If you don’t know the story, Alice meets up with a hookah-smoking caterpillar who tells her that if she eats out of one “side” of a (round) mushroom, she’ll get bigger, but out of the other side, she’ll get smaller. He doesn’t fully explain to Alice what will happen to make her taller and shorter, and so here is a fun read:
This time Alice waited patiently until [the caterpillar] chose to speak again. In a minute or two the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and yawned once or twice, and shook itself. Then it got down off the mushroom, and crawled away in the grass, merely remarking as it went, ‘One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.’
‘One side of what? The other side of what?’ thought Alice to herself.
‘Of the mushroom,’ said the Caterpillar, just as if she had asked it aloud; and in another moment it was out of sight.
Alice remained looking thoughtfully at the mushroom for a minute, trying to make out which were the two sides of it; and as it was perfectly round, she found this a very difficult question. However, at last she stretched her arms round it as far as they would go, and broke off a bit of the edge with each hand.
‘And now which is which?’ she said to herself, and nibbled a little of the right-hand bit to try the effect: the next moment she felt a violent blow underneath her chin: it had struck her foot!
She was a good deal frightened by this very sudden change, but she felt that there was no time to be lost, as she was shrinking rapidly; so she set to work at once to eat some of the other bit. Her chin was pressed so closely against her foot, that there was hardly room to open her mouth; but she did it at last, and managed to swallow a morsel of the lefthand bit.
‘Come, my head’s free at last!’ said Alice in a tone of delight, which changed into alarm in another moment, when she found that her shoulders were nowhere to be found: all she could see, when she looked down, was an immense length of neck, which seemed to rise like a stalk out of a sea of green leaves that lay far below her.
Since law professors are, no doubt, going to beat the hell out of the Alice-in-Wonderland connection, I thought I’d stake my claim early. I’ve been reading a lot of law professor views, and several (if not many) think software patents are dead, or largely so. Kappos, in contrast, thinks Alice ate out of the side that’s going to make software patents larger, or at least not shrink. His view is here.
My guess is Alice is going to cause us all to bang our heads, stub our toes, and wander through Wonderland for many years to come.