Wikipedia and credibility in physics/science

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ranger

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It is known that some wikipedia articles are not credible. Hell, I've been hearing this a lot lately. I constantly use wiki as a refresher and for quick info, yet I never found any such article(s). Does anyone know any incorrectly written articles from wiki in the areas of physics, math, EE, etc? I would like to take a look at them.

--thanks
 

Evo

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It is known that some wikipedia articles are not credible. Hell, I've been hearing this a lot lately. I constantly use wiki as a refresher and for quick info, yet I never found any such article(s). Does anyone know any incorrectly written articles from wiki in the areas of physics, math, EE, etc? I would like to take a look at them.

--thanks
I've seen them, but they've since been corrected. Pages are defaced all the time. Try looking at the history of a page to see how many times it's been edited. There is also an administrative site there that shows the admins discussing all the bogus posts they've had to correct and some of the most vandalized topics. I found it googling.
 

robphy

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FYI:
http://slashdot.org/articles/07/01/26/1752250.shtml
Professors To Ban Students From Citing Wikipedia
Posted by Zonk on Friday January 26, @01:44PM
from the we-have-these-things-called-books dept.

Inisheer writes "History professors at Middlebury College are tired of having all their students submit the same bad information on term papers. The culprit: Wikipedia — the user-created encyclopedia that's full of great stuff, and also full of inaccuracies. Now the the entire History department has voted to ban students from citing it as a resource. An outright ban was considered, but dropped because enforcement seemed impossible. Other professors at the school agree, but note that they're also enthusiastic contributors to Wikipedia. The article discusses the valuable role that Wikipedia can play, while also pointed out the need for critical and primary sources in college-level research." What role, if any, do you think Wikipedia should play in education?
 
I would also like to see some of these examples. Alot of people around here slam wikipedia constantly while citing little or no actual evidence. I know that some of the articles arent credible, but I would like to see examples.
 

Evo

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Want to see one? Bell's Theorem.

A struggle between Dr Chinese to keep correcting the rubbish that the crackpot Caroline Thompson kept defacing wikipedia with. Her and her minions were constantly ruining the pages.

Main facing page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell's_theorem

Discussion page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Bell's_theorem

History of edits page http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Bell's_theorem&action=history (all 500)
 

Gokul43201

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Well I understand that Gokul, its just difficult when all you read is more hearsay than concrete evidence. Thanks for the link by the way. But Im not familiar with fluorocarbons, It looked like from the older post link that the wiki was wrong by saying that fluorocarbons destabilize an atom while in fact they stabilize it? I was also not able to find this in the article (though Im pretty tired) is it in the chemical properties section?
 

ZapperZ

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I would also like to see some of these examples. Alot of people around here slam wikipedia constantly while citing little or no actual evidence. I know that some of the articles arent credible, but I would like to see examples.
Er.. if you've been here long enough, you would have seen that I had previously cited a couple of wikipedia pages that were wrong. And that's the key word, WERE. A few of these things were eventually corrected, but how long will they last? That's why these are NOT valid citation sources because someone else checking on it later will not be guaranteed to read the same one.

Here's an argument against wikipedia that I made a while back that no one has ever tried to encounter. When you study out of a textbook, the author/s have tried to make it pedagogically logical. They try to present the material in the clearest fashion as possible based on a systematic and logical presentation of the material. Wikipedia cannot do this, and often, the article will appear disjointed, as if it has been done in patches, because IT HAS! Want an example? Look at the page on particle accelerators:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_accelerator

I once pointed out that there were glaring errors on this page. The very first line used to read:

A particle accelerator is a device that uses electric and magnetic fields to propel electrically charged particles to high speeds...
which is wrong. After I mentioned that, a week later, that was corrected. But still, this article is downright confusing. They divided "high energy machines" with "low energy machines", and then went on, in the high energy machines section, to talk about "drift tubes". I have no idea if they're doing a "historical overview" of high energy machines, but what high energy machines today use drift tubes anymore? All accelerating structres that I know of in operations in "high energy machines" use iris-loaded accelerating cavity. So why is this written? Was it left behind from a previous entry?

And then they butchered the linear accelerator stuff by the misuse of the terminology. A "linear accelerator", in the accelerator community, is usually referred to the FACILITY, not the accelerating structure. So SLAC is a linear accelerator facility. A "LINAC", even if it is short for "linear accelerator", is often referred to the "accelerating structure", i.e. a component you put in the accelerator beamline. A linac can consist of a series of iris-loaded structures that boost the energy of the particles being accelerated.

I also find it amusing from the way it was written that as if only "medical grade linac" are the only ones that use Klystrons. Why do they single out medical linac? If you don't know any better, you'd think that these are the only applications that use klystrons, which do not explain the rows and rows of klystrons that you'd see that ALL accelerator facility.

I can go on and on... Not only can you get the WRONG information, but the way the material is presented is highly confusing. If several people have edited the material, you'll get a hodge podge of information that sometime even contradicts each other, or simply don't match. There is no thought being put in on how to present the whole information pedagogically.

Now let's see how long this page last before someone comes in and modify it based on what I've just said.

Zz.
 

Hootenanny

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Now let's see how long this page last before someone comes in and modify it based on what I've just said.
Zz.
Less than 10 minutes by my reckoning there, you didn't change it did you Zz... :tongue2:
 
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Like any other tool Wikipedia and the Internet is a very good tool if it is used properly.

I often use Wikipedia to get an overview of a subject or to refresh my memory on the odd equations.
I would never however base a peice of new work purely on what is written in a single article.

I frequently review what is available in the Internet domain concerning a number of areas where my company wants to protect it's IPR or is trying to work out what the competition is doing. What I find is that there is a lot of junk but the occasional gem. I take these gems and see if I can find independent corroboration.

A few programmes of work have been kicked off in other directions by these searches, most die but some come to fruition.

So to get back to the point, if a student uses Wikipedia to get an understanding of an area and then backs that up with further research he is doing good work. If however they hit the "I feel Lucky" button on Google and only use that one source they are doing bad work.

The danger of banning Wikipedia is that students will still use it but just atribute the source information to the publications referenced on Wikipedia.
 

ZapperZ

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Less than 10 minutes by my reckoning there, you didn't change it did you Zz... :tongue2:
I don't touch that stuff even with a 10' length cable on my keyboard!

:)

My philosophy here is that, in many cases, you just cannot save people from their own stupidity. If people or worse, students, still use Wikipedia while knowing the nature of the information that they are getting, then they deserve what they get. At some point, there's just nothing you can (or should) do to save them from themselves.

Zz.
 

Curious3141

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I've found (and corrected) a few errors on Wiki : https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=120711&highlight=wiki (see posts 9 and 14).

I still find errors, but now I can't correct them anymore. My proxy server has been banned from editing because some bright spark from my neck of the woods was vandalising Wiki. Oh well, Wiki's loss. I don't care.
 

matthyaouw

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Mistakes can stick around for a long time, particularly in smaller articles. This one for example is very off the mark.
 
I don't touch that stuff even with a 10' length cable on my keyboard!

:)

My philosophy here is that, in many cases, you just cannot save people from their own stupidity. If people or worse, students, still use Wikipedia while knowing the nature of the information that they are getting, then they deserve what they get. At some point, there's just nothing you can (or should) do to save them from themselves.

Zz.
Touch the citations and sources, not the pages is my philosophy.
 

Astronuc

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It's still making the news, but apparently more colleges and universities are banning the use of citations from Wikipedia, although apparently, high school teachers permit and perhaps even encourage its use.

A History Department Bans Citing Wikipedia as a Research Source

When half a dozen students in Neil Waters’s Japanese history class at Middlebury College asserted on exams that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th-century Japan, he knew something was wrong. The Jesuits were in “no position to aid a revolution,” he said; the few of them in Japan were in hiding. :rofl:

He figured out the problem soon enough. The obscure, though incorrect, information was from Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopedia, and the students had picked it up cramming for his exam.

Dr. Waters and other professors in the history department had begun noticing about a year ago that students were citing Wikipedia as a source in their papers. When confronted, many would say that their high school teachers had allowed the practice.

But the errors on the Japanese history test last semester were the last straw. At Dr. Waters’s urging, the Middlebury history department notified its students this month that Wikipedia could not be cited in papers or exams, and that students could not “point to Wikipedia or any similar source that may appear in the future to escape the consequences of errors.”

With the move, Middlebury, in Vermont, jumped into a growing debate within journalism, the law and academia over what respect, if any, to give Wikipedia articles, written by hundreds of volunteers and subject to mistakes and sometimes deliberate falsehoods. Wikipedia itself has restricted the editing of some subjects, mostly because of repeated vandalism or disputes over what should be said.

Although Middlebury’s history department has banned Wikipedia in citations, it has not banned its use. Don Wyatt, the chairman of the department, said a total ban on Wikipedia would have been impractical, not to mention close-minded, because Wikipedia is simply too handy to expect students never to consult it.
I thought the last line put the matter quite succinctly. Panda made a good point - Wikipedia is a research tool, although potentially flawed - and one must use it carefully.
 

dextercioby

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Even on http://www.arxiv.org" [Broken] you can get a load of cr@p, so trusting blindly something on wikipedia is definitely an error.
 
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Garth

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Perhaps when Scholarpedia becomes more established the problem of finding a reliable handy on-line reference will be solved.
Welcome to Scholarpedia, the free peer reviewed encyclopedia written by scholars from all around the world.

Scholarpedia feels and looks like Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Indeed, both are powered by the same program - MediaWiki. Both allow visitors to review and modify articles simply by clicking on the edit this article link.

However, Scholarpedia differs from Wikipedia in some very important ways:

* Each article is written by an expert (invited or elected by the public).
* Each article is anonymously peer reviewed to ensure accurate and reliable information.
* Each article has a curator - typically its author -- who is responsible for its content.
* Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version.

Herein also lies the greatest differences between Scholarpedia and traditional print media: while the initial authorship and review processes are similar to a print journal, articles in Scholarpedia are not frozen and outdated, but dynamic, subject to an ongoing process of improvement moderated by their curators. This allows Scholarpedia to be up-to-date, yet maintain the highest quality of content.
Garth
 
I use wikipedia a lot. while the information is sometimes wrong or vandalized, I find the system works pretty efficiently... for every claim you make you need to cite an official source, and if no source is cited it tells you so (so if you doubt the info you can go to the link). the links they offer are very useful too... I don't use it as my main source of info, obviously, but it's a great place to start. and they've done many studies that come to the conclusion that wikipedia is not as unreliable as people tend to think (the rate of errors to factual info).

p.s: don't ask me to cite the studies, I just remember reading about them... one was on discover mag. a while ago, another one I remember on TV news (the most reliable source of them all, obviously), and my dad told he read something similar in the papers.
 
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Alkatran

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Some of the unofficial rules everyone should know about wikipedia:

Don't expect articles to be absolutely accurate or static.
Don't use wikipedia to learn about a highly controversial subject.
Don't use wikipedia as a source.
Do use wikipedia as a massive ever-branching time-draining source of knowledge you didn't really need to know.
 

Evo

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The page on the United Kingdom has been so badly vandalized that a temporary lock preventing edits has been placed on it.
 

SpaceTiger

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If we have one more thread on Wikipedia, I'm going to write a Wikipedia article about it...

...and yes, I will make stuff up.
 

Garth

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The more, the wikier

Nature news article.
Why is Wikipedia as good as it is? While the debate about precisely what level of goodness that entails has been heated, the free online encyclopaedia offers a better standard of information than many would have expected from a resource that absolutely anyone can write and edit.

Three groups of researchers claim to have untangled the process by which many Wikipedia entries achieve their impressive accuracy1, 2, 3. They say that the best articles are those that are highly edited by many different contributors.
??

Garth
 

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