John McKay (Mathematics) was doubly pleased to hear that Richard Borcherds, of Cambridge University and Berkeley, was named the winner of a Fields Medal, because Borcherds is a friend who has visited him here and because his achievement was in a field initiated by McKay himself.

The subject is called the Moonshine Conjecture. In an e-mail message August 21, McKay explained, "It involves the study of one of the most bizarre objects arising in mathematics, a set of size approximately 10**54 = 1 followed by 54 zeros, which is approximately the number of elementary particles in the sun. This set, called the Monster Group, arises naturally in the physics of strings."

The Fields Awards, which McKay calls "the mathematicians' Nobel Prize," are named after a Canadian mathematician. Four are announced at each quadrennial meeting of the International Congress of Mathematicians.

Before the meeting, McKay said, "I am sure he will give me credit

in his talk in Berlin, where the

conference is."

**Copyright 1998 Concordia's Thursday Report.
**