Alice in Wonderland

For some reason, I just find all this stuff interesting.

Project Gutenberg's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

In Carroll's day there was considerable speculation about what would happen if one fell through a hole that went straight through the center of the earth. Galileo gave the correct answer: the object would fall with increasing speed but decreasing acceleration until it reached the center of the earth, at which spot its acceleration would be zero. Thereafter it would slow down in speed, with increasing deceleration, until it reached the opening at the other end. Then it would fall back again. By ignoring air resistance and the coriolis force resulting from the earth's rotation (unless the hole ran pole to pole), the object would oscillate back and forth forever. Air resistance of course would eventually bring it to rest at the earth's center.

Carroll once described a remarkable method of running trains with gravity as the sole power source. The track runs through a perfectly straight tunnel from one town to another. Since the middle of the tunnel is necessarily nearer the earth's center than its ends, the train runs downhill to the center; acquiring enough momentum to carry it up the other half of the tunnel. Curiously, such a train would make the trip (ignoring air resistance and friction of the wheels) in exactly the same time that it would take an object to fall through the center of the earth - a little more than 42 minutes. This time is constant regardless of the tunnel's length.

Alice alters in size on twelve occasions in the book. Her expansions have been cited by cosmologists to illustrate aspects of the expanding-universe theory. Her shrinking calls to mind a diminishing-universe theory once advanced in Carrollian jest by the eminent mathematician Sir Edmund Whittaker. Perhaps the total amount of matter in the universe is continually growing smaller, and eventually the entire universe will fade away into nothing at all. A similar vanish would occur if the universe has enough matter to stop expanding and go the other way toward a Big Crunch.

In two of Tenniel's illustrations in Chapter 3, you will see the head of an ape. It has been suggested that the artist intended his ape to be a caricature of Charles Darwin.

In Chapter 5, the Caterpillar has read Alice's mind. Carroll believed in the reality of ESP and psychokinesis. In an 1882 letter, he speaks of a pamphlet on "thought reading," published by the Society for Psychical Research, which strengthened his conviction that psychic phenomena are genuine. "All seems to point to the existence of a natural force, allied to electricity and nerve-force, by which brain can act on brain. I think we are close on the day when this shall be classed among the known natural forces, and its laws tabulated, and when the scientific sceptics, who always shut their eyes till the last moment to any evidence that seems to point beyond materialism, will have to accept it as a proved fact in nature." Carroll was an enthusiastic charter member all his life of the Society for Psychical Research, and his library contained dozens of books on the occult.

An entry from Carroll's diary, February 9, 1856: "Query: when we are dreaming and, as often happens, have a dim consciousness of the fact and try to wake, do we not say and do things which in waking life would be insane? May we not then sometimes define insanity as an inability to distinguish which is the waking and which the sleeping life? We often dream without the lease suspicion of unreality: "Sleep hath its own world," and it is often as lifelike as the other." Now compare this to a discussion from Socrates: "A question which I think that you must often have heard persons ask: how can you determine whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state? You see, then, that a doubt about the reality of sense is easily raised, since there may even be a doubt whether we are awake or in a dream. And as our time is equally divided between sleeping and waking, in either sphere of existence the soul contends that the thoughts which are present to our minds at the time are true; and during one half of our lives we affirm the truth of the one, and, during the other half, of the other; and are equally confident of both. And may not the same be said of madness and the other disorders? The difference is only that the times are not equal."

Alice's remark that the day is the fourth, coupled with the revelation that the month is May, establishes the date of Alice's underground adventure as May 4. On May 4, 1862, there was exactly two days' difference between the lunar and calendar months. This suggests that the Mad Hatter's watch ran on lunar time and accounts for his remark that his watch is "two days wrong." If Wonderland is near the earth's center, the position of the sun would be useless for time-telling whereas phases of the moon remain unambiguous. The conjecture is also supported by the close connection of "lunar" with "lunacy."

Why IS a raven like a writing desk?

  • Because they both produce a few notes, though they are very flat.
  • They are never put with the wrong end in front.
  • Poe wrote on both.
  • Bills and tales are among their characteristics.
  • They both stand on their legs.
  • They both ought to be made to shut up.
  • Because there's a b in both.
  • Because there's an n in neither.
  • Because each begins with an e.
  • Both have quills dipped in ink.
  • Because they both slope with a flap.
  • One has flapping fits and the other fitting flaps.
  • Because they are both used to carri-on de-composition.

Victorian children actually had doormice as pets, keeping them in old teapots filled with grass or hay.

These findings are taken from 'The Annotated Alice' by Martin Gardner.