Wikipedia. If you don’t know it, you don’t have a computer. Or use a computer. Or know anyone who has or uses a computer. It seems to have been around since the dawn of the internet, but it is actually celebrating its 10th anniversary at the moment.
Wikipedia, it often seems, contains pretty much all human knowledge, from biographies of influential people to explanations of complicated scientific phenomena via articles on cities and art. It has its faults, obviously: the ease of editing a page to say anything you want, no matter how ridiculous or untrue, and what can be a very dry style (I prefer to use entries on http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2 where there is one, because they are generally more accessible and easy to read). That said, it’s difficult to really criticise a website that provides so much information, and all for free.
This piece on the BBC website (a site which has and will continue to inspire many of my posts) is a demonstration of how easy it is to get lost exploring Wikipedia and the mind-boggling range of articles it has.
I thought I’d have a quick go myself, though I’m going to limit it to ten minutes rather than an hour. I’ll start on Aristotle, as the BBC piece did.
18.44 – Aristotle
18.45 – Embryology (the study of the development of the embryo). Apparently it used to be thought that semen already contained an embryo which just grew during pregnancy.
18.46 – Mutation
18.47 – Delta (Greek letter) The shape of the letter is a triangle, which is where a river delta gets its name – the shape is similar.
18.48 – The Laplace Operator (a mathematical thing which would probably be beyond my comprehension even if I wasn’t trying to read it on a Friday evening).
18.49 – Image Processing
18.50 – Morphing
18.51 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
18.52 – Jordan (the country, not the “glamour model”)
18.52 – New Seven Wonders of The World (voted for in 2007 by a worldwide public vote. The winners were: Chichen Itza in Mexico; Christ the Redeemer in Brazil; the Colosseum in Italy; the Great Wall of China, in China, funnily enough; Machu Picchu in Peru; Petra in Jordan; and the Taj Mahal in India.)
Most of those articles had dozens of links to other articles. Wikipedia has more than 3 and a half million articles in English.
See what I mean?