Sporadic Simple Games

Are you au fait with finite simple groups? Well I know I’m certainly not.

For the uninitiated, a group is a mathematical object which can be thought of as the collection of symmetries of some object. As for simple groups, I guess they can sort of be thought of as the basic buidling blocks of groups (whatever that means…)

There’s a classification of finite simple groups which is one of the great results of the 20th/21st century. It shows that there are four categories (not in the mathematical sense) into which the finite simple groups may be divided, the most romantic of these consisting of the 26 sporadic groups. I say romantic, what I really mean is quirkily named – one of the groups contained therin is the Monster group while another is called the Baby Monster… Ah those finite group theorists.

Anyway, as someone who finds finite simple groups particularly scary, I was rather pleased to see a rather interesting page at Scientific American. There you can find a couple of games that give some idea of the structure of the groups M12, M24 and the Conway group without actually knowing any mathematics whatsoever. Click on the link below to investigate. Happy playing!

The finite simple groups at play

Incidentally, if you’re feeling slightly fobbed off by my lack of a definition of a finite simple group, then check out the articles on group, normal subgroup, quotient group and simple group.

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