality more accurately than the others.

We’re not able to analyze their physical aspects of every one of them. Therefore, you search for a model that you can play with. If you prefer exact results instead of approximate outcomes, something I enjoy I do, then you’ll usually come up with K3 compactifications, which can be a compromise between compactifications that are neither too simple nor too complex.

It also reveals the essential features of Calabi-Yau manifolds (the most studied type of compactification] and the way that string theory operates when it is compactified. K3 also comes with the advantage that allows you to do exact and precise computations using it.

##### What exactly does K3 appear like?

It is possible to imagine an unflat torus, then fold it up so that you have an edge or a line of sharp edges. Mathematicians have a method to smooth it. The result of smoothing the folds of a flat torus is a K3-like surface.

##### You can then determine the nature of the physics within this setup, and with strings that move through this space-time geometrical structure?

Yes. Within the context for my Ph.D. I looked into how black holes function within this model. Once you’ve got the curled-up dimensions that are K3-related, Calabi-Yaus black holes are able to be formed. What are the ways in which these black holes behaveparticularly the quantum characteristics?

##### You could also try to solve the paradox of information, the long-running puzzle in the quantum nature of information once it is absorbed by the Black hole.

Absolutely. You can inquire regarding the problem of information, or properties of different types of black holes, such as real-world astrophysical black hole or supersymmetric black hole that are derived from string theory.

Examining the second type of black hole will help you understand the real-world problems you face because they have the similar paradox.

This is why trying to comprehend the string theory of K3 along with the black holes that form during the process of compactification could provide insight into other problems. That’s at least the possibility, and I think it’s a plausible belief.

##### Do you believe that string theory accurately describes the reality? Is it something you are studying solely to learn about it?

I’m a person who always has the world of reality in within my head — but it’s really, truly back. It serves as a sort as a source of inspiration to determine the direction I’m heading in.

However, my daily research does not aim at solving real-world problems. I view it as a difference in fashion and taste as well as individual capabilities. Innovative ideas are required in fundamental high-energy Physics, and it’s not easy to determine which new ideas originate.

Knowing the fundamentals in string theory is essential and beneficial. It’s important to begin somewhere in order to calculate things, and this can lead to extremely mathematical based corners. The reward for understanding the real world may be a long-term one however, it’s not necessary at this point.

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##### Do you have an aptitude for physics and math?

When I was a young person living in Taiwan I was usually interested in reading and writing — it was my favorite thing. Later, I began to explore music around the age of around 12 or that’s when I discovered rock, pop punk, pop.

I’ve always been very proficient at math and physics but I wasn’t attracted to it. The school I attended was difficult and always tried to come up with a solution for it. I attempted to negotiate an agreement with my teacher so that I wouldn’t have to attend class. Also, I took months of absence from work when I wasn’t sick in any way. or I skipped a whole year or two. I don’t know how to handle authority, I suppose.

It was too simple. I skipped two years of school, however, that didn’t do much to help. They then moved me into a class that was special which made the situation worse because everyone was extremely competitive, and I couldn’t cope with it all.

Then I became depressed, and I made the decision that I was either going to take my own life or quit school. Then I decided to stop going to school when was 16 years old, and also moved out of my home as I was sure I would be a victim of my own parents. want for me to return to school and I did not want to go back. Then I began work in an album store at that point, and by then I was also in the band I was in and loved it.

##### How did you get there to the string theory?

Short story I was a bored or a little discontented. I was looking for something other than music. Therefore, I attempted to return to university but I was faced with the issue that I had not completed high school. Before I graduated, I was in a particular class for students who were exceptionally good at sciences. I could be accepted into university by this.

So I decided, okay good, I’ll start by pursuing a degree in physics or math, and later I can move to literature. So I joined the Physics department. I had an on-and off-again connection to it, and going to classes at times and trying to learn about literature as well as playing in the band.

After a while, I realized that I’m not proficient enough in literature. Also, there was an extremely good teacher in quantum mechanics. Once, I attended this class, and I thought that was quite impressive. I began paying more at my studies of mathematics and physics and started to feel at peace with it.

This is what enticed me to Physics and math, since my previous life in a band was much more chaotic. It drains lots of emotions from your. There’s always people to talk to and the music all about emotions, life, andit requires you to dedicate lots of your time to it. Physics and math seems to be a peaceful beauty. The serene space.

At the end of my university studies, I thought I’ll have one more year of learn physics, and then I’m done and I can go into the next phase of my life. Then I decided to go to Holland to travel around the world and learn about physical science, and I got extremely interested there.

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##### You earned your master’s degree from Utrecht with Nobel-prize winning scientist Gerard Hooft. later you earned you Ph.D. within Amsterdam. What attracted you to Amsterdam?

The experience of working with [‘t Hooft[‘t Hooft’] was an important factor. However, learning about the subject is also a major factor in recognizing that there are a lot of fascinating questions to be asked. This is the big picture part. However, for me, the day-to-day part is just as crucial.

The process of learning is the thinking process is what I love about it. Everyday you come across equation or method of thinking, or the fact that is the reason –

I thought, hey this is lovely. Gerard isn’t an expert in string theory, but the man is very open about what the right quantum gravity field ought to be, therefore I was exposed to several different possibilities. I was drawn to string theory due to its mathematical precise, and beautiful.

##### In the course of your work currently, in addition to the aesthetics, are you interested in the puzzle of these connections between seemingly unrelated elements of math and physical science?

The mystery aspect is connected to the negative aspect of my character which is the obsessive part. This is an aspect of my driving factors which I’d consider to be slightly negative from a human point of view, however not in the perspective of a scientist. However, there is a positive motive which is that I truly enjoy discovering new things and feeling awed by how ignorant I am.

I love that feeling of frustration that says, “I know nothing about this topic; I would like to know more!” So that’s one motive — to be in this space between physics and math. Moonshine is a maze that may require inspiration from anywhere and knowledge from all over the world. The beauty, definitely is a stunning story. It’s a bit difficult to explain why it’s stunning. It’s beautiful in a different way that a song is beautiful or a photograph is stunning.

##### What is the difference?

A song can be stunning because it triggers certain emotions. It is a some aspect of your personal life. Mathematical beauty doesn’t mean the same thing. It’s something more structured. It provides you with the impression of something that is more stable and separate from your. The feeling makes you feel smaller and that’s something I love.

##### What exactly is moonshine? precisely?

Moonshine is a way to connect to representations of finite group symmetry to a function that has specific symmetries (methods by which can modify the function without altering the output of the function. What is behind this relation at the very least in the case of a monstrous moonshine is the theory of string.

String theory includes two geometries. There is one called one called the “worldsheet” geometries. In the case of a stringwhich is essentially a circlethat is moving through time and space, you’ll get the cylindrical. This is known as worldsheet geometry. It’s actually the structure of the string.

In the event that you roll the cylindrical, and link the 2 ends together, you’ll get the torus. The torus provides the structure that is the *j*-function. The second geometry of string theory concerns space time and its symmetry provides an enigma group.

##### If and when you discover that you have discovered the K3 string theory that underlies those 23 lunar moonshines what will the moonshines offer you in terms ways to learn about K3 strings?

We’re not certain but these are educated guesses. A moonshine’s presence tells that the theory needs to be able to create an algebraic structure. You need the ability to do algebra using its elements and elements. If you study the theory and inquire about the kind of particles exist at a particular energy level the answer is infinity since you can travel further and higher in energy and this inquiry continues to be asked.

In the monstrous moonshine it is evident by the fact that, if you take a look at the *j*-function it is possible to find numerous terms that represent the energy of particles. We know there’s an algebraic framework behind it. There’s a way that lower energy states are linked to the higher energies. Therefore, this endless question is a structured one and isn’t just random.

As you could imagine that having an algebraic structure makes it easier to know the nature of the structure that is a representation of a theory for instance, if you study those lower-energy states they will reveal things about states with higher energies. It also provides additional tools for calculations.

If you’re looking to comprehend the high-energy nature of something (such as black holes within or in black holes], I can provide more information on the subject. I’m able to compute what I’d like to compute for high-energy states with this low-energy data that I have. This is the goal.

Umbral moonshine reveals that there is an arrangement like this we’re not able to understand. Understanding it in a more general sense will help us understand the algebraic structure. It will also lead to greater understanding of the concept. This is the goal.

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