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Life Arts    H4'ed 8/11/15

Wikipedia vs Britannica

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Message James Quandy
For many of us, prior to the Internet the ultimate general reference guide was the Encyclopedia Britannica. Now, of course, the most widely used is Wikipedia. My understanding of what made the Britannica so highly regarded was the very high standard it maintained. This was accomplished by the composition of its editorial board, and using the most noted scholars in each of the fields encompassed. But what also particularly impressed me was simply the quality of writing each individual article reflected. I find Wikipedia very useful simply because it covers some many things a for-profit reference guide simply couldn't (or wouldn't), and how in-depth many of these articles actually are.
But, I recently came across an offer for the 2012 Britannica on DVD (which I guess is the most recent fully revised edition) that I just couldn't refuse ($9.99). So, I bought it online... and it arrived today.
After exploring much of what it had to offer, I was curious to see if the level of writing was still as distinctive as I recalled. Here is their introductory paragraph to the entry on the Himalayan Mountains, followed by Wikipedia's:
" A great mountain system of Asia forming a barrier between the Plateau of Tibet to the north and the alluvial plains of the Indian subcontinent to the south. The Himalayas include the highest mountains in the world, with more than 110 peaks rising to elevations of 24,000 feet (7,300 metres) or more above sea level. One of these peaks is Mount Everest (Tibetan: Chomolungma; Chinese: Qomolangma Feng; Nepali: Sagarmatha), the world's highest, with an elevation of 29,035 feet (8,850 metres; see Researcher's Note: Height of Mount Everest. The mountains' high peaks rise into the zone of perpetual snow.

For thousands of years the Himalayas have held a profound significance for the peoples of South Asia, as their literature, mythologies, and religions reflect. Since ancient times the vast glaciated heights have attracted the attention of the pilgrim mountaineers of India, who coined the Sanskrit name Himalaya--from hima ("snow") and alaya ("abode")--for this great mountain system. In contemporary times the Himalayas have offered the greatest attraction and the greatest challenge to mountaineers throughout the world.

Forming the northern border of the Indian subcontinent and an almost impassable barrier between it and the lands to the north, the ranges are part of a vast mountain belt that stretches halfway around the world from North Africa to the Pacific coast of Southeast Asia. The Himalayas themselves stretch uninterruptedly for about 1,550 miles (2,500 km) from west to east between Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet [8,126 metres]), in the Pakistani-administered portion of the Kashmir region, and Namjagbarwa ( Namcha Barwa) Peak (25,445 feet [7,756 metres]), in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Between these western and eastern extremities lie the two Himalayan countries of Nepal and Bhutan. The Himalayas are bordered to the northwest by the mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and the Karakoram and to the north by the high Plateau of Tibet. The width of the Himalayas from south to north varies between 125 and 250 miles (200 and 400 km). Their total area amounts to about 230,000 square miles (595,000 square km).

Though India, Nepal, and Bhutan have sovereignty over most of the Himalayas, Pakistan and China also occupy parts of them. In the disputed Kashmir region, Pakistan has administrative control of some 32,400 square miles (83,900 square km) of the range lying north and west of the "line of control" established between India and Pakistan in 1972. China administers some 14,000 square miles (36,000 square km) in the Ladakh district of Kashmir and has claimed territory at the eastern end of the Himalayas within the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. These disputes accentuate the boundary problems faced by India and its neighbours in the Himalayan region."

Now here is Wikipedia's introductory paragraph on the same subject:

"The Himalayas or Himalaya (/Ë'hÉ mÉ ËˆleÉ .É / or /hÉ Ëˆm'Ë lÉ jÉ /; Sanskrit: , Nepali: , Hindi: ,Urdu: Û ...Ø Ù"Û'Û "; from Sanskrit hima (snow) + Ä laya (dwelling), literally meaning "abode of snow"[1]) is a mountain range in South Asia which separates the Indo-Gangetic Plain from the Tibetan Plateau. This range is home to nine of the ten highest peaks on Earth, including the highest, Mount Everest. The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia. Many Himalayan peaks are sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism.

The Himalayas are bordered on the north by the Tibetan Plateau, on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain, on the northwest by the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, and on the east by the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The western anchor of the Himalayas -- Nanga Parbat -- lies just south of the northernmost bend of the Indus River, while the eastern anchor -- Namcha Barwa -- is situated just west of the great bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. The Himalayas span five countries: India, Nepal, Bhutan, China(Tibet), and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range.[2]

Lifted by the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian Plate, [3] the Himalayan range runs northwest to southeast in a 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) long arc. The range varies in width from 400 kilometres (250 mi) in the west to 150 kilometres (93 mi) in the east. Besides the Greater Himalayas, there are several parallel lower ranges. The southernmost of these, located along the northern edge of the Indian plains and reaching about a thousand meters in altitude, are called the Sivalik Hills. Further north is a higher range, reaching two to three thousand meters, known as the Lower Himalayan Range.

Three of the world's major rivers -- the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra -- arise in the Himalayas. While the Indus and the Brahmaputra rise near Mount Kailash in Tibet, the Ganges rises in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Their combined drainage basin is home to some 600 million people."

Is it just me, or is there simply no comparison? One is rich and meaningful, the other simply informational...

Wiki, as I said, is very useful for a great number of things an encyclopedia like the Britannica just has no reason to cover (like the plot line of some obscure movie from 1973). And, I am told that Wikipedia has established a higher bar for their entries so no longer can just anyone simply insert whatever they think they know about a subject into an article. Wikipedia also provides an invaluable service by offering a free reference guide, easily available all over the world. But even if this is true, can a society really afford this kind of compromise of its cultural standards? And, isn't this merely part of the wholesale lowering of our standards across the board?

I ask you....

(Article changed on August 11, 2015 at 20:29)

(Article changed on August 11, 2015 at 21:13)

(Article changed on August 12, 2015 at 04:01)

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Former small business owner now retired.

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