For eight weeks every Wednesday, Brett and I snuck away under darkness and rain to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium to learn how to make a star show. We learned the ins and outs of the planetarium’s computer controls and presented shows for our family and friends on March 30th in the dome. A fellow classmate called it “playing with the biggest toy in New York City.”
The class structure included time in the classroom developing a program and time in the dome to test out the feel of the controls as your show is projected to the dome. And of course a lot of time at home researching our topic and writing our scripts. Each student selected very different study subjects. My topic as you may have guessed was the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. Brett studied aurora activity on the Earth and other planets in our solar system and the effect of the magnetosphere and nearby moons on auroras. We learned from our classmates about stellar distances, constellations, near Earth object collision risk, moon tides and life on the International Space Station. We also found out where the Borg live. [Spoiler Alert] Apparently, the S.S. Enterprise could only have traveled within the Milky Way Galaxy. Warp 8 just doesn’t get you very far.
AMNH has a public version of the Uniview software that you can download from the Hayden Planetarium website. It was great fun and highly recommended if you ever get the urge to drive the dome.
If you would like to download the script from my exploration of the Cassini-Huygens mission, be my guest.
I am reading and rereading the discussion/controversy/hype/reporting on Wikipedia’s knowledge engine and wondering exactly what about it should be construed as a direct competitor to Google. Yes. An unbiased, independent, not tied to corporate interests search engine, but of what content? Wikipedia’s, most likely. Surely not all of the internet, since their own data and articles are continually vetted for independence and would provide a test for bias.
Wikipedia’s leaked grant proposal indicates that there is a concern that content delivered by Google search results that originates from Wikipedia is obviating the need to click through to a Wikipedia page, therefore reducing the number of users that might see WMF’s donation pitch and thereby reducing it’s revenues. But if the Knowledge Engine is really just a better way to search Wikipedia content then it seems to be more an effort to keep users on the Wikipedia site by providing better access to search and discovery of Wikipedia articles. But if you are expecting people to start at Wikipedia to use the search engine (or whatever landing page Wikipedia creates), you still have the problem of getting them there. (FWIW, when I find a Wikipedia article on Google or even a bit of information generated from Wikipedia I often if not usually continue on to the Wikipedia article. I may just be an encyclopedia geek, but encyclopedia geeks are the ones making contributions to Wikipedia in the first place.)
Another concern I have heard is that somehow this Knowledge Engine will reduce the need for curated content. Again, this seems to be alarmist. Wikipedia content, whether in the form of articles or data, is submitted and curated by Wikipedia Editors. What “content” would the Knowledge Engine search if not for the content developed and curated by editors? From what I saw of the proposal it didn’t look like the Knowledge Engine was intended to piece together discovery from the wild, but from Wikipedia’s own content. And even if there was an attempt to deliver content from the wild, the best way to evaluate it for bias would be to compare it to the curated content.
What am I missing?
UPDATE (2016/02/16 4:34pm): And the response from Wikipedia (found almost immediately after I added my post):
“What are we not doing? We’re not building a global crawler search engine. We’re not building another, separate Wikimedia project….Despite headlines, we are not trying to compete with other platforms, including Google. As a non-profit we are noncommercial and support open knowledge. Our focus is on the knowledge contributed on the Wikimedia projects. “
I have been sorting, categorizing, labeling, structuring, and visualizing all kinds of “stuff” for as long as I can remember. From spice drawers to websites, topic maps and geographic ones, the code word is EASY: easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to use. I can help with that.