Saturday, 24 August 2013

kevin bacon number or seven-league boots

Though it is a challenge to find a non-moribund version that complements the original science project—and it's sad to think how precariously curated some brilliant things were handled just a few scant years ago, aping at this strange sort of premature immortality only to be displaced and neglected, looking back from an age just a few years later with the threat that most mundane and uninteresting things will ever be forgot—a clever student basically downloaded the growing database of Wikipedia and developed a route to allow users to enter queries on two desperate and random topics through his server and find the distance (the Kevin Bacon number, the connections, steps it takes to bridge both items) between them in the Wikipedia universe. Six Degrees of Wikipedia, it was called and was introduced in 2007, although it appears there has been no one to maintain the programme. Surely still educational and serendipitous, one sees latter day incarnations as a game with a certain frame work, which I think makes the search more of a trivial pursuit. Research, triangulation and abstraction, however, cannot be replaced by any amount of brute force or compendious collection, nor a sense of anticipation or urgency that spoils the surprise.
I wonder how the project's inventor thinks about browsers and engines, without stint or bias, almost without fail direct questions that have no resale value toward their Wikipedia articles. Since the first speech broadcast to those within ear-shot, the speed of communications has been dangerously out-stripping the speed of comprehension. One writer for Der Spiegel's Eines Tages lost-and-found bureau, invites readers on a monthly adventure with a daisy-chain of nodes and relays from the universal encyclopedia to bring together two topics in seven, possibly specious but always interesting, steps. The latest installment (liediglich nur auf Deustch) by Danny Kringiel links the history and development of rail-transport in Japan with the current state of affairs and exposure with the spying apparatuses of the United States. I am sure such a thesis accepts tangents as well.