Crazy Cuckoo Cpedia

Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Filed under , ,

Earlier this month, the search engine Cuil (which I've never heard of before) released Cpedia, the Internet's first "automated encyclopedia." When I told my friend about this, he asked, "I'm sorry, what's an automated encyclopedia?"

According to the website, you give it a search, and "For each query, Cpedia algorithmically summarizes and clusters the ideas on the web and uses this to generate a report." I summarized this to my friend: "It apparently finds information online about a topic, then mashes together questionably relevant content." Right now, the site is in its alpha phase, but perhaps they were a little hasty in releasing it to the public, because hardly anything on this site makes sense.

For example, check out Cpedia's article about mowing the lawn (archived). The first paragraph starts out reasonably encyclopedic, if not a bit too conversational, but quickly falls into criticism of lazy people who don't like mowing the lawn. Then, a later paragraph reads, "When outside, especially when doing yardwork (like mowing the lawn), use a dust mask and close-fitting goggles to keep allergens out of your nose and eyes. So I did things like mow other people's lawns, shoveled snow and even had a lemonade stand from time to time." I don't see how these two concepts even follow! It just seems like random sentences somewhat related to mowing the lawn are put together haphazardly.

What made me laugh the most was a quick read-through of the article's table of contents: Physical Activity, Cinderfella, Memphis in January 2008, Chore. The Cinderfella section says, in its entirety, "Cinderfella did not like living with his family because they made him do all of the work around the house like washing the car and mowing the lawn." The Memphis in January 2008 section is an apparently irrelevant diversion: "When the company relocated to Memphis in January 2008, Mr. Hudson, 52, decided not to move." What company? No context is given in the article, but at least the site provides a link to the article it pulled the sentence from.

The article about microwaves (archived) says absolutely nothing about electromagnetic waves, or how microwave ovens work. Actually, it reads more like a sales pitch for luxury hotel rooms and appliance shops.

You'd think that there would be an article for everything, since an automatic encyclopedia could theoretically create an article upon request. However, while there is an article for running red lights for fun (archived) (which contains information only about blondes being the life of the party), there exists no article for tickling porcupines.

Cpedia's about page says that the purpose of the site is so that users don't have to look through search result links; they can instead go to Cpedia and get "a summary of the topic." I feel that an automated encyclopedia is an interesting idea, but the articles it comes up with are often so confusing and meaningless that it just doesn't work.

Perfect Water

Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Filed under ,

My friend and her husband hosted a party this afternoon, and I was surprised to find that there weren't really many people there. This party was an opportunity for them to teach us about the new website they're starting. On the website, they'll be offering a variety of health and beauty products, and an old couple demonstrated a few of these Amway products to us.

One of the products was Perfect Water, which is a product with some pretty amazing claims. They purify water to zero parts per million, then they ionize it (to my knowledge, though, purified water can be broken down into ions, but it would quickly reverse to more stable neutral water molecules). Then, they add minerals back in, which makes me wonder what was wrong with the minerals they took out in the first place.

The man presenting the products singled me out, and poured me a small cup of bottled water he picked up at Starbucks. I said it tasted okay. (I've never fallen in love with water before, but the stuff that comes out of my kitchen tap is pretty great stuff.) Then, he asked if I would stand up, and cup my hand at my side. I was instantly reminded of this video, in which James Randi hosts an experiment to see if crystals have special healing-type powers:

I expected a very similar experiment would happen with me in the next minute. He pushed his fist down on my hand, and I didn't feel much like falling over, so I stood firmly.

Then, he gave me a cup of the Perfect Water. I drank some of it. It had a funky aftertaste. He wanted to perform the same test again. I wondered what I ought to do. I was expected to stand more rigidly—to be stronger, and have better balance. Of course, I didn't believe that this water would grant me this power. I wondered if it would be funnier to collapse on the floor in a heap, and perhaps vomit on his shoes.

It turns out that I tried to duplicate the results from the first test, by standing firmly. But at one moment, he pushed a little harder than he probably meant to, so I let myself slip a little and lean toward him. He commented that it doesn't always work, or that it can be hard to tell sometimes.

If he really wanted to impress me, he would have performed a blinded test, like in the video of the crystal testing. Actually, from the start, I was hoping he'd give me a blind taste test—but the Perfect Water would have lost.

I didn't buy anything at the party, but I had a great time playing Frisbee after the salespeople left.

Insane Deal on Amazon?

Monday, April 12, 2010 at 11:29 PM | Filed under

These Purex Laundry Sheets (forgive me for not typing out the full name listed) on appear to be an unbelievable deal: 90% off! This is pure madness! You would be stupid not to buy these at such a bargain!

But seriously, they're $6.99, marked down from the list price of $71.92. Come on... Really? I can't imagine anyone buying this product at that price. Are they just jacking up the list price to make this sound like an unbelievable deal? This doesn't make sense otherwise.