I like to think I’ve been around a bit on the Internet, remembering my first exposure to web pages via IBM Web Explorer on OS/2 (don’t ask), following gopher information links, logging in to sites via command line FTP and I still remember my amazement when I first saw an ad on TV that included a URL, wondering how many people watching would actually know what to do with it.
So I find it fascinating when I find something that has been around for ages that I never knew existed. In this case, the Simple English “Translation” of wikipedia. Apparently this was created in 2003 and now boasts more than 100,000 pages. What brought me to this site was reading about the Euler Identity in the latest book to hit my bookshelves – Dataclysm (Euler – “He was a slacker” according to the footnote from Christian Rudder :)).
Searching for Euler Identity yeilded the Wikipedia entry as the first hit and the Simple English Version as the second hit. When I realised that you could use the “select language” option at the bottom of wikipedia pages to choose “Simple English”, I thought that was a really inspired use of the idea of language. I know techies often go to town with language and computers – just consider the Google “big data” approach to translation, Luis von Ahn‘s crowd-sourced approach using desire to learn language to translate the web with Duolingo and the fact that Unicode itself has been used to include non-Earth languages among its character set!
So when I thought about the idea of using “select language” to choose not just translations, but also approaches to conveying the information in the first place, I thought it was a really good idea, and looked a bit deeper on what else was available. It turns out there are actually a number of English language wikipedia sites:
And it turns out that there are also sites for:
Whilst they apparently didn’t want to split into British and American verisons, there is also apparently a schools wikipedia.
Naturally the first thing to do when one discovers the Simple English Wikipedia is to search for the most complicated subjects you can think of. Consequently, I present links to the Simple English guide to:
- Euler’s Identity (the article that started it all)
- Quantum Mechanics
- The Theory of Relativity – which includes the wonderful warning at the top of the page that “The English used in this article may not be easy for everybody to understand” (a warning worthy of Randall Munroe)
- Fermat’s Last Theorem
- Goldbach’s Conjecture
Yes you read that right – “This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries.”
It would appear to me that this might be missing a citation – infinity!
Still I was impressed by the dedication. At the time of writing, all numbers up to ~210 seem to have their own wikipedia page … then in 10s, then 100s, then 1000s and so on.
Nice to see some named numbers (hello Graham), then some specialist numbers (primes, etc), notable integers, specialist scientific numbers, right through to numbers with no specific value. Really.
In fact, this page would seem a shining example of the interesting number paradox in action. In fact the same thought appears to have occurred to someone else, as the interesting number paradox page has this to say:
- 224 (number), the smallest natural number which does not have its own Wikipedia article.
I wonder how many times the wikipedia page for 224 has been created and removed over the years!
Of course my favourite number is 2. It’s so odd … it’s the only even prime.
Then they cut over to Leslie Halliwell, who has used spriograph to create very large works of art. Her patience must be nearly infinite! The large scale works are very, very impressive.
Of course, today for the rest of us, we can keep the biros in the drawer and just use a computer …
Have just seen the trailer for the new Lego Universe virtual world. I’ve heard various things about it over the last 18 months or so, but the final form seems to be some kind of Lego MMO, a Lego version of World of Warcraft if you will, with customisable characters, quests, building, levels and so on. You will also have to pay for it by a monthly subscription. I had assumed it would be more along the lines of, say, Disney’s Pixie Hollow or a Lego version of Habbo Hotal, but it looks much more a gamey than social virtual world.
The trailer is very impressive, but as its a digital film, it doesn’t really give anything away about the actual game.
Nod to Tervicz for the link to the video.
For some reason, The Corpse Bride is one of those films that just managed to pass me by, until this weekend. We picked it up on DVD and just watched it, and I have to say, what a weirdly, wonderful tale it is, and very expertly done. Tim Burton‘s bizare tale apparently has its roots in folklore (according to wikipedia). It’s certainly quite an odd story. I do like the gothic nature of the heroine, in contrast to the shy Victorian gentleman hero.
If you haven’t seen it before, its well worth watching. If you have, why not pull it out and again revel in the craftmanship of the animation and quirkiness of the story. It is superb.
This is an interesting place, by the sounds of things – the Museum of Bad Art. I quote – “The Museum of Bad Art is the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms.” So there. Why did this all start? Wikipedia explains:
The thing that made me smile though, is this account of two thefts at the gallery.
In one case, a reward of $6.50 was offered for the return of the first. 10 years later, a ransom note was received, but left unpaid. Then the thief just returned the painting anyway! In the second case, a painting was removed and replaced with a demand for $10. Eventually, the painting was just returned, but this time with a donation for $10!
Ok. I am quite a fan of experimental music, but this is stretching even my credulity a little far.
This piece was on the news today. It is a performance of John Cage‘s ‘As Slow as Possible‘, which started with a rest. For 17 months. According to wikipedia, the first audible sound appeared in 2003 and there have been 7 changes of note todate, with the most recent being this month (Feb 2009) – hence the news item.
Actually, reading about it now, I am slightly more inclined to see this as a ‘bit of fun’ (albeit one that is scheduled to last 639 years). I quite like this quote from what I assume is a sort of fan website:
There is certainly a curious appeal of a project that thinks in such, almost timeless, timescales.
So, why not I guess? For full details, see ‘The John Cage Project’ website. I wonder what will happen in 630 odd years time, when the last notes dies. What would they do as an encore?
Whilst browsing wikipedia about this subject, found a link to http://www.pisearch.de.vu/ (currently unavailable though). Struck me that this would be a good way to collect personal details about people (‘try it with your credit card number’ 🙂
Further browsing has turned up Pi-Search, which you can use to look for sequences in the first 200 million digits of pi. Did you know that the sequence 12345678 occurs at position 186,557,266? Well now you do.
The Feynman Point is also interesting. Maybe one day, I’ll give both Richard Feynman and Pi an entry of their own.
Ever since finding Tron at a boot sale, I’ve been looking out for The Black Hole too. Another one of those odd Disney films from the 80s. Well, found it (on video) and just watch it. I was quite surprised by how much I remembered! Especially John Barry’s music.
Not a bad film really. Held up to what I remembered about it, but doesn’t really do much for Black Holes in general (other than associated them with Barry’s menacing music!). Also found an interesting fan site.
Glad I found it and was able to watch it again.
Aside, as with all my blog posts, this was an excuse to read up on wikipedia about something – in this case Black Holes. The thing that has really prompted me to add this, though, is the concept of spaghettification. Don’t care what it is – but what a great word!
Having recently been doing a bit of Motorway driving, including crossing the Severn Bridge, it reminded me of a page I stumbled across on wikipedia about English roads. There is a page which shows how roads are numbered, along with detailed pages about Britain’s Motorways.
Not quite sure why!
I’ve seen trailers for an up-and-coming documentary about Motorways – well, if you want a sneak preview (or at least alternative description) then have a browse of the Motorway pages on wikipedia – there is some interesting history.
(There are loads of UK related pages on wikipedia – see this list of lists for some!)