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The Mathematics of the Rabbit Hole

by Scott A McKinney

posted in Reference and Education

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You may have heard that Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was also a mathematician and student of logic.
What you may not know is that the Mad Hatter, one of the memorable characters in Alice, possibly went psycho from diving too deep into the world of mathematics.
(Some say it was actually the mercury used to tan his hat that caused him to go crazy).
Regardless of the true reason, there is a clear link between the world of mathematics, and the rabbit hole through which Alice passed:
For one, the world of mathematics - much like actual, real life rabbit holes, the kind where rabbits go - is always present, even though we can't see it. It is like an underlying structure to the universe, a matrix underlying the fabric of the universe. It is like a language the universe uses to structure itself. And certain special numbers, like e, pi, and Phi (the golden ratio), are likewise embedded in the universe, a natural reflection of the way the world works.
Hence it's no surprise that a mathematician would be the one to fully express the tale of Alice's journey down the Rabbit Hole. And it certainly wouldn't surprise to know that the people who wrote The Matrix also know about this world of mathematics.
Most mathematicians themselves consider the world of mathematics to have its own kind of reality - so the discoveries they make are not inventions or creations in their minds, but in fact discoveries about this unseen but very real world of mathematics. An ideal world - a world of ideas - that nevertheless is present.
And this might also explain why mathematicians have the highest rates of belief in some form of god, out of all natural scientists: they spend their lives studying a world that is clearly present and linked with the physical world in which we reside, but does not have physical reality. Yet it is present and "there."
Would you like to explore some of the ways in which mathematics is like a rabbit hole, leading to an underground part of the world, a part that we cannot see, but is ever-present and shapes our universe?
A quick way to start is to consider whether you think 1+1=2 on every planet in the universe. If we take one object, place it next to another object, will there always be two objects? This simple exercise will give you some sense for whether mathematics has a universal truth to it, or is simply a matter of invention.
About the Author: For more practical information about the role of mathematics in our world, visit I am a solo business owner and university mathematics tutor.
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