The Mad Hatter’s Secret Ingredient: Math

From NPR:

The first numbers that come to mind when thinking about Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland might be how much money the movie is raking in at the box office.

But numbers also appear to be woven in among the talking rabbits and smoking caterpillars of the original stories. Author Lewis Carroll was also a math teacher in Oxford, England, and mathematicians say the Alice books are full of algebraic lessons — such as why a raven is like a writing desk.

That’s the riddle the Mad Hatter asks Alice. And, as Weekend Edition Math Guy Keith Devlin tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden, “That particular scene — and lots of other scenes in Alice in Wonderland — were a reflection on the increasing abstraction that was going on in mathematics in the 19th century.”

Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, was a very conservative, traditional mathematician, Devlin says, and he didn’t like the changes some were bringing to the discipline of mathematics.

More here.