“Bad Astronomy” on the Front Page of Wikipedia Today. Literally.

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May 23 2013 1:21 PM

“Bad Astronomy” on the Front Page of Wikipedia Today. Literally.

Well, this is very exciting: the Wikipedia entry for my first book, Bad Astronomy, is featured on the front page of Wikipedia today; right now (as I post this) in fact!

Bad Astronomy on Wikipedia
Sometimes I'm happy when there's Bad Astronomy on the Internet.

Photo by Wikipedia

I have Susan Gerbic to thank for this. She’s a skeptic I’ve known for some time, and is spearheading what she calls “guerrilla skepticism”: going to Wikipedia pages about skeptic topics and upgrading them. A lot of Wikipedia pages on various topics are out of date or simply a bit limp, so she and her team of volunteers go in and fix them up.

Bad Astronomy book
You can judge a book by its cover.

Photo by Phil Plait

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They did this for my book entry, and did an amazing job. The book came out in 2002, and there’s been a short entry about it on Wikipedia for some time. But her team took it on as a project, expanding it by a factor of five (!), updating links, and so on. Getting it on the front page of Wikipedia was no easy task, and I thank her for it.

Susan’s reasoning behind this is pretty sound. Wikipedia has a very high ranking with Google, and will usually be in the top five links returned for a topic, if not the top one. By cleaning up the pages dealing with topics covered by skepticism, she’s helping raise the profile of critical thinking in these areas, which is something of which I wholly approve.  She also adds links to skeptic articles in related Wikipedia entries, which helps bring more people around as well.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in helping with, she’s always looking for volunteers. You can contact her through her blog, or by friending her on Facebook. The more the merrier, and you’ll be helping make the world a more rational place.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!