Wikipedia's Featured Article

Richmccarty

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Sep 3, 2007
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I hope not too many people take what they read on Wikipedia to be the 'truth'. There are many mistakes in that article. As far as I know, there is no evidence that mechanical clocks with proper escapements were invented by 11th Arab engineers. The description of the Al-Jazari's Elephant clock is almost entirely incorrect. I have a copy of the English translation of his work and have made a working mechanical model of the Elephant clock. It is a fascinating thing, but did not show the temporal hours and does not work as described. The description of the clock seems like a 'telephone game' mash-up of a few of his water clocks.

Plato invented the alarm clock? Puh-lease.

Rich McCarty, GradBHI & West Dean College
http://www.restoredclocks.com
 

Steven Thornberry

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The story about Plato and the alarm clock had some currency in late antiquity and probably derived from a source closer in time to the great man himself. But it is a stretch to imply he did anything other than adapt the clepsydrae to his own uses. Certainly, he did not market alarm clocks of any kind.
 

Scottie-TX

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KOOL article. Nice compilation of miscellany but certainly not a valid source for many minutae of horological history.
 

flynwill

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Well the cool thing about Wikipedia is that if you see something you know is wrong you can fix it! Better still don't just fix it, but cite your references, and the fix will likely stick.
 

Richmccarty

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Well the cool thing about Wikipedia is that if you see something you know is wrong you can fix it! Better still don't just fix it, but cite your references, and the fix will likely stick.
That's probably the worst thing about it. You have no idea who wrote the stuff and why. Books are expensive to produce and usually written by knowledgable experts backed by professional editors and fact checkers. In the Wikipedea article, the very significant claim is made that clocks were invented by 11th century Muslim engineers. The reference is to Hassan and Hill's illustrated survey of Islamic technology which, as far as I can tell, makes no such claim and in fact repeats what is generally held to be true, that the first mechanical clock was made in Europe. What could be more important to the history of clocks than the making of the first one? We still don't know identity, time or place of the mechanical genius who made the first verge & crown wheel escapement.

I believe the intent of Wikipedea is that if enough people are invloved, it will represent some sort of communal truth, which I believe it does. Unfortunately, that truth is that humans are messy and often full of BS. This message board is good example - how many post begin "I'm no expert but' and then proceed to give some advice? Hell, there's even a frequent poster to this MB who carries on conversations with his bong!
 

Tony Ambruso

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Dec 2, 2005
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Rich, that is the most frustrating aspect of the internet. You become accustomed to immediately searching it for an answer to your question. Wikipedia invariably comes up in your search. You click over to it, but, in the end, you can't be sure of validity of the information. So you find yourself only with a starting point, which, I suppose, is good enough. But you've got to wonder about all the "facts" seeded into Wikipedia by the misinformed or the misleaders.

And it happens here, too.
 

Tom McIntyre

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The wiki phenomenon is interesting. It is based on the premise that "All of us know more than any of us."

While there is truth in that statement, it depends on participation by "everyone." I think that generally, positions taken by experts with little beyond conjecture to back them up are more dangerous than similar positions presented in the wiki environment. If you examine Wikipedia articles to determine if they have references to primary sources to back up assertions you can reasonably quickly determine if it is opinion or disinformation rather than information. Without references, the presumption is that it is opinion or conjecture.

It is interesting to note how quickly the assertion of the middle eastern invention of the escapement was refuted in the discussion here. To me, that does not weaken the facility, but rather strengthens it.
 

Tony Ambruso

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Tom said:
It is interesting to note how quickly the assertion of the middle eastern invention of the escapement was refuted in the discussion here. To me, that does not weaken the facility, but rather strengthens it.
Interesting statement, Tom, but the inaccuracies do nothing, in my mind, to strengthen the system. The only strength of the wiki system is its vast holding of topics, and its service as a point of referential initiation. The nature of the information presented there requires more careful validation than a standard encyclopedia, for example.
 

Joe Collins

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I find this thread interesting to say the least. While I have no intention of defending the article I would like to make a couple of points.

One of the posters made this comment:

“In the Wikipedea article, the very significant claim is made that clocks were invented by 11th century Muslim engineers. The reference is to Hassan and Hill's illustrated survey of Islamic technology which, as far as I can tell, makes no such claim and in fact repeats what is generally held to be true, that the first mechanical clock was made in Europe.”

The article stated it this way:

“The first geared mechanical clock was invented by the 11th-century Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi in Islamic Iberia.”

While I am not saying I support the claim in the article I would like to point out that the Iberian Peninsular, the current location of Spain and Portugal, is now and was in the 11th century, part of Europe. The claims that (1) 11th century Muslim engineers invented clocks and (2) that the first mechanical clock was made in Europe are not necessarily contradictory. It may be entirely possible that both claims are correct.

Another poster stated:

“It is interesting to note how quickly the assertion of the middle eastern invention of the escapement was refuted in the discussion here. To me, that does not weaken the facility, but rather strengthens it.”

I believe the word should be disputed as refute means proved wrong and I don’t believe that to be the case. The article did not assert that a Muslim engineer invented the clock in the Middle East. What it did assert was that it was invented in Islamic Iberia.

From the number of references listed the writer spent quite a bit of time putting the article together. I honestly believe their only motivation was to inform not to mislead. The tone of some of the posts would indicate otherwise.

My last point is in regards to the frequent MB contributor that talks to his Bong. I think I will let Bangster and Scotty explain that one.:thumb:

Joe




 
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