Wikipedia and Google?

  1. Does anyone here think that wikipedia and google are some sort of free schooling?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. The only problem that I can see with that is the lack of social interaction - the whole experience.. Another problem that arises in my mind is credibility.
     
  4. credibility would be the big issue, but other than that yes free schooling..only problem is as a student (1) you have to like reading (2) you don't require hands on.
     
  5. siddharth

    siddharth 1,197
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    Here's a very informative article by Chris Hillman on this issue.

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/RelWWW/HTML/wrong.html
     
  6. I know this is one of the problems to it but there is alot of truth to the information posted. There would be a way to make it more powerful but its just because there isnt enough people who are informed posting, maybe because they don't care.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  7. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,833
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    But how would you know this when you are LEARNING something new? You have no way to discriminate between what is legitimate and what is crap. I mean, just look at the stuff some people try to pass off as physics on PF alone. They probably "learned" their physics off the web too, no less.

    Zz.
     
  8. Yes you do, it's called a citation. If an article is not properly cited, you shouldn't believe what is written there.
     
  9. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,833
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    Nope. I've seen crackpot websites that made TONS of citations. But they bardardized what was written in there. People think that just because they can make references to something somehow legitimizes whatever it is they're pushing. After all, look at those websites on creationism that CITES the 2nd law of thermodynamics as a basis to argue that evolution isn't possible!

    Just because they can make such references and citations does not mean they are spewing something valid.

    Zz.
     
  10. Then read the citations and judge for yourself.
     
  11. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,833
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    Then why bother reading such articles in the FIRST place? Isn't it a lot more direct to simply pick up a legitimate text? Remember, your original argument was simply to just see if an article actually have citations. Now you want the person reading it to actually (i) get the citations and (ii) read them.

    And how many of such references can be understood by people whose only access is wikipedia and google? Anyone who has done any considerable amount of research work and literature search can easily understand that this CAN be an involved process, where going into one paper can easily lead to another paper and another and another. Besides, physics papers are NOT meant to be pedagogically clear. They are not meant to be used as teaching tools. It certainly isn't to be used for 'schooling', whether it is free or not!

    Zz.
     
  12. mathwonk

    mathwonk 9,686
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    well i just tried an experiment, googling "tensor products". Indeed the first two hits were for wikipedia, so i read the first article.

    It was a little clunky to me, apparently written by someone who knows a lot about using them, and probably uses them in research, but is not a mathematician, and not an algebraist for sure.

    The beginning of the article was a formula in coordinates, of essentially no interest to me, for understanding tensors. then later the abstract definition was given but incorrectly, as the author did not grasp that a certain set of vectors (called I there) did not in fact form a subspace, but only the generators for one.

    the article was somewhat helpful, and clearly by an expert of something, but not really of tensors and not of mathematics.

    then i skipped down to the third hit from google, the following link

    http://www.dpmms.cam.ac.uk/~wtg10/tensors3.html


    from cambridge university it seems. this was much better, not only error free, but more elementary, better written, and more helpful at actually understanding what tensors are and why they are defined as they are, and what problems they are designed to handle.

    in fact this may be the best article i have seen on them.

    i cannot see how a new learner however would know to ignore the wikipedia article in favor of this one, unless of course he adopted the apparently obvious rule advocated here, namely that cambridge university is a better source of knowledge than wikipedia U.

    but fools will always eschew good advice. what can be done?
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  13. Mathwonk, you inadvertently brought up another good point. The Wikipedia editors are all writing for different audiences. Some people, for example, might only be interested in the result of a derivation. Others might want to see that derivation in gory detail. Some might want to learn the mathematics behind tensors, while others only want to know how to use them.
     
  14. You're clearly not familiar with Wikipedia. While some citations are scientific papers (specifically in some of the more advanced topics), most are usually links to other websites where people try to explain the topic to those who are unfamiliar with it. For the sciences, these links often belong to professors of high reputation.

    Wikipedia gets your foot in the door. Assume I'm a naive middle school student and I want to know what "light" is. Wikipedia allows me to build a basic framework for my understanding, and through the citations, allows me to probe deeper if I wish.

    It is totally mindless to suggest that it cannot be used for learning because it has some inaccuracies, period. Wikipedia has two advantages over books: The contents are available on-demand from any computer terminal, and it's free. Lets assume that the accuracy rate is terrible: 50%. I would rather kids learn from material that's 50% correct over not learning anything at all.
     
  15. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,833
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    But books are written with a clear pedagogical character in mind. That is what makes, for example, Griffith's E&M better than, let's say, Ritz-Milford-Christy. Both of them cover essentially the SAME material, but Griffith approaches it in a clear and transparent manner. People who write such books spend almost as much effort figuring out HOW to present the material, not just spew it out and let the readers pick out what they need. That is what Wikipedia does, regardless of the accuracy of the content (which, to me, is still suspect).

    I've looked at MANY pages that people on the 'net have referred to, and many of them are NOT suitable to be used for 'schooling', which is what the OP asked in the first place. You get the superficial idea of what it is, but you certainly cannot equate it to the SAME level as what you would get reading a proper textbook. There's just no comparison here. There's no effort at all, if any, put into the consideration on whether the presentation of the material is pedagogically sound. And this is of no fault of Wikipedia because, by definition, it is supposed to be an "online encyclopedia", and NOT a learning material. It is when people confuse it as such is when it is being used for what it isn't meant to be. Getting the superficial idea is NOT the same as learning the subject matter. It is not even close! Wikipedia gives the former, NOT the latter. If your argument is that people can go elsewhere afterwards, then THAT'S my whole point - you do not get the full lesson from Wikipedia! Go back to the OP and see what is being asked!

    And one certainly cannot blindly accept the validity of an Wikipedia entry just because it has citations!

    Zz.
     
  16. Not everything on wikipedia is by people who know what they are talking about. Since anyone can edit it, someone can just dash in things that they heard or think is true here and there or delete things that they disagree with. Accuracy is not guranteed.

    example: lets say i'm an eighth grader who just looked up the wikipedia article on 'anti-gravity.' I disagree with the first statement on the article that says "It does not refer to countering the gravitational force by an equal and opposite force as a helicopter does," so I go through and edit it to say that it repels gravity and I go even further to say that a star made of Anti-matter would make anti-gravity. Credible? I doubt it
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  17. Perhaps you should read the original post. Does it say anything about Wikipedia and Google being your ONLY resource? No.

    Isn't a superficial idea better than no idea at all? I'm not claiming that Wikipedia rivals any professionally written book, I'm claiming it has clear advantages over them, namely, it is freely available and accessible anywhere. Where is a middle schooler going to get the money for Griffiths? Especially one that belongs to a lower-income family? Are you going to carry Griffiths everywhere you go, along with the rest of your library?
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  18. I dare you to try the edits you've described and see how long it takes for them to be reverted. I bet you it will be shorter than you think.
     
  19. cristo

    cristo 8,407
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    No; not if it's wrong, and not for someone who is new to a field and learning. When I was at school a teacher gave me this spelling of the word tomorrow: "tommorrow". So, I thought, the teacher's right, so I'll listen to her. A while later it was pointed out to me that she was incorrect, however I had got into the habit of spelling it incorrectly, and i messed up the spelling of that word for a long time afterwards.

    Ok, maybe that's a bad example, but my point it that if you're learning from a source that may be incorrect, it could be disastrous to your learning, not to mention being a rather large waste of time!
     
  20. Question: How would you have spelled the word had your teacher not told you?
     
  21. cristo

    cristo 8,407
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    I'd probably have looked it up in the dictionary, but since my teacher was there, I asked her-- you do presume that a teacher knows the answer to your questions, especially at a young age, and if they don't, then would look up the answer themselves.

    Anyway, I'm not sure what your point is. My point is that if you presume that wiki is correct, then you will be in for a big suprise-- but not just in a trivial spelling of a word (like in my example). The parts of wiki that are wrong will tend not to be simple articles, but will be the more advanced articles (since there aren't as many capable of writing/checking them!) Therefore, a layperson reading these may think "yea, that makes sense", when it's really incorrect.

    [As an aside, I'm sure there's been a recent thread on this subject]
     
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