Archive for the ‘Wikipedia’ tag
Jason Kottke calls our attention to a great Wikipedia list, that of brands that died from being overused as the common name for their property.
I’ve not listen to it in a while, but it reminded me of this episode from the old CBC radio show The Age of Persuasion, which covered the topic of genericide.
It was written as a joke, but it’s strange, creepy and fascinating: Wikipedia has a page holding a Terminal Event Management Policy which is a plan for how the encyclopedia would allow for historic preservation “in the event of a non-localized event that would render the continuation of Wikipedia in its current form untenable”.
It’s actually not a bad idea, but clearly not feasable in it’s current incarnation. But it’s hard to not be a bit unnerved by the idea of the end of the world talked about so frankly and presently, even as a joke.
There are a lot of non-legitimate reasons to dislike Wikipedia, but the one Timothy Messer-Kruse calls out is the only one I think worthy of anyone’s time:
“Explain to me, then, how a ‘minority’ source with facts on its side would ever appear against a wrong ‘majority’ one?” I asked the Wiki-gatekeeper. He responded, “You’re more than welcome to discuss reliable sources here, that’s what the talk page is for. However, you might want to have a quick look at Wikipedia’s civility policy.”
It’s fair to point out that all encyclopedia’s tend to defer to consensus over truth, but it’s a thing that’s hard to remember as you use them. (An because I know about and it’s recent, I’ll note that this is very similar to the point John Siracusa made in this podcast episode.)
(via Arts & Letters Daily)
Someone created a thoroughly documented Wikipedia article about a 19th century war between the American state of Michigan and Canada. A war that never happened.
It’s not new or news, but it’s a good read that I decided to chase down recently. I thought this (Stephen Mitchell’s) translation more readable than the others I encountered, though it should be noted that there’s a great deal of discord on the topic. Quoth the Wikipedia:
Critics of these versions, such as Taoism scholar Eugene Eoyang, claim that translators like Stephen Mitchell produce readings of the Tao Te Ching that deviate from the text and are incompatible with the history of Chinese thought. Russell Kirkland goes further to argue that these versions are based on Western Orientalist fantasies, and represent the colonial appropriation of Chinese culture. In contrast, Huston Smith, scholar of world religions, said of the Mitchell version, “This translation comes as close to being definitive for our time as any I can imagine. It embodies the virtues its translator credits to the Chinese original: a gemlike lucidity that is radiant with humor, grace, largeheartedness, and deep wisdom.” —Other Taoism scholars, such as Michael LaFargue and Johnathan Herman, argue that while they are poor scholarship they meet a real spiritual need in the West.
The fact that there are differing opinions on the ten commandments was something I’d heard multiple times, but never really understood. Until I saw this chart. Now I know for sure that I’m not the only one who thinks “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” should not stand alone. (I was raised Catholic.)
Though I knew or might have guessed most of these, this is a gem of a Wikipedia page. I’d guarantee you’ll learn something if you read the whole thing. This was something I’d always wondered but never looked up:
Airplanes flying long distances between two places usually take less time flying west-to-east than east-to-west, not because of the earth’s rotation directly, but because airplanes at higher altitudes tend to benefit from natural air currents called jet streams.
Some others that caught my eye:
- The blue color of lakes and oceans is not only a reflection of the blue sky. Water looks blue because water is blue; the water molecules do absorb some light, and they absorb red frequencies more than blue.
- The Inuit do not have a large number of words for snow.
- Nowhere in the Bible is the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden referred to as an apple.
- Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb.
- The United States Interstate Highway System was not designed with airplane landings in mind. A common urban legend states that one out of every five (or ten) miles of highway must be straight and flat to allow emergency (or military) airplane landings, but this is not the case.