Matrix Multiplication in Excel — What is the Matrix?

This post is part of the “Matrix Multiplication in Excel” series. It’s composed of a math introduction, a silly interlude (you are here) and an interactive tutorial. By the end of the series, you’ll learn how to perform Markov Chain calculations, which are used in some damage calculations.

‪‎Trigger Warnings‬: Authorial Self-Insertion, In Medias Res, Movie References, Fake Trigger Warnings


Just a few days ago, I had been lying on my back, surrounded by doctors, atrophied and struggling to gasp for breath. This man wanted billions of humans to experience the same process. A note of discord rang through my heart as I tried to imagine the whole of humanity simultaneously squinting as they adjusted to their new eyes.

Morpheus misinterpreted my discomfort and didn’t miss a beat.

“We don’t know who struck first, us or them. But we do know it was us that scorched the sky.”

Apparently the red pill came with a lot of side effects. I closed my eyes in a vain attempt to make the room stop spinning.

He continued. “At the time, they were dependent on solar power. It was believed they would be unable to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun.”

This was starting to look like a truly interesting problem. If I stuck with the rebels, I’d have to defeat swarms of killer robots, awaken all of humanity and create a society out of billions of frail and broken humans. And, I wouldn’t even have sunlight because apparently the “good guys” had “scorched the sky.” Something didn’t seem right. My grip on the chair tightened, and I felt myself getting colder.

“Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this.” Morpheus reached into his jacket and produced a battery.

Words failed me. You can’t give a zygote enough energy to become a human and then expect to get back even more energy by turning him into a battery. To be fair, maybe physics works differently in “the real world,” but…

“No,” I stammered. “I don’t believe it. It’s not possible.”

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.”

“Woah,” I said out loud. That was the most pretentious thing I’d ever heard.

“You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

“No. This doesn’t even make sense. If the machines can make batteries out of animals, why would they use humans? Wouldn’t they use chickens or something easier to domesticate?”

“There are fields, Neo. Endless fields where humans are no longer born, but grown. I saw them myself. I don’t know why they use humans, but they do. Man cannot fathom a machine’s mind.”

“Well, we should try. I don’t want to fight an enemy until I understand them. Just give me a second to think.”

I sat in silence and ran through the narrative. Was it possible the machines had set up a retirement program for the enemy that had ruined the planet? I’m not sure I would have been as forgiving.

A literal second later, Morpheus continued. “Neo, you’re here because you were seeking the truth. I had hoped you would be ready for it.”

“About that. I was actually just brushing up on linear algebra.”

“Didn’t you Google search ‘What is the Matrix’?”

“Yeah, that autocompleted. I was looking up ‘What is the Matrix index order?’ I was trying to remember if rows or columns come first.”

Morpheus took off his impossible sunglasses and crumbled on the red leather chair. “It’s rows and then columns. M by N.”

“Thanks, Morpheus! Best of luck with all that other stuff. Really. Rage Against the Machine, or whatever. Anyway, could you please drop me off back in Houston? I have a lot of work to do.”