JF Science Books Post 1519
In a world where everyone wins and no one loses, why can't we cut a square hole with a round bit. Or vice versa? Well, we can of course, its all just a matter of perspective. The image (below) that started this thought thread down the rabbit hole is of a member of Great Britain's ruling class, Sir William Houghton, appeared in Punch magazine in 1890 as an illustration in a debate over hunting rights for hares and other small critters, in what seems to have been an attempt to further control the access of the wide working class to certain freedoms. To be honest I haven't looked at this debate, and I'm not sure why the liberal Sir William is shooting Dodos as rabbits, but the image--independent of what it was intended to represent--seems to be the inside-out, or the reverse-inside-out of what had been the situation with the bird. It would look "wrong" even if you didn't know the history of the flightless and basically defenseless creature being hunted to extinction, standing in the place of the rabbit. It has an oddness to it, like a very high-pitched tone that floats above a piece of music, a slightly pungent odor coming from a nicely-executed painting. Perhaps it is the the sense of expectation being thrown off just a bit with something like the unexpected-expected.
And then of course there's the rabbit hole connection. And Alice. And the Dodo.
From Report of Debate on Hares Preservation Bill, June 26.—"They (the other Members of Parliament) could not go out and kill 300 Dodos,"—but evidently he (Sir W.V. HARCOURT) could, and here he is—caught in the act... [He reminds me of a peeing stallion--one of the most majestic poses a horse can strike]
Lewis Carroll's Alice gets right down to business in her adventures in Wonderland, right from chapter one ("Down the Rabbit Hole"), only a few hundred words into the story1--down she goes. In one very memorable scene (in a book composed of memorable scenes) Alice meets a Dodo bird (which scholars say is a play on the stuttering Carroll's real name, Dodgson, or Do-do-ogson), and <things happen> after which the Dodo suggests a "Caucus Race", being a play on the legislative process in which the Dodo-shooting Sir William participated above.
The deal with the Caucus Race was that there was no set course, necessarily, for any one racer--everyone would run their own course as they chose; so in a self-defined course with no competitors and no rules, racing a race that the race liked, it would be hard to lose. Carroll writes:
"First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?'
"This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes."
The rabbit hole was made by the cylindrically-gifted rabbit, though in Carroll's world the rabbit could've been a square, a cube or cube2-something. Or of course the rabbit could've made a square hole, or square-squared hole, which probably would've been more to Carroll's taste, approaching a very early thought on square2. But people in the three-dimensional world had been working on making square holes with round bits, though coming a bit after Carroll's time, as in this example:
The device at the bottom of the drill was made to follow and then restrict its cutting motion to that of a square, the device (considerably less wide than the diameter of the bit) cutting and scraping the round hole into a square. Which in its own way reminds me of a motion picture depicted on a polygon, in a movie theatre for example, which began in a somewhat different way, filmed on a circular surface, or at least in one aspect of it. Auguste and Louis Lumiere began the new mass-medium, illustrated here from their Nouvel Appareil Photographique Panoramique Reversible le Photorama (which was printed in Lyon in 1895/6)
The Lumieres claim for "first" as cinematographers is better understood in terms of the motion pictures being a new mass medium. Whereas other inventors and experimenters were earlier--like chronophotography devices constructed by Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey and Ottomar Anschütz, which all produced forms of moving pictures in the decade prior to the Lumieres, but were decidedly not for public consumption. The work of these men, as with that of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope (1891), was intended for scientific and academic consumption; or with the case for Edison, at least, for the amusement of the wealthy classes, as well as for educating the children of the rich. There were certainly others who worked in this area in the 1890's, but none really fashioned an interest to their invention for the use of one-and-all as did the Lumieres.
Which gets us back to our square rabbit hole. Soon after the Lumiere's introduced their fabulous new invention, they decided that there was no future whatsoever in the motion picture as a new medium, and abandoned it. They undoubtedly felt a little bit like the square peg in the round hole of the needs of art, and moved on.
1. "There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, `Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!' (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat- pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge."--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.
It is highly probable that no artist who ever depicted a Dodo actually saw one.