Scientific American Blog Post Considers Euclid and His Modern Rivals

Lewis Carroll with BookIf you’re a fan of geometry, math, or just Lewis Carroll, you might be interested in this blog post from Scientific American. It considers the importance and relevance of Mr. Dodsgon’s highly theatrical treatise Euclid and His Modern Rivals.  While it ultimately finds limitations in Dodgson’s conclusions, it applauds his sheer creativity in addressing a difficult and contentious topic.

To read the article, click me.

Puzzles in Wonderland Book Features Carroll-Inspired Brain Teasers

Puzzles in WonderlandOne of our mimsy minions has alerted us to a new book by Richard Wolfrik Galland entitled Lewis Carroll’s Puzzles in Wonderland.  And here is what our minion had to say:

Lewis Carroll’s Puzzles in Wonderland (Carlton/Metro 2013) is a bit of a misnomer. There are a few of Carroll’s original puzzles in the text, but most of them are “inspired by” (i.e., adapted to fit) the Wonderland environs, and nicely illustrated with the colored Tenniel drawings. R. W. Gallard has provided an intriguing collection of puzzles, conundrums, riddles, and brain-teasers categorized as “Easy,” “Curious,” and “Harder.”"

If you have a Carrollian puzzle-lover on your holiday gift list, this might be a book to consider!

Another Lewis Carroll-Themed Song Cycle

Composer Bruce Lazarus posted a link on our Facebook page about The Lewis Carroll Project, his art song cycle dedicated to the life and works of Lewis Carroll.  Lazarus has drawn his libretto from both well-known and lesser-known Carroll writings, including The Game of Logic and a letter to a child friend.  You can read more about the project and listen to “The Mad Gardener’s Song” by clicking here.

Lewis Carroll wins March Madness Bracket!

We’ve already exhausted the ‘March Hare Mad-Hatter-ness’ pun on this blog a few years ago, but Lewis Carroll is making basketball news during the college playoffs! His contributions to bracketology were discussed at length at the Wall Street Journal in two articles:

In addition to writing “Alice in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll was a mathematician who was offended by blind draws in tennis tournaments. So Carroll devised a method to ensure that the most skilled players would survive to the latest rounds.

So in the spirit of adventure, The Wall Street Journal put Carroll’s radical format to the ultimate test: this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. If we assigned the 64-team field randomly, then played out the tournament based on the NCAA selection committee’s overall ranking for each team, what would happen? Would the teams that got unlucky draws or suffered early upsets still make it through to the late rounds? And would there be enough surprises to keep people entertained? [continue reading]

-Rachel Bachman, from “Introducing the Lewis Carroll Method,” The Count, Wall Street Journal, 22 March 2012.

The excellent illustration for the WSJ article by Scott Brundage

 

Then Bachman expanded the idea into a printed WSJ article:

When The Wall Street Journal undertook a search to figure out who invented the concept of the tournament bracket, nobody had any idea where the search might lead. It’s fair to say nobody imagined it would bring us to the same neighborhood inhabited by Alice, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter.

After our March 17 story, in which we speculated that an 1878 pairings list from Wimbledon was among the first brackets used in sports, we received a number of letters offering fresh leads. The most intriguing one came from a longtime reader, Joel Chinkes, who lives in Luna County, N.M.

Chinkes had in his possession a version of an 1883 monograph written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a 19th-century English mathematician better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Carroll, as you may recall, is the author of Alice in Wonderland. Chinkes thought we should have a look at the monograph.

The monograph, “Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method,” is just about what it seems to be: a proposal for a better way to conduct a sports tournament. Let’s get one thing straight: Carroll didn’t invent the bracket. In writing this nine-page plan, his only goal was to make it better. [continue reading...]

-Rachel Bachman, from “A Bracket Through the Looking Glass,” Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2012.

In quasi-unrelated sports news, did you know the team name for Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana, is the Lincoln Alices? Apparently they’ve been called that for so long that no one remembers why. (If anyone actually does know why, please tell us in the comments.) Anyway, congratulations on being the  2012 Sectional Champions!

The Game of Logic Audio Book free on iTunes


.If you were wondering what to listen to in your car as you travel between Cut Bank, Montana, and McNab, Alberta (about a 105 minute drive, depending on traffic at the border), how about downloading Lewis Carroll’s mathematics book The Game of Logic, read as an audio book and free on iTunes?

This work is a part of the Lit2Go collection, a collaboration between the Florida Department of Education and the University of South Florida College of Education. Lit2Go is dedicated to supporting literacy teaching and learning by providing access to historically and culturally significant literature in K-12 schools.

They also have a complete audio book of Symbolic Logic, if you’re planning a longer drive. If you’d prefer to read The Game of Logic as a digital book or online, here it is free in many formats at Project Gutenberg.

   ---------------------
  |9        |         10|
  |         |           |
  |    -----x------     |
  |   |11   |    12|    |
  |   |     |      |    |
  |---y-----m------y'---|
  |   |     |      |    |
  |   |13   |    14|    |
  |    -----x'-----     |
  |         |           |
  |15       |         16|
   ---------------------
     COLOURS FOR              -------------
       COUNTERS              |5     |     6|
          ___                |      x      |
                             |      |      |
  See the Sun is overhead,   |--y-------y'-|
  Shining on us, FULL and    |      |      |
          RED!               |      x'     |
                             |7     |     8|
  Now the Sun is gone away,   -------------
  And the EMPTY sky is
          GREY!
          ___

 

Celebration of Mind II – Sign up!

Can you change “100″ to “CAT” by moving just two of these toothpicks?
Cat Puzzle

The above puzzle is probably familiar to many lovers of logic games, but new to the multitude who have not yet made the connection between mathematical problems, visual conundrums, and, of all things, fun.

One man who spent a lifetime reaching out to both the initiates and the multitude was Martin Gardner, philosopher, mathematician, magician, and for 25 years the author of the “Mathematical Games” column in the Scientific American. He was also a founding member of the LCSNA and the creator of the irreplaceable Annotated Alice books.

Martin Gardner

When Martin died last year the foundation Gathering for Gardner vowed to “celebrate Martin’s life and work, and continue his pursuit of a playful and fun approach to Mathematics, Science, Art, Magic, Puzzles and all of his other interests and writings.” One of these celebrations is fast upon us – the second annual Celebration of Mind events to be held worldwide on or around what would have been Martin’s 97th birthday – October 21, 2011.

Last year, people gathered to share magic tricks, puzzles, recreational mathematics problems and stories about Martin at 66 locations from Tokyo to Tehran to Buenos Aires to Boulder, Colorado. This year, 30 hosts have signed up already and the organizers expect many more – if you can’t make the gathering at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, how about attending one of the 15 already listed in North America? Events held by LCSNA members will undoubtedly have an Alice flavor – if you are hosting one, be sure to get in touch and we will advertise it on the blog.

I wonder how many events this year will feature readings from A Bouquet for the Gardener, the beautiful collection of tributes and reminiscences published by the LCSNA in July? (Available at Amazon.com.)

For a map of planned events, and for guidelines for hosting your own event, go to the Gathering for Gardner website. There you can also find photos and descriptions of previous events along with downloadable visual treats and puzzles to whet your appetite. You can also follow event updates on Twitter account @G4G_CoM.

And finally, if you haven’t figured out the toothpick teaser above, I’m not going to tell you. What are Sunday afternoons for?

 

New LCSNA Martin Gardner Tribute Book Just Released!

Callooh!  Callay!!  We are delighted to announce that the LCSNA has just published a frabjous new book paying tribute to the late, great Martin Gardner–columnist, philosopher, polymath, magician, religious thinker, and author of more than 70 books, including the groundbreaking Annotated Alice

The LCSNA’s beautiful 234-page hardcover is a delightful portmanteau accomplishment, combining entertaining and heartfelt reminiscences from those who knew Gardner with a traditional festschrift (academic essays written in his honor).  The book is introduced by Gardner’s son Jim, and includes  contributions from such noted authors as Douglas Hofstadter, Morton N. Cohen, Scott Kim, David Singmaster, Michael Patrick Hearn, Raymond Smullyan, and Robin Wilson, to name but a few.  Our book also contains Gardner’s own final, post-”Definitive Edition” addenda to his towering Annotated Alice classic, as well as an authoritative bibliography of Gardner’s Carroll-related writings.

A Bouquet for the Gardener is a must-read for anyone who loves Lewis Carroll, puzzles, logic, math, and great thinking on a wide range of topics.  Current members of the LCSNA will be mailed one free copy as a bonus of membership.  We are thrilled to be able to make this important book available to the public as well via Amazon (US link; UK link).  Members can also buy additional copies on Amazon.

Our thanks to all who contributed to this effort, both on the pages and behind the scenes.  It is impossible to overstate the debt we all owe to Martin Gardner.  We invite you to join us in saying thank you and in celebrating his remarkable life by reading A Bouquet for the Gardener.

Riddle: What kind of cat can grin?

"A hanging chain forms a Caternary", image from Wikipedia

Answer: A Caternary

The best jokes are the ones you have to look up the answer on Wikipedia to get. I prefer the one that postures “Which would a logician chose: between poutine or eternal bliss?” Poutine: because nothing is better than eternal bliss, and poutine is better than nothing.

The caternary joke was in the Canadian magazine Queen’s Quarterly, in their Fall 2010 issue (Vol. 117). (The QQ magazine we assume is like GQ but for a much smaller demographic.) The 22-page article by Canadian author David Day was called “Oxford in Wonderland.” It’s not available online, but here is a summary from the QQ website:

From the beginning, it was apparent that beneath the fairy tale level of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland there was a strong element of autobiography and satire of mid-Victorian society. It was fairly obvious that the characters and places in Wonderland had a counterpart in Oxford. All of Lewis Carroll’s biographers and literary critics delve to some degree into this kind of historical “Who’s Who” of the Alice books. Some of these Carroll identified himself; others he was at pains to keep secret. Nevertheless, if we walk carefully in Alice’s footsteps, some fascinating new characters will step into the light. It began “all in a golden afternoon” with a real boating excursion on July 4, 1862, on the Isis, a branch of the Thames River passing though Oxford, when two young college dons rowed and picnicked with three pretty adolescent girls on their journey upriver from Folly Bridge to Godstow village.

For much of the magazine spread, Day identifies many of the historical persons whom Day believes Wonderland characters were based upon, various Oxford personalities and friends of Carroll. For instance, his Cheshire Cat identification:

from "Oxford in Wonderland" by David Day, Queen's Quarterly (vol 117 - Fall 2010)

101010 = 42

Mr. Burstein points out that today is 10/10/10 – and 101010 in binary is 42!

(42, besides being the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, is also a number that Lewis Carroll hid throughout his books. Most famously, the King of Hearts’ Rule Forty-two is All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.)

Dodgson "perched in the middle" of the "two chunks" in the history of voting math

Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family made the July 26th 2010 issue of the New Yorker in reference to his work on election mathematics. Anthony Gottlieb, in his article in the book review department called “Win or Lose: No voting system is flawless. But some are less democratic than others“, gives Dodgson praise for considering voting systems that are more fair than, for instance, the U.S.’s current winner-take-all method.

The history of voting math comes mainly in two chunks: the period of the French Revolution, when some members of France’s Academy of Sciences tried to deduce a rational way of conducting elections, and the nineteen-fifties onward, when economists and game theorists set out to show that this was impossible. Perched in the middle is the Reverend Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.”

[...]

National politics weren’t on Dodgson’s mind, it appears, when he first became interested in the theory of voting, in the early eighteen-seventies. Ostensibly, he was pondering the best way for the governing body of Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a tutor in mathematics, to decide on the design for a controversial belfry, and to pick new members of the college. As to what explained his sudden interest in college politics, some people—notably the late economist and Dodgson scholar Duncan Black—have suggested that Alice Liddell, who inspired the Wonderland tale, in 1862, was at the bottom of it. Alice’s father, the head of Christ Church, had forbidden Dodgson further contact with his daughters, and meddling in college politics may have been Dodgson’s way of getting back at him.

The whole article is pretty interesting, and concludes that one of the fairest methods of voting might be similar to how people regularly rank favorites on internet sites like Yelp (“Approval Voting”).