2/3 Mathematical Physics of Hurwitz numbers
Hurwitz numbers enumerate ramified coverings of a sphere. Equivalently, they can be expressed in terms of combinatorics of the symmetric group; they enumerate factorizations of permutations as products of transpositions. It turns out that these numbers obey a huge number of relations represented in the form of partial differential equations for their generating function. This includes equations of the KP hierarchy, Virasoro-type constraints, Chekhov-Eynard-Orantin-type recursion and others. Only a few of these relations can be derived from elementary combinatorics of permutations. All other relations follow from a deep relationship of Hurwitz numbers with moduli spaces of curves, Gromov-Witten invariants, matrix models, integrable systems and other domains of mathematics which are often referred to as `mathematical physics'.
When discussing Hurwitz numbers in the talks, we consider them, thereby, as a sufficiently elementary but highly nontrivial model of all mentioned theories where all computations can be fulfilled completely, and all formulated relations can be checked explicitly in computer experiments.