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Down the Rabbit Hole

By March Hare

Today’s story began when we investigated one of the usual Wikipedia feuds. A Wikipedia editor with a background in science criticized the work of a more prominent editor, claiming that many of the articles she created or embellished contained “made up information, inaccurate information, random pieces of information that give undue weight to what she has added, and plagiarism”. After the usual shouting and insults on both sides, some credentialled editors stepped in and determined that the critic was right. In one article, which received a million views a year, the editor had written that the average winter temperature in polar deserts like Greenland and Antarctica was between –2 and +4 °C. The mistake had been there for almost a year. She had written that birds in cold deserts avoid “the problem of their feet becoming chilled by maintaining their lower limbs at external temperatures”, even though penguins’ feet would freeze solid

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