Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Wikipedia and credibility in physics/science

  1. Jan 26, 2007 #1

    ranger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    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
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 26, 2007 #2

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    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.
     
  4. Jan 26, 2007 #3

    robphy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    FYI:
    http://slashdot.org/articles/07/01/26/1752250.shtml
    Professors To Ban Students From Citing Wikipedia
     
  5. Jan 27, 2007 #4
    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.
     
  6. Jan 27, 2007 #5

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    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)
     
  7. Jan 27, 2007 #6
    A lot of my classes say right in the syllabus - wikipedia will not be considered an acceptable source. The microbiology lab report I am working on right now even mentioned it.
     
  8. Jan 27, 2007 #7

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

  9. Jan 27, 2007 #8
    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?
     
  10. Jan 27, 2007 #9

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    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:

    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.
     
  11. Jan 27, 2007 #10

    Hootenanny

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Less than 10 minutes by my reckoning there, you didn't change it did you Zz... :tongue2:
     
  12. Jan 27, 2007 #11
    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.
     
  13. Jan 27, 2007 #12

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    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.
     
  14. Jan 27, 2007 #13
  15. Jan 27, 2007 #14

    Curious3141

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    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.
     
  16. Jan 29, 2007 #15

    matthyaouw

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Mistakes can stick around for a long time, particularly in smaller articles. This one for example is very off the mark.
     
  17. Jan 29, 2007 #16
    Touch the citations and sources, not the pages is my philosophy.
     
  18. Feb 23, 2007 #17

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    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

    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.
     
  19. Feb 23, 2007 #18

    dextercioby

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Even on http://www.arxiv.org you can get a load of cr@p, so trusting blindly something on wikipedia is definitely an error.
     
  20. Feb 23, 2007 #19

    Garth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Perhaps when Scholarpedia becomes more established the problem of finding a reliable handy on-line reference will be solved.
    Garth
     
  21. Feb 23, 2007 #20
    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.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2007
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Wikipedia and credibility in physics/science
  1. Wikipedia: Physics (Replies: 61)

Loading...