Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Britannica on the Today Show

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

As we have for the past several years, Encyclopaedia Britannica has made a substantial donation to the Today Show‘s 2008 holiday gift drive. This year we gave them hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of EB products, including software and free subscriptions to Britannica’s online sites, which will go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Each year the company’s donation provides valuable knowledge products to kids who would otherwise not have them.

Britannica’s Steve Gilberg made a brief appearance on the show on Tuesday, December 9, to talk about the company’s donation.

Britannica’s Nobel Prize-Winning Contributors

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The obverse side of the Nobel Prize medals (Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature; Nobel FoundationThe prestigious Nobel Prizes are awarded annually on this day (Dec. 10) in twin ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo. Britannica has been fortunate to have more than 110 Nobel Prize winners write for the encyclopedia and its related products, and in honor of today’s occasion, here’s a link to three of these posts by our many Nobel Prize-winning contributors:

[Reposted from the Britannica Blog]

Britannica Contributor Heads Obama Economic Panel

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Christina Romer wrote section of Great Depression article. 

President-elect Obama has named Britannica contributor Christina Romer (shown here with her husband, David Romer) to head his Council of Christina and David RomerEconomic Advisers. Professor Romer teaches economics at the University of California at Berkeley and authored the economics section of our Great Depression entry. Her husband is also a professor of economics at Berkeley.

Richard Pells, professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin, authored the social and cultural sections of our entry on the Depression.

(Posted originally on the Britannica Blog)

Wesch Wins “Professor of the Year”

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Congratulations to Michael Wesch, a member of Britannica’s editorial board, who has been named a “professor of the year” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Details below in this news release from Kansas State University.

Wesch selected as Carnegie/CASE national professor for resesarch/doctoral universities

MANHATTAN, KAN. — Wired Magazine calls him “the explainer.” His classes are so popular students submit applications to enroll. Now Kansas State University’s Michael Wesch adds another honor to a long list: He is the winner of the national professor of the year award for research and doctoral universities from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Carnegie/CASE is honoring Wesch, a cultural anthropologist and media ecologist, today in Washington, D.C. He is the third K-State professor selected as a national winner in the research and doctoral university category. K-State is the only research/doctoral university in America, public or private, to have had three national winners, and the only Kansas school to have even one national winner.

K-State President Jon Wefald said, “We are very proud of Michael Wesch and delighted he has joined the elite group of national professors of the year for research/doctoral universities. He is earning well-deserved honors from many quarters for his outstanding ability to communicate effectively with students.” . . .

Wesch launched the Digital Ethnography Working Group, a team of undergraduates exploring human uses of digital technology. Coinciding with the launch of this group, Wesch created a short video, “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us.” Released on YouTube on Jan. 31, 2007, it quickly became the most popular video in the blogosphere and has now been viewed more than 7 million times and has been translated into more than 10 languages.

Wesch has won several awards for his work with video, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award and the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Media Praxis from the Media Ecology Association. He is also a member of Britannica’s Editorial Board of Advisors and regularly blogs on that site,

His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education and numerous other national publications. . . .

Full text of news release

“No Shelf Required”

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Many thanks to Sue Polanka of Wright State University and Reference Books Bulletin, who paid us a visit on Monday and wrote a nice blog post about it.

Seldom have our Web servers or the all-important cables that enable them to do their vital work gotten the public recognition they deserve.  Sue has rectified that and given you a sneak peek at the 2009 Britannica Almanac, which will be out in the fall.    

That’s Britannica’s Michael Ross with Sue at the right.

John Muir on Yosemite

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

The July 2008 issue of the The Smithsonian magazine features the article “John Muir’s Yosemite,” about the man widely recognized as the greatest champion of that precious U.S. national park. Muir was famous even in his own day, for when the editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica‘s tenth edition needed someone to write an article about the park, Muir was the obvious go-to guy. That article appears below.

Editor’s Introduction
John Muir knew Yosemite as perhaps no one before or since. He first came to the valley in 1868, and three years later he hosted a visit by no less a luminary than Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was still the preserve’s most ardent and eloquent defender 30 years later, when he wrote this piece for the Tenth Edition (1902-03). (In the latter year one of his disciples in the conservationist ethic, President Theodore Roosevelt, joined him for a Yosemite campout.) By the way, the Hetch-Hetchy Valley, mentioned in the last paragraph as being nearly the equal in beauty of Yosemite, is also mentioned in the current Britannica–as the Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Tenth Edition

YOSEMITE,a famous valley on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada of California, about 150 miles east of San Francisco and 4000 feet above the sea. It is 7 miles long, half a mile to a mile wide, and nearly a mile deep, eroded out of hard massive granite by glacial action. Its precipitous walls present a great variety of forms and sculpture, determined by the grain or cleavage of the rock–domes, gables, towers, battlements, and majestic mountain cliffs, partially separated and individualized by recesses and side cañons. The bottom, a filled-up lake basin, is level and park-like, diversified with groves of oak and pine, clumps of flowering shrubs, and spacious ferny meadows and wild gardens through which the river Merced meanders in tranquil beauty; while the whole valley resounds with the booming of its unrivalled waterfalls. The most notable of the wall rocks are: El Capitan, 3300 feet high, a sheer, plain mass of granite, the end of one of the most enduring of the mountain ridges, which stands forward beyond the general line of the north wall in imposing grandeur; the Three Brothers, North Dome, Glacier Point, the Sentinel, Cathedral, Sentinel Dome and Cloud’s Rest, from 2800 to nearly 6000 feet high; and Half Dome, the noblest of all, which rises at the head of the valley from a broad, richly-sculptured base to the height of 4740 feet. These rocks are majestic glacial monuments, illustrating on a grand scale the action of ice in mountain sculpture. For here five large glaciers united to form the grand trunk glacier that eroded the valley and occupied it as its channel. Its moraines, though mostly obscured by vegetation and weathering, may still be traced; while on the snowy peaks at the headwaters of the Merced a considerable number of small glaciers, once tributary to the main Yosemite glacier, still exist. The Bridal Veil Fall, 900 feet high, is one of the most interesting features of the lower end of the valley. Towards the upper end the great Yosemite Fall pours its white floods from a height of 2600 feet, bathing the mighty cliffs with clouds of spray and making them tremble with its thunder-tones. The valley divides at the head into three branches, the Tenaya, Merced, and South Fork cañons. In the main (Merced) branch are the Vernal and Nevada Falls, 400 and 600 feet high, in the midst of most novel and sublime scenery. The Nevada is usually ranked next to the Yosemite among the five main falls of the valley. Its waters are chafed and dashed to foam in a rough channel before they arrive at the head of the fall, and are beaten yet finer by impinging on a sloping portion of the cliff about halfway down, thus making it the whitest of all the falls. The Vernal, about half a mile below the Nevada, famous for its afternoon rainbows, is staid and orderly, with scarce a hint of the passionate enthusiasm of its neighbour. Nevertheless it is a favourite with visitors, because it is better seen than any other. One may safely saunter along the edge of the river above it, and stand beside it at the top, as it calmly bends over the brow of the precipice. At flood time it is a nearly regular sheet about 80 feet wide, changing as it descends from green to purplish grey and white, and is dashed into clouds of irised foam on a rugged boulder talus that fills the gorge below. In the south branch, a mile from the head of the main valley, is the Illilouette Fall, 600 feet high, one of the most beautiful of the Yosemite choir. It is not nearly as grand a fall as the Yosemite, as symmetrical as the Vernal, or as airily graceful as the Bridal Veil; nor does it ever display as tremendous an outgush of snowy magnificence as the Nevada; but in fineness and beauty of colour and texture it surpasses them all.

Click here to read the entire article 

Here are three related widgets you can also grab and post on your Web site or blog.  Each one has articles from the current Encyclopaedia Britannica that will give your readers information on Yosemite, national parks, and conservation. 


Personalized Search is here — try it

Monday, May 5th, 2008

The volume of information on the Web makes it virtually impossible to find anything without the use of Search Engines. Increasingly we are using the search engine for all our information needs, and therefore what we find is getting ever more dependent on how search engines rank their results.

Search engines use various factors to rank their results, but the single most important factor is how many web sites link to a particular page. That is, Search Engines look at each link to a page as a vote of confidence for that page and ranks the most popular pages at the top. This works most of the time, but it has a significant limitation. Once a page climbs towards the top of the list for a specific search, more people find it, and therefore more people are likely to link to that same page. In other words, once a page reaches a high rank, it has a natural tendency to climb higher. Apart from this technical limitation, we also know that when it comes to reliable and useful information, popularity is not always the only or best indicator. If popularity decided truth then we’d still believe that the sun rotates around the earth.

Recognizing that this one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t satisfy everyone’s needs, Google is gradually moving towards “Personalized Search”, where the search results you see for a particular search term are going to be slightly different from what everyone else sees. The first step towards that is a feature called “Google Subscribed Links”. This allows each of us to impose our own preferences and needs on Google’s generic search results. Using this anyone can let Google know of the content providers they trust and Google then makes sure that results from these selected sites would come up on the first page of their results. For example, if you consider Encyclopaedia Britannica as one of your trusted source, all you have to do is to go to this page and click on the “Subscribe” button next to “Encyclopaedia Britannica”. If you don’t have an account on Google then you will have to create one using your existing e-mail address.

Once you subscribe to this feature, any time you search on Google for any topic where Britannica has an article, this will be offered to you as a special search result on the first page of Google results (currently the fourth result on the first page). Since it doesn’t affect the search results in any other way, there is absolutely no harm in keeping it there. So, give it a try and you won’t regret it. Let Google’s search results reflect your personal needs.

Click on this link to add Britannica to your personalized Google results