The Veracity of Google

Lee Poulsen
Mon, 11 Dec 2006 16:58:39 PST
It's not as much use if you're looking for pictures, but one web 
resource that seems to be quite a bit more accurate in its information 
than the average on the Internet, is wikipedia. At least in the English 
version, there are now so many entries (and some are updated so rapidly 
that current events that happened *today* appear before the day ends), 
that even Google will sometimes list the wikipedia entry as its first 
hit. It even has useful entries on information so obscure or unique 
that you won't find it even in a large mainstream encyclopedia such as 
Encyclopedia Britannica.* And apparently overall, its accuracy rivals 
that of Encyclopedia Britannica, at least for scientific topics 
according to the journal Nature which did a test on both of them. Also 
I got contacted by a guy in Germany who was working on an article for a 
Lilium species who wanted to use one of my images from the PBS wiki and 
was asking permission. He even researched the image an informed me of 
the specific species and subspecies it was after input he got from 
various Lily experts. Plus, almost all the articles have a host of 
references at the bottom both from online sources as well as printed 
sources. So you can investigate both the topic and its accuracy even 

I love it.
--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USDA Zone 10a

*(For example, I was asking a co-worker (with a PhD in some 
mathematical science area) originally from China about the characters 
and names for very large numerical quantities (on the order of the 
Western system of numbers such as quadrillion, quintillion, etc.) in 
the Chinese/Japanese system. This was because the names in our system 
jump in units of 3 zeros (or 6 zeros for the British) while in theirs 
the names jump in units of 4 zeros. He knew the names up to the 
equivalent of our trillion, and knew there were at least two characters 
for names beyond that one, but he didn't know what they were and said 
it was going to take some time and trouble to try to track even what 
those two were. Finally, a couple of weeks later he showed me what he 
had found which wasn't much and he said he had looked in all of his 
technical and encyclopedic books in Chinese. On a lark, I tried looking 
up something in wikipedia about large numbers in other language systems 
and it referenced one of its articles it had, in English!, about the 
Chinese large number names. It went way beyond what my co-worker was 
able to find out, had all the characters, in Chinese, as well as 
transliterated. And explained the entire system! Amazing. And one or 
more people had put it all together and entered it as an entry. Other 
friends have found similarly obscure yet accurate information stored 
there as well.)

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