Scribblings Resurrection

Drifting on Wikipedia

Monday, 17 October 2005

The combination of Wikipedia and a tabbed browser1 can lead to some very strange drifts in reading. Earlier this evening I was talking to my mother on the phone and the subject of the earthquake which made the top fall off the church steeple in Davenham, Cheshire cropped up. Mum reckoned it happened in 1989 while I thought it was a few years earlier. We both agreed that the epicentre had been in North West Wales.

An hour or so later I thought I’d look it up, headed for Wikipedia and could find no mention of it. I did however find a link to the British Geological Survey’s list of Larger British Earthquakes in the 20th Century2 so I opened this in a tab, found the earthquake in the list3 and then went back to read the Wikipedia piece on earthquakes.

The earthquake article had a link to one on the geology of the British Isles so I opened that in a tab and read it when I’d finished reading about earthquakes. The geology article had links to a few other interesting looking articles on ice ages and global warming so I opened those in tabs too. Global warming led to one on extinctions, which led to one on evolution, which led to articles on genetic drift and gene flow as well as stuff on creationism which were all pretty interesting in themselves. It also led to an article on human wisdom teeth and that’s where I stopped because I think my brain was suffering from data overload. So, from a fairly innocent enquiry about an earthquake I ended up reading about wisdom teeth. Weird and probably caused by boredom.

This sort of thing has happened before. There’s probably a group of people somewhere who play a variation on the Kevin Bacon game4 where you pick two Wikipedia articles at random and try to find an unbroken series of links between them. If there isn’t, there jolly well should be.

1 Habitual users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer probably don’t know what a tabbed browser is. Don’t worry, you’ll find out if ever you get around to upgrading to Internet Explorer 7 when it finally arrives. When you do you’ll probably think something along the lines of What a brilliant idea! Why did no one think of it before? just like you do with all those other wonderful ideas which Microsoft adopt years after everyone else and present to you, the Microsoft junkie, as brand new innovations.

2 This link now doesn’t work. The site is now organised differently and the closest I can find to the previous list is this list of Significant UK Felt Earthquakes which goes back as far as 1382. You can, if you so desire, sort the list of quakes on various criteria.

3 19 July 1984 at 6:56 in the morning, magnitude 5.4, on the Lleyn Peninsula if you really want to know. See here for further details of the Lleyn Peninsula earthquake.

4 The game where you have to find a series of links which connect any named actor to Kevin Bacon.

Posted 17 October 2005, 00:16 BST

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