Why chase the Red Queen?

Just another new blog, but what is in the name?

Who is the Red Queen?

The Red Queen is a character from a book by Lewis Caroll: Through a Looking Glass (1872). In Alica’s dream about the looking glass house, all is weird. Left appears to be right and visa versa, as if she was in a mirror image of the world she knew. Also, chess pieces are alive and one of them is the Red Queen, who she will meet once she leaves the looking glass house to see the garden.

To get a better view of the garden, Alice decides to climb up the hill. From here, she sees a very straight path, but when she follows the path, she finds that it leads her back to the house. When she runs, she not only returns to the house, she also crashes into it. So, forward movements take you back to your starting point and fast movements cause abrupt stops.

Eventually, Alice finds herself in a patch of very vocal and opinionated flowers; the rose is especially vocal. It is here, where Alice learns about the Red Queen and as an excuse to escape the verbal use, she decides to find the Red Queen. When she spots the Red Queen, she begins to move towards her, but the Red Queen quickly disappears out of sight. Upon advice of the rose, she decides to go the opposite way, which results in immediate success, as she now stands face-to-face with the Red Queen.
The Red Queen leads Alice to the top of the hill and according to the Red Queen, hills can become valleys and valleys can become hills. This confuses Alice, as she already noticed that straight can become curvy. As if progress can only be made by going the opposite direction.
Once they are at the top of the hill, the Red Queen starts to run, faster and faster. Alice runs after the Red Queen, but it appears that neither of them are actually moving. When they stop running, they are still in the exact same place. Alice tells the Red Queen this and the Red Queen responds: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place”.

So why chase the Red Queen?
The short answer is: to keep up with my surroundings. Whatever you do, be it in your professional life or your personal life, you have to keep up with things to maintain your current position. To keep up with science as a graduate student, I have to read articles. For criminal to keep ahead of the authorities, they have to find loop-holes in the law and investigation techniques, whereas the authorities have to do the opposite. For a formula 1 team to maintain there lead in the championship they have to keep developing their cars, as their opponents are trying to out compete them for victory. In other words: life is just a rat race, chasing the Red Queen where ever she goes. You just have to chose which rat race you want to join and the chase is on!

Carrol, L. 1872. Through the looking glass and what Alice found there. Macmillan, London.

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