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Wikipedia entries on mechanics

Zhigang Suo's picture

If you have a curious child at home, you will hear no end of Wikipedia.  In 2005, Michael Suo introduced me to Wikipedia, which has since become a source of inspiration for iMechanica.  Michael has 5-10 Wikipedia entries open on his computer at any given time.  Anything comes up in conversation or comes across his mind, and he will look it up in Wikipedia.  He is constantly connected with the Internet, through iTouch, Kindle, and desktop.  He even puts a laptop on our dinner table.  Hard to imagine a child to be so passionate about knowing things if he has to thumb through volumes of Britannica, and only to find that what he wants to know is too new to be included, or a deeper explanation is somewhere else in another volume.

Wikipedia entries vary greatly in quality.  The entry on Iris Chang's Rape of Nanking, for example, has galvanized hundreds of editors.  The entry is nuanced, discussing the book from many points of view.  As an example of a more technical topic, the entry on lithium-ion battery is an excellent starting point to learn about this technology.  The entry lucidly describes how a lithium-ion battery works, its history, and recent breakthroughs.  Of course, the entry links to numerous resources on the Internet.

Now, if someone is trying to learn on Wikipedia what we mechanicians do, he will be disappointed.  He can find few entries of relevance. These entries are brief and not very informative.  How come these Wikipedia editors do such a poor job for our beloved subject!  Well, we only have ourselves to blame.  Wikipedia editors are volunteers:  anybody can initiate an entry or edit an existing one.  There will be no editors for mechanics unless we volunteer. 

The following are several samples of Wikipedia entries on mechanics.  

  • Applied mechanics.  This entry describes mechanics in the context of applications.
  • Mechanics.  This entry serves as a gateway to various branches of mechanics.
  • Mechanician.  This entry describes who are mechanicians, and points to historical figures in our field.
  • Timoshenko medal.  This entry describes the medal and points to short sketches of medallists.
  • Applied Mechanics Division.  This entry describes this Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

These entries point to others on mechanics.  If you find any of these entries unsatisfactory, improve them.  If you find a topic missing in Wikipedia, initiate one, and then post a message on iMechanica to recruit other mechanicians to edit.     


Mike Ciavarella's picture


thanks for mentioning about your son's interests, I suspect he will like more my proposals about iMechanica than you then! Please ask him if present iMechanica is fun enough for him to have if not 5 windows open at any time as Wiki, at least to have 1 always open, and please ask him to comment on my "proposal for iMechanica" which is I think still to take off as discussion.  I suspect Michael would make a lot of contribution...



Zhigang Suo's picture

A very short report in the New York Times today says that a one-volume print version of Wikipedia will be available this September.  The volume will be in German, and cost about $32.  Will you buy it if a volume is available in your own language?  I know I won't.  I have a set of Britanica collecting dust on the shelf.  I bought the set for $30 at a used book fair years ago.

I'm now really curious to know how you all feel about the print Wikipedia.

Mike Ciavarella's picture


   Wikipedia I think would ALSO be collecting dust ----- too general.  And easy on web to find so why bother?

However, if we print the TOP H papers of a few journals.... as we did recently the TOP100 in JMPS and the TOP84 in IJSS, we could start from there ---- for such a collection in print, I would be prepared to pay, since it corresponds to a lot of work to read it on the web, and it would not be easy for many anyway.  Maybe we can see how people respond to this idea too?

Then we could contact publihers although the big battle will be  for copyrigths.... :{


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