Friday, May 27, 2011

fun (?) with Wikipedia

My buddy Pat posted this item to his Google Buzz feed:

Today on XKCD the alt text says that if you click the first hyperlink on any page in wikipedia that is not in parentheses or in italics, and repeat that process, you will eventually end up at Philosophy.

I checked Lake Trout. 13 clicks later I was at philosophy.

From Tauroctony, 24 clicks.

From Nachos, 19 clicks.

From Magick, 19 clicks.

Head For the Red: Wiki-Philosophy Trivia
I decided to test this hypothesis by using the Wikipedia random button, which is one of my favorite buttons on the entire internet. Here are my results, wikipedia page names in bold.

Random article doodad led to Kenneth N. Beers

who worked for NASA

which is part of the executive branch

which is part of a national government

which is a form of central government

which is a form of sovereign state

which is a type of state

which is a concept in the social sciences

which is a field of study

which is part of academia

which is a community

which involves interaction

which is more complicated than simple causality

which involves events

which are generally observable

which is an important trait to physics

which is a natural science

which is a science

the goal of which is the accumulation of knowledge

which involves gaining facts

which are a form of information

which comes in a sequence

a concept important to mathematics

which studies, among other things, quantity

which is a property

in modern philosophy

a subset of philosophy

From random button to philosophy, 26 clicks.  I assume the next step, if someone hasn't already written it, is a little program like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing-a-ma-bob.


  1. Starting with "artiodactyl" sends it into a loop, starting with "Latin", eventually ending up back at "Latin".

  2. Keep going! You'll eventually get there! I promise! ;)

  3. re: Artiodactyl. The "Latin" is actually in parentheses so by the rules should be ignored. If you do that and follow the next link ("appendages"), you really do get to Philosophy in a total of 22 steps.

    Same as every random page I've tried. Spooky!

  4. I trid from the article du jour (Ernst Lindemann). It took 36 steps but I got there, too!

  5. The odd thing about 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon is that Kevin Bacon is not the best target to use. Roy Schneider has a better ratio of films / actors.

    If you check out the Wikipedia section on "Small World", the mathematical problem which covers this, it says the article on the United Kingdom is the best connected. You should be able to reach that article from any other article quicker (on average) than Philosophy.

  6. I'm curious what the results are for the graph theory analysis today since it was done in 2008; it also used different rules.

    Checked my FA articles: Midshipman, only 11 to Philosophy, HMS Speedy (1782), 27. Both routed through Mathematics->Quantity->Property(Philosophy)->Modern Philosophy->Philosophy.

  7. Anonymous9:05 AM

    @Chris: The XKCD comic is talking about a slightly different question. Rather than observing how few links it takes to get to Philosophy, it's describing the process of clicking on the FIRST link in an article and saying that it will eventually take you to Philosophy. I could see lots of cases where this first-link process would never lead to anything like the UK, but it tends to lead to Philosophy because many first-links in articles are definitional in nature.

  8. Anonymous9:43 AM

    The German Wikipedia has a loop, from Wissen (knowledge) [you are nearly at philosophy!], but first must go to sanksrit, which is a language which after some clicks leads you to knowledge again.

  9. 17 from artiodactyl for me.
    20 from Enochian.

    This has to say something about the structural set up of Wikipedia's information and how it can be boiled down into perceptions of reality or something. Really weird!

  10. Oops. In my eagerness, I saw italics but missed parentheses. Thanks folks!

  11. "Greyhawk" gets there very quickly!

  12. I tried to stump it with "bed sheet" but got there in 17 clicks.

    "Playdoh" only took 15.

    I even tried "Kevin Bacon" which go me there in...20, I think. This is all making me very tired.

  13. Dionysus led me to "Wine" which led me to "Fermented" which led me back to "wine". Infinite loop.

  14. Heh, Jell-O gets you there in three clicks.

  15. Wiki's making a meta-statement:

    if you somehow get to the Ayn Rand page, you skirt around Philosophy indefinitely without ever quite getting there.

  16. Neuromere doesn't.

    Neuromere to Transient to Pali (some kind of language, since I'm not using "redirected from" text) to the Disambig page, which lead to Pali Canon, to Religious Text, to Merged, and on to Article Size. Which lead to Editing Guidlines, to Category, to MediaWiki, to Free Software, and on to Computer Software. After which it takes you to Computer Programs, which takes you back to Computer Software. If you disregard bold text, it might.

  17. Oh. Wait. Pali was Parenthesized. Starting over, it goes to Transient, and then to Three Marks of Existence, to Buddhism, to Religion, and from there to Cultural System, on to Culture, to Alfred Kroeber, to United States, to Americas#Terminology, then Western Hemisphere, and after that Geography. From there, we get to Earth, and then Planet, which takes us on to Orbit, to Physics, through to Natural Science, onward to Science, then Knowledge, whereupon we reach Fact, and progress to Information, and from that point head on to Sequence, from which we reach Mathematics, which takes us to Quantity, to Property (philosophy), to Modern Philosophy, and, finally, to Philosophy itself. It took 27 steps, counting Philosophy (or 26 if not), but it got there.

  18. tellius4:11 PM

    Taketoshi: Ayn Rand and Dionysus both lead to Philosophy using XKCD's rules (first link not in parentheses or in italics). Even since I saw the link on XKCD the other day I have yet to manage to find one random link to avoid philosophy. I like it :)

  19. Charalambos D. Aliprantis takes 24 steps. And this is getting weird.

  20. Also, looking to see just how long it takes to get there from Greyhawk, it takes ten. I'll go away now.

  21. "Space Opera" makes it in 8 (gets to "Modern Philosphy" in 7).

  22. If I counted right, 'Dungeons and dragons' gets you there in 24 clicks.

  23. In German it didn't work for me. 3 tries and none ended there,m but it came close. I can't remember what it was, but it was close enough that the thrird or fourth link on a page was philosophy. What does that tell us about our society? Would a medieval wiki end up on catholic church?

  24. Anonymous3:21 PM

    Maybe because all knowledge is built on the concepts laid down in philosophy? Science used to be called "Natural Philosophy." Math comes from Philosophy, Logic comes from Philosophy, Language based stuff comes out of philosophy, (drama, history, lit etc.). Philosophy is the root of tree of knowledge. So everything will lead back there. I think the same would work with the library of congress.


  25. Random article -> "Transit of Mercury from Uranus"

    From there to Philosophy in 13 clicks.

    ..although it was nearly much sooner, as 'Natural Philosophy' came up much quicker.

    I find the whole phenomenon strangely reassuring. Can we base a faith on this? What would the Noodly One say?

  26. Anonymous3:35 PM

    Mathematics doesn't appear to get you there. You get close, but never actually get to Philosophy.