Is Anne Hathaway the Modern Day Alice?
14th November 2014
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are not science fiction dealing with interstellar travel to other galaxies. But they might as well have been.
Black holes and wormholes are all the rage today, thanks to Chris Nolan's epic movie Interstellar. Of course, physicists of all stripes and colours have been fascinated and intrigued by black holes and wormholes ever since Albert Einstein published his seminal paper - perhaps, the paper of the century - on General Theory of Relativity a hundred years back in 1915 and Karl Schwarzschild solved Einstein's equation just a year later in 1916.
But there was another man, a writer and a mathematician par excellence, who introduced a black hole and a wormhole to the children in 19th century England long before Einstein and Schwarzschild could get a crack at God's most famous equation. That man was Lewis Carroll and as kids most of us have read two of his most famous books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Of course, there was no mention of any black hole or wormhole in both the stories. Carroll's real name was Charles Dodgson and he was a trained mathematician who worked in the areas of geometry and linear algebra.
In Through the Looking-Glass, Carroll introduced the looking glass as a kind of a "wormhole" that connected the countryside of Oxford with a place called Wonderland. In Alice in Wonderland as Alice falls through the rabbit hole, that is very deep and very dark, she finds that time has slowed down. This is where she is falling down a black hole towards a singularity, just like in the movie, Interstellar, actor Matthew McConaughey fell through the black hole towards a singularity towards the end.
Just as Dr Brand, played by Anne Hathaway in Interstellar, explores a distant galaxy by travelling through a wormhole, Alice also explored the 19th century fictional Wonderland through a looking glass and travelling through a rabbit hole.
Carroll had no idea about a black hole or a wormhole when he was writing his stories for they were not discovered then; but he was well versed with the notion of multiply connected spaces, a difficult and an esoteric topic in mathematics that has wide applications in both relativity and quantum mechanics. Though prescience and deep knowledge of mathematics he was able to create a wonderland for the kids that contained the equivalent of what today we know as black holes and wormholes.
- Kaku, Michio, Parallel Worlds, Anchor Books, 2005
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