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Posts tagged Wikipedia

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Claude Shannon Demonstrates Machine Learning

AT&T archival video:

In this film from the early 1950s, Claude Shannon, The Father of Information Theory, demonstrates how “Theseus,” a life-sized magnetic mouse controlled by relay circuits, learns its way around a maze.

Pretty cool, although maybe even cooler would have been Shannon demonstrating some of these inventions listed on his Wikipedia article:

He also invented many devices, including rocket-powered flying discs, a motorized pogo stick, and a flame-throwing trumpet for a science exhibition [citation needed].

I love the [citation needed] there, it’s perfect.

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Wikipedia: Peaches (The Presidents of the United States of America song)

Summary of the lyrical content of the song:

The lyrics of “Peaches” discuss a man moving to the country to eat vast quantities of canned peaches at no cost to him. Briefly mentioned is the hard-working American man who cans the peaches in a factory downtown. The narrator also speculates that a finger sized hole in a singular peach may hold an ideal hiding spot for an ant. He then warns the listener; “Look out!” he calls. There’s a finite number of free peaches for him. Luckily, that number is in the millions.

This is my new favorite paragraph on Wikipedia.

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Wikipedia: The War of the Worlds (radio drama)

Wikipedia reporting on the aftermath of Orson Welles’s radio drama adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds:

Many listeners sued the network for “mental anguish” and “personal injury”. All suits were dismissed, except for a claim for a pair of black men’s shoes by a Massachusetts man, who spent his shoe money to escape the Martians. Welles insisted the man be paid.

Welles couldn’t abide depriving a man of shoes. Some things are just beyond the pale.

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The power of Wikipedia: How I became gaming's most popular and anonymous photographer.

Evan Amos is the guy who took all those photographs of video game consoles on Wikipedia:

At first I took photos of food items, candy bars and electronics, but I began narrowing my focus on video game systems. I started making lists of every console ever released. Before the video game crash of 1983, there were numerous systems, many now barely remembered, with little information available. Message boards and fansites had few details, with the same poor, low-resolution pictures. I realized that relatively recent history was being lost to time, all because the internet did not have good information and media about these game systems.

It makes complete sense in retrospect that the photos were taken by an editor, but until reading this, the possibility never crossed my mind. I think I just assumed that they were press kit photos.

He has a Kickstarter for documenting consoles that wraps up in two hours from when this post is scheduled to post.

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The Decline of Wikipedia: Even As More People Than Ever Rely on It, Fewer People Create It

Tom Simonite with a long piece for the MIT Technology Review:

The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project’s own. Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy.

He talks about the development of Wikipedia’s bureaucracy and automated editing tools and quotes some people who have researched Wikipedia who think those developments have had a negative impact on retaining editors.

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Wikipedia: Hare

The latest bit from Wikipedia that cracked me the heck up is in the opening section from the article on hares:

Normally a shy animal, the European brown hare changes its behavior in spring, when hares can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around meadows; this appears to be competition between males to attain dominance (and hence more access to breeding females). During this spring frenzy, hares can be seen “boxing”; one hare striking another with its paws (probably the origin of the term “mad as a March hare”). For a long time, this had been thought to be intermale competition, but closer observation has revealed it is usually a female hitting a male to prevent copulation.

I love the way this is phrased, implying that someone came up with the nifty male dominance theory and everyone thought it was fine and dandy — and then a hundred years later, someone finally bothered to check if it was right.

"Yo guys, so I’ve got this funny story…"

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Wikipedia: The Fantastic Four (1994 film)

I was, until quite recently, completely unaware that the 2005 film Fantastic Four was not the first live film adaptation of the superheroes. The first was a low-budget film that was completed in 1994 but was never released. It is, by all accounts, a not terribly great B movie.

My favorite part of the article was this:

Speculation arose that the film had never been intended for release, but had gone into production solely as a way for [producer Bernd] Eichinger to retain rights to the characters; Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee in 2005 said this was the case, insisting, “The movie was never supposed to be shown to anybody,” and adding that the cast and crew had been left unaware. [Producer Roger] Corman and Eichinger had dismissed Lee’s claims, with the former stating in the same article, “We had a contract to release it, and I had to be bought out of that contract” by Eichinger.

I just really love the idea of slapping together a movie based on a high profile license just to maintain that license.

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Wikipedia: List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events

Gaze upon my favorite Wikipedia article of right this second: “List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events.” As one may be able to infer from the title, it contains a giant table of failed predictions for the end of humanity, the end of the planet, the end of the universe, etc. 169 of them at the time I write this, in fact. I counted. (With a computer, not by hand.)

To restate: Wikipedia editors have compiled 169 distinct instances of people being incorrect, most of them not notable in any way, and presented them as encyclopedic information. This article has existed for over a year and a half, and over 1,300 edits have been made to it. All solely to catalog people being wrong.

I hereby coin “wikismug” for those situations where you read something on Wikipedia and just know the submitter was grinning smugly as they hit submit. This article is some of the most concentrated wikismug I’ve ever seen.

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Wikipedia: Alfred Chicken

Alfred Chicken is an old platformer for a few systems: Game Boy, NES, etc. It apparently had an unusual advertising campaign in the United Kingdom, according to Wikipedia:

Karl Fitzhugh, the Product Manager of the Amiga version of the Alfred Chicken video game, ran as the Alfred Chicken Party candidate in the 1993 by-election in the Christchurch, Dorset constituency. The exercise was done to promote the original game’s release. Fitzhugh finished second last with 18 votes, two votes ahead of the Rainbow Party candidate.

He also finished five votes behind the “Ian is King” party candidate.

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Wikipedia: Chiune Sugihara

Chiune Sugihara was an awesome guy who was a Japanese diplomat to Lithuania during World War II.

Sympathetic to Jews who were trying to leave Lithuania after it was occupied by the Soviet Union, he took it upon himself to write thousand of exit visas for refugees, despite having orders from the Japanese Foreign Ministry to the contrary.

Sugihara continued to hand write visas, reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month’s worth of visas each day, until 4 September, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed. By that time he had granted thousands of visas to Jews, many of whom were heads of households and thus permitted to take their families with them. On the night before their scheduled departure, Sugihara and his wife stayed awake writing out visa approvals. According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the Kaunas Railway Station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train’s window even as the train pulled out.

In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train.

What a badass.