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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don't Know What Do With Your Time? Have Fun Learning Something New!

I have always been a big fan of Wikipedia. It has been one of my first stops whenever I want to do research on any topic. When I have some free time, I sometimes go to the Wikipedia site and browse through random articles in the huge encyclopedia.

But it is only recently that I came across a page on Wikipedia that has provided me hours of entertainment. It is a page of links to unusual articles on Wikipedia. Wikipedia makes it clear that these are articles that you are unlikely to see in any printed encyclopedia. That does not make these articles any less informative though.

The introduction to the page on Wikipedia says the following:

This page is for Wikipedians to list articles that seem a little unusual. These articles are valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they make Wikipedia appear idiosyncratic. If you wish to add articles to this list, a broad consensus amongst contributors has identified two main guidelines. If the article in question meets one or both of these categories then it could possibly be deemed unusual:
  1. The article is something you would not expect to find in a standard encyclopedia.
  2. The article contains some form of juxtaposition that most people would find unusual, such as "Killer Cockroach," "Henry VIII in Space," "edible computers," and so on.
Note: this is a narrow definition, and some articles may still be considered unusual even if they do not fit these guidelines.
It is truly an amazing collection of articles about trivia that you may not be able to get anywhere else. Did you know that there is an island in the Mediterranean that has appeared and disappeared several times in history and has sparked a territorial dispute between 4 European powers the last time it appeared?

On the other hand, there is an 800 square mile area on the border between two African countries that neither country claims or wants! Yes, in this day and age of territorial disputes, both these countries would be happy if the other country took this land off their hands!!

Did you know that as late as 1970, the US ceded a 413-acre tract of land in Texas to Mexico?

Do you want a scholarly examination of the question of whether there was a 0 A.D. between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.? You will find such an unusual article on Wikipedia too! Or how about multiple proofs that 0.999999 . . . is just an infinitely long way to write 1?

Do you know a grammatically valid sentence in English that uses just one word 8 times and no other words at all? Yes, as you can guess by now, such a sentence does exist!

And if you are an avid Scrabble player, Wikipedia also has an article devoted to words in the English language that use a Q that is not followed by a U.

Do you know the names of the last animal and plant names in the dictionary? Or the longest word in the English dictionary?

How about a commonly-used chemical that can be deadly to all forms of plant and animal life, contributing to global warming, erosion, acid rain, and countless other maladies?

Perhaps you suffer from exploding head syndrome, and don't even know it yet? How about uncombable hair syndrome? Or how about hypertrichosis? Triskaidekaphobia? Or, even better, Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia?

Do you want proof of the infinite monkey theorem? Or want to read up on how to produce a cup of tea that meets ISO standards? How about a list of inventors killed by their own inventions?

If you are reading this in Firefox, you might be interested in this interesting easter egg found in your browser! Do you know that a hydraulic computer was created to model the national economic processes of the United Kingdom?

Do you know what a human rainbow is? How about a flash mob? Or rickrolling?

Did you know that the US military produced a handbook for its personnel to help them understand the French? How about an English phrase-book produced by non-english-speakers? Or a poem that uses only one word (and uses it 92 times)?

Are you aware of a canon by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that could be literally translated as "Lick me in the ass"? How about weird musical styles like manualism or playing the tromboon, an ugly stick or a musical saw?

Do you know what the world record time is for the longest anyone has taken to complete a 50m freestyle swim? And I don't even want to go into a sample of the world's weirdest games and sports with names like bladderball, chess-boxing, fox-tossing, octopus wrestling or squirrel fishing!

The unusual articles page is organized into categories like Places, Numbers and Dates, Military, Death, etc. There is a list of articles under each category that have been submitted by Wikipedia readers over the years for inclusion on the unusual article page. There is also a section devoted to unusual questions and unusual pictures.

As you can see, this is really a treasure-trove of information to impress and bamboozle your friends and fellow party-goers with! The links I have provided are a very small sample of the goodies on the unusual articles web-page. You have to go through this page in detail to fully appreciate the depth and breadth of information on this unusual page! I will probably never be bored if I am next to an internet-connected computer for the next several months or years! Thank you, Wikipedia!!

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