Alice in Wonderland

Published on Thursday, February 18, 2010 in , , ,

On March 5, Disney will release Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. As wild as the original Lewis Carroll books were, he just didn't make up the craziest stuff which crossed his mind.

There's a surprising amount of hidden jokes and even math hidden in the original works.

To start, enjoy the trailer of the upcoming movie:

Although the movie is titled Alice in Wonderland, it's actually about Alice returning to Wonderland after her previous adventures.

To get more enjoyment out of the movie, you should definitely read the original works, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

What about the math I mentioned that is hidden among all the nonsense and wild stories?

For the first example, in Chapter 2, Alice recites her multiplication tables: “Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is–oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!” This doesn't seem to make any sense! However, Alice is actually correct on all counts, if you take other number systems and bases into account. Not only do Alice's equations work out perfectly in other bases, they begin to fall apart eventually, and will never get to 20!

Why would Lewis Carroll sneak math into these stories? It turns out that the books themselves may have been a way to introduce mathematical concepts that were new at the time, such as imaginary numbers, to a younger generation.

If the mathematical aspects of Lewis Carroll's works intrigue you, Grey Matters' favorite author, Martin Gardner, has written two works I highly recommend: The Universe in a Handkerchief and The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition. The former focuses on all of Lewis Carroll's works relating to mathematics, and the latter focuses on his two Alice works, allowing the reader to get a deeper understanding of the meanings.

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