Vaguely Interesting Snippets | 28 December 2012 

  • Queen Victoria enjoyed Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland so much that she suggested he dedicate his next book to her. Lewis Carroll was, of course, a pen name for a distinguished Cambridge mathematician and so the Queen was accordingly presented with Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled ‘An Elementary Treatise on Determinants: with their application to simultaneous linear equations and algebraical geometry’. Like all great stories, it is almost certainly untrue – Dodgson himself vehemently denied this story, commenting “…It is utterly false in every particular: nothing even resembling it has occurred”.
  • According to Waldemar Januszczak’s rather excellent The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, Viking helmets did not have horns. Horns were first added to the helmet as a piece of stage craft in the 19th century. A particularly evil character in a Wagernian opera was given this suitably devilish appearance, and Norsemen were lumbered with the stereotype ever since.
  • The BBC has been at the centre of a myriad of controversies this year. Is this representative of a new problem, or does it reflect decades old institution issues? Perhaps it is the latter: in the diary he kept during the Second World War, George Orwell described the BBC as a “something half way house between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum”.