Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spirit Levels

One of the delights of having small children around, is that they believe pretty much anything they hear. It’s not that I deliberately set out to deceive them, but sometimes my mouth just goes off before my brain is engaged and I just can't help telling great big lies.

One of the really sad things about watching kids grow up, is coming to the realisation that they have reached an age where they don’t believe those tall stories any more, or at least in the days before the internet was invented they didn’t.

Now there’s a thing called Wikepedia, which seems to be the one resource that all students use as the basis for obtaining knowledge. This is a somewhat terrifying prospect for the world, as it is an enterprise which draws its knowledge collaboratively. Anyone, even someone like me, can dial in and add to the knowledge pool on any given subject.

In theory that’s a grand idea, it’s supposed to ensure that knowledge is always cutting edge, that the merest hint of an inaccuracy will be immediately clarified by an expert in the field, but the reality is that the information is readily open to sabotage either willful or accidental.

When I was checking the spelling of Stokes Poge the other day I decided to check the Wikepedia entry for Thomas Gray, whom I knew had been buried beside his Mum at that spot, and had died in 1771, coincidentally the year after the discovery of Australia by James Cook.

“Thomas Gray (December 26, 1716 – July 30, 1771), was an English poet, classical scholar and professor at Cambridge University.

He was born in Shellharbour, Australia, the son of an Ultrasonographer and a Nurse. He was the first of three children and the only child in his family to survive infancy. He lived with his mother after she left his abusive father. He was educated at Kiama Community College where his uncle was on drugs. He recalled his schooldays as a time of great sorrow, as is evident in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Kiama Community College. Gray was a small and sickly boy who spent his time reading and avoiding athletics. It was probably fortunate for the young and sensitive Gray that he was able to live in his uncle’s household rather than at college. He made three close friends at Kiama: Andrew, son of Prime Minister Robert Walpole, Shawn, and Alexander. The four of them prided themselves on their sense of style, their sense of humour, and their appreciation of life.”

Those who know about these things, tell me that the entry was “only” left in this form for about two weeks, as if two weeks worth of final year students may not have handed in their plagiarised and worthless assignments based entirely on the contents of this article.

Which of course brought me to a rather exciting conclusion. I don’t have to lie to my grandchildren anymore.

If for example I was to build a machine to collect the bubbles of pre-digested wind that the goldfish pass in the pond, (to sell to the Chinese of course - that’s what they use for the bubbles in spirit levels you know) I wouldn't have to tell anyone what it was.

I wouldn't have to, because I’d build a detailed entry for Wikepedia complete with photographs, and I’d tell them to look it up.

After all, the internet doesn’t lie.

Not like their grandfather.


Anonymous said...

You scare me sometimes papa. really.

Anonymous said...

Also: it might be advised to wait until your grandkids can read before you scheme up more false web information...
And in true "boy who cried wolf" form, who will ever believe a link provided by bitingmidge again?

Anonymous said...

Those fishes in that picture brings back so many memories. I use to play that fishing game where there are many fishes moving around and their mouths open and close. The magnets on the fishing pole would connect and we would be able to fish them out. Those were wonderful memories with my family.

Anonymous said...

So thats how they get the bubble in the spirit level.

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