Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I Love Wikipedia

This post begins the saga that shall hereafter be dubbed "Things I Learned on Wikipedia".

I love Wikipedia and you should too.  There's power in having so much information at your fingertips.  I really don't know how people survived before Wikipedia.  Apparently some didn't; curiosity killed the cat you know.  If the cat had had access to Wikipedia, he could have just looked it up instead of ignorantly engaging in lethal activities.  I know there were encyclopedias before, but I defy anyone to find one half as comprehensive as Wikipedia (or as compact!).  Wikipedia is the fountain of knowledge.

I was taught in high school that Wikipedia is not a valid source of information.  I respectfully disagree with that opinion.  Do you know how many times I have utilized Wikipedia in my undergraduate education?  More than once an entire semester project was drawn from a Wikipedia article.

Example 1: Developmental Biology.  An eight page single-spaced original grant proposal?  Holy crap.  My life is over.  Uh, uh, choose an organ.  Okay, heart!  Wikipedia, don't fail me now.  Search heart development.  Result: big article on heart development!  Score!  Read article.  Find this sentence.  "Whether Dickkopf-1* and Nodal act directly on the cardiac mesoderm is the subject of research".  A question that has been researched (aka sources!) but does not have a conclusive answer?  Hallelujah!  Proceed to research topic and write paper, referring back to Wikipedia article multiple times a day.  Final grade: A.  Wikipedia wins.

Example 2: Readings in Biotechnology.  A ten page (mercifully double-spaced) review paper on pretty much anything I want.  Well, that's not too hard--gene therapy!  A great topic!  Hello, Wikipedia, my old friend!  What can you do for me today?  Wow, that's a really good summary of the development of gene therapy!  Look at all those references!  What's that, Professor?  More specific?  Alright, Wikipedia, I need your help again.  Gee, you reference two great studies of gene therapy for retinal disorders!  Add that one retinitis pigmentosa paper Fellowstudent referenced in class and we've got ourselves a topic!  Proceed to analyze the three papers (with numerous visits to you-know-where) and write the review.  Final grade: A.  Wikipedia wins.

Example 3: Bored to tears with nothing to do at work.  Wikipedia, I'm about to die of boredom!  Help meeee!  I've been wondering about the Equal Rights Amendment ever since I read that the LDS church was against it.  Search Equal Rights Amendment.  Wow, Wikipedia, you really knocked yourself out with this one!  Read article.  Notice it discusses the involvement of one Coretta Scott King.  Proceed to article on Ms. King.  Read article.  Wow, Wikipedia, this was one amazing woman!  Look at all the things she did to fight prejudice and promote peace!  Look at all of those awards she won, which you've so neatly organized at the bottom of the article!  Result: time passed pleasantly, boredom remitted, and role model found.  Wikipedia wins.

If I haven't yet converted you to Wikipedia, this surely will:

Nobody could say it better.  Love you, Wikipedia.

*Note: The protein Dickkopf-1 was named by a German scientist.  The name means "big head", because if you take this protein out of the system, the developing organism will have an abnormally large head.  And yes, it is pronounced "dick-off".  It is commonly referred to by its abbreviation, DKK1, for obvious reasons.  I was once reprimanded in a class for using its full name.  One American scientist presenting at a conference said, "Tell the Germans to consult me the next time they decide to name a protein I'm interested in."

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