Alice in Wonderland and the Mathematics Involved Essay
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The latter half of the nineteenth century became a time of evolution for different forms of mathematics such as symbolic algebra, Riemannian geometry, Boolean algebra , and quaternion calculus. "To him [Lewis Carroll], algebra was all about numbers," mathematician Keith Devlin explained. “But in the 19th century, people were developing all kinds of bizarre new algebras, where x times y was not equal to y times x.” (Devlin) While mathematicians knew that Carroll, a mathematician himself, was slipping numbers in to his classic, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the hidden math came as a surprise to many others. Melanie Bayley, a wellknown literary scholar and dedicated fan, explains that Dodgson's work contains a lot of satire about thenmodern ideas in the world of mathematics (Holwerda). Though Carroll doesn’t come out and explain the camouflaged numbers, geometric figures, and quaternions, the unexpected scenes including when Alice falls down a rabbit hole as if on a exponential graph, when the Cheshire cat appears and it’s smile represents a mathematical variable, when the Caterpillar introduces to Alice a size changing mushroom and limits, when the Duchess’s “baby” transforms mathematically because of projective geometry into a pig, and when the Mad Hatter’s scene exemplifies the quaternion theory, all portray mathematics in Wonderland thoroughly.
When a child first reads Alice, the silly plot and unique characters make a children’s literary novel what it is. The mathematics, however, can’t be seen on the pages. The reader has to delve in and test his/her knowledge of numbers and shapes. Even Alice had to move from a rational world to a land where even numbers behave arbitrarily. Lewis Carroll wrote a number of books ba...
... middle of paper ...
...ithout these analogies [in mathematics]? Nothing but Dodgson's original nursery tale, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, charming but short on characteristic nonsense.” (Bayley) Magic mushrooms, babies turning into pigs, and absurd questions (‘why is a raven like a writing desk?’) were all Carroll’s way of showing how useless the mathematical theories during the Victorian age were to him.
Works Cited
Carroll, Lewis, [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 2nd Ed.
London: Longmani, 1990. Print.
Carroll, Lewis. Euclid and His Modern Rivals,. New York: Dover Publications, 1973.
Print.
Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge. Mathematical Recreations of Lewis Carroll. New York:
Dover, 1958. Print.
Wilson, Robin J. Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical
Life : An Agony in Eight Fits. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.
Length: 1188 words (3.4 doublespaced pages)
Rating: Purple
Open Document
Need writing help? Check your paper »
                                 
The latter half of the nineteenth century became a time of evolution for different forms of mathematics such as symbolic algebra, Riemannian geometry, Boolean algebra , and quaternion calculus. "To him [Lewis Carroll], algebra was all about numbers," mathematician Keith Devlin explained. “But in the 19th century, people were developing all kinds of bizarre new algebras, where x times y was not equal to y times x.” (Devlin) While mathematicians knew that Carroll, a mathematician himself, was slipping numbers in to his classic, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the hidden math came as a surprise to many others. Melanie Bayley, a wellknown literary scholar and dedicated fan, explains that Dodgson's work contains a lot of satire about thenmodern ideas in the world of mathematics (Holwerda). Though Carroll doesn’t come out and explain the camouflaged numbers, geometric figures, and quaternions, the unexpected scenes including when Alice falls down a rabbit hole as if on a exponential graph, when the Cheshire cat appears and it’s smile represents a mathematical variable, when the Caterpillar introduces to Alice a size changing mushroom and limits, when the Duchess’s “baby” transforms mathematically because of projective geometry into a pig, and when the Mad Hatter’s scene exemplifies the quaternion theory, all portray mathematics in Wonderland thoroughly.
When a child first reads Alice, the silly plot and unique characters make a children’s literary novel what it is. The mathematics, however, can’t be seen on the pages. The reader has to delve in and test his/her knowledge of numbers and shapes. Even Alice had to move from a rational world to a land where even numbers behave arbitrarily. Lewis Carroll wrote a number of books ba...
... middle of paper ...
...ithout these analogies [in mathematics]? Nothing but Dodgson's original nursery tale, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, charming but short on characteristic nonsense.” (Bayley) Magic mushrooms, babies turning into pigs, and absurd questions (‘why is a raven like a writing desk?’) were all Carroll’s way of showing how useless the mathematical theories during the Victorian age were to him.
Works Cited
Carroll, Lewis, [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 2nd Ed.
London: Longmani, 1990. Print.
Carroll, Lewis. Euclid and His Modern Rivals,. New York: Dover Publications, 1973.
Print.
Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge. Mathematical Recreations of Lewis Carroll. New York:
Dover, 1958. Print.
Wilson, Robin J. Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical
Life : An Agony in Eight Fits. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.
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