Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Wikipedia Game

The Wikipedia Game, it doesn't really exist, but I made it up anyway.

I read an article on the BBC site all about Wikipedia and how much you can learn in an hour (always assuming the facts are correct and I know that isn't always the case).  It was interesting to me more for the apparently random path taken by moving from link to link.  The author of the article contrived, and I use the word deliberately, to end up back where he started.  I don't have an hour to spend on this, or do I?  I'll see how far I can get and if I can manage a round trip.


I started with Archimedes.  The article started with Aristotle but I didn't want to start in the place so I chose Archimedes, the only other ancient Greek I know starting with A.  I was tempted to follow Eureka, because that was the one story I'd heard of Archimedes, but I was lead away when my eye lighted on Archimedes' Screw.  I was.

Archimedes' Screw

 has a multitude of uses, any one of which I would happily have followed.  They are used in sewage plants because they are able to deal with varying amounts of water with [shudder] varying amounts of solids.  One was used to help stabilise the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Other versions are used to replace windmills in the Netherlands where they drain the polders at Kinderdijk.


I know the Kinderdijk, I've gone along that canal and seen the row of windmills.  It's now inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Kinderdijk has two legends associated with it.  One is that it was named Kinderdijk (Children's dike) because during the flood of 1421 a wooden cradle was found floating in it.  The cradle contained a cat and a sleeping baby.  The other legend is that of the boy who stopped a leak in the dike by putting stopping it with his finger.  This legend was a story within the story Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates. 

Hans Brinker

A book written first published in 1865 and has since become a children's classic.  In 1865 it became an immediate best-seller and outsold all but Charles Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend".  (thankfully, because I was beginning to wonder how to leave the Netherlands)

Our Mutual Friend

Not one of the Dicken's novels that I know.  Apparently the theme of rebirth and renewal is symbolised by two near drownings in the River Thames.

The Thames

The Thames is the longest river in England but in the UK the Severn is longer.  The length of the Thames is debatable.  Some say it rises at Thames Head while others say it rises at Seven Springs.  Thames Head sounds logical but it's only a seasonal spring.  One of the places the river passes through is Cricklade.


One of the thitry fortresses built around Wessex by Alfred.  Its position was chosen because it's the place where the Thames is crossed by the Roman road Ermin Street.

Ermin Street

Ermin Street (running from Silchester to Gloucester) is not the same as Ermine Street. Oh.

Ermine Street

Ermine Street, running from London to York, was one of the major Roman roads in Britain.

Roman roads

There were laws to specify the making of roads (8 feet when straight and 16 feet when curved).  The roads varied from layered, paved roads to simple corduroy roads.

Corduroy roads

I had never heard of this name but I do know the alternative name, log roads.  One of the earliest examples was found in Glastonbury, in England.


Many myths and legends are connected with Glastonbury: King Arthur, Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail.  The town was dominated for 700 years by one of the most important abbeys in England, Glastonbury Abbey.

Glastonbury Abbey

A very rich and powerful abbey that during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, had all its valuables stripped.  Many abbeys were sold off or leased but, although this happened to much of its property, Glastonbury Abbey itself fell into ruins.  The line "Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang" is thought by many to refer to Glastonbury.  The line comes from one of Shakespeare's sonnets.


Among the many poems and plays written by Shakespeare was the play, Julius Caesar.  Julius Caesar was based on an earlier translation of Plutarch's "Parallel Lives".

Parallel Lives

Plutarch, himself Greek but a Roman citizen, wrote a series of paired biographies, consisting of one Greek and one Roman in each pair: "Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans".  One of these biographies was of Marcus Claudius Marcellus.  In this story Plutarch suggests that Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier.

YES!  The full circle.

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  1. I thought it was exciting, this game of yours. ;)

    Do I get to suggest other starting points?

  2. It was fun for me. :) But no, thank you, I don't need any other starting points. It turned into quite the marathon and there were many detours and side branches that I didn't document. However it was a good way passing the time when I had nobody to talk to but myself. :)

  3. Great fun and a valuable resource if taken with a pinch of there's a good starting point ;-)

  4. Here's an online, multi-player version:

    (full disclosure: I'm the guy making that site :-)

  5. Can I borrow this idea for one of my teaching sessions? I thought it was a very useful way of teaching the students about finding information on the internet.

  6. @Mike. Yes, it's fun but I don't need any more encouragement to waste my time. :)

    @Alex, thanks! I had no idea this existed as a real game. I tried it, but the time limit is too much for me. I like a leisurely browse rather than a chase. That would stress me out. :)

    @Sage, I'd be delighted!

  7. this is interesting, A. btw, hello to you! it's a little late greeting you a merry christmas and a happy new year. i hope you had enjoyed the holidays!

    this game is interesting but i am afraid i will not have time for this. 24 hrs is not enough for me. :-D


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