Both

*Alice's Adventures in Wonderland*and*Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There*contain many examples of Dodgson's passion for mathematical games, puzzles, logic paradoxes, riddles, and all sorts of word play. Indeed, his fascination with card games and chess provided the background for his two Alice books.Under the name of Lewis Carroll, Dodgson also published a variety of articles and leaflets devoted to puzzles, games, magic tricks, riddles, puns, anagrams, and ingeniously constructed verse. In the book

*The Universe in a Handkerchief: Lewis Carroll's Mathematical Recreations, Games, Puzzles, and Word Plays*(Copernicus, 1996), Martin Gardner offers a varied selection of these little treasures, gleaned from Carroll's publications, diaries, and letters.Gardner's title comes from a brief reference in a Carroll book called

*Sylvie and Bruno Concluded*, in which a German professor explains how a Möbius band has only one side and one edge. He then goes on to demonstrate how to sew together two handkerchiefs to make a three-dimensional one-sided surface known to topologists nowadays as a projective plane. Because this closed surface has neither an outside nor an inside, you can say it contains the entire universe.In Carroll's lengthy nonsense ballad, "The Hunting of the Snark," the Butcher tries to convince the Beaver that 2 + 1 = 3. He adopts the following procedure:

"Taking Three as the subject to reason about—

A convenient number to state—

We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out

By One Thousand diminished by Eight.

"The result we proceed to divide, as you see,

By Nine Hundred and Ninety Two:

Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be

Exactly and perfectly true."

A convenient number to state—

We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out

By One Thousand diminished by Eight.

"The result we proceed to divide, as you see,

By Nine Hundred and Ninety Two:

Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be

Exactly and perfectly true."

Writing out and simplifying the algebraic expression for the operations, [(

*x*+ 7 + 10)(1,000 − 8)/992] − 17, you find that the procedure always yields the same number that you start with!Dodgson's fascination with puzzles is evident in many diary entries. On one occasion, he wrote: "Sat up last night till 4 a.m., over a tempting problem, sent me from New York, 'to find three equal rational-sided right-angled triangles.' I found two, whose sides are 20, 21, 29; 12, 35, 37; but could not find three."

Had Dodgson doubled the sides of the two triangles he had found, he would have obtained the first two triangles of the triple he was looking for. The smallest solution consists of triangles of sides 40, 42, 58; 24, 70, 74; and 15, 112, 113, all of which have the same area, 840.

There are actually infinitely many such right-angled triangle triples. Beyond the smallest triple, however, the integral sides of other triples are each at least six digits long.

Lewis Carroll certainly had a lot up his sleeve, and

*The Universe in a Handkerchief*provides a welcome survey of Carroll's mathematical magic tricks.See also "Billiards in the Round" and "Lewis Carroll and His Telescoping Determinants."

*Originally posted January 13, 1997*