Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The reliability of wikipedia

As you all know there are many articles on wikipedia, and their quality varies greatly. However the main problem is that in many cases it is impossible to tell if a particular article is accurate or not. For example, I just found the following article on wikipedia:

The beard-second is a unit of length inspired by the light year, but used for extremely short distances such as those in nuclear physics. The beard-second is defined as the length an average physicist's beard grows in a second, or about 5 nanometers[1].

One beard-second equals 50 Ångströms (10^-10 m). 20000 Beard seconds equal 1 RCH. 2000 Beard seconds = 1 RBC.

Google search supports the beard-second for unit conversions.[2]

Unsurprisingly, this article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia's deletion policy. Suprisingly, the part about Google supporting beard second in unit conversion is actually true. After a quick search on the internet, it seems that the beard second was invented as a teaching exercise a few years ago.

In this case, the article seems to be a joke, but in reality it is about a funny teaching exercise....

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