Friday, August 28, 2009
Let me begin with two observations: 1) people often know a lot about something, and 2) technology exists that can store and retrieve whatever it
is they know. Eight years ago, a visionary group including Jimmy Wales
and Larry Sanger put 1) and 2) together to make a free encyclopedia. They called it Wikipedia. Here's the visionary part: Its not just free information; anyone is free to edit it. The theory behind this embrace-the-
chaos culture is that those who know what they're about will suppress the fraudulent and the pathological. It works so amazingly well that the English-language version recently topped 3 million articles. As a basic
scientist who now devotes his waking hours to writing about science and society, I find Wikipedia to be indispensable. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised. Science owes its success and credibility to a policy of
openness, while Wikipedia carries openness to its practical limit. In 2007 I cautioned WN readers that scam artists would inevitably find ways to manipulate Wikipedia http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN07/wn032307.html .
Indeed, they have. In the Wikipedia article about "Robert L. Park," I found myself described as a "Wikipedia critic." Actually, I'm a curmudgeon, but I think Wikipedia is cool.
An article by Noam Cohen in Wednesday's New York Times reports that within weeks Wikipedia will begin imposing a new layer of editorial review on articles about living people. Such articles will be "flagged" for
approval by an experienced editor. Cohen cites embarrassing examples in which malicious falsehoods have made their way into Wikipedia articles about public figures. Wikipedia was due for a little reality therapy.
Newspapers around the country have carried the story of the US Chamber of Commerce, the top US lobbying group, calling for the EPA to hold a Scopes- like hearing on the evidence that climate change is man-made. The EPA
dismisses such a stunt as a "waste of time," but that's the least of its problems. Having lost the contest over scientific peer review of journal articles, the global warming deniers are accused have cooked up a
In the wilds of the Drome Valley in southern France, living in metal- shielded campers, and wrapped in aluminum foil, they seek relief from the ubiquitous radio waves that are destroying their lives. The increased use of
WiFi is not making matters any better. Radio waves, they insist, cause them real physical pain, but double-blind tests consistently show them to be unable to distinguish between real and sham electromagnetic fields.
There had been concern that the old girl might have fallen victim to global warming, but there she was on a satellite image. You can't deny that can you?