Internet puts world of facts and figures at your fingertips
By Jay Dougherty Feb 13, 2006, 2:20 GMT
Washington - Did you know that Internet use is growing faster in the Middle East than anywhere else - followed closely by Africa?
Or how about that the Pitcairn Islands are the world's least populated country, with a grand total of 46 inhabitants?
Or that the world-wide rate of population growth is expected to decline by more than half over the next fifty years?
If you have an appetite for facts and figures, amazing statistics and mind-boggling nuggets of information, the Internet is your five- star dining experience.
Never before has so much hard data been at the fingertips of so many.
Some of the world's most respected information gatherers have assembled it on web sites you've probably never heard of but might just want to bookmark once you do.
It's true that web search engines like Google are all about finding information as well. But the trouble with search engines is that the information they provide is too often from sources that are informal or commercial.
That's where a site like InfoPlease (http://www.infoplease.com)comes in. This repository of facts, figures, and overviews contains free information from such sources as encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, and in-depth articles. Type in 'Germany,' for example, and you'll quickly be presented with a list that includes an almanac's overview of the country, its people, and major statistics, as well as pointers to German literature, history, art and architecture, and rulers.
The site's focus on facts and articles from reputable sources makes it a great landing place for students and information junkies alike. Here, you won't have to wade through dozens of irrelevant links, as you do with the typical search engine. And for those who think facts aren't fun all by themselves, the site also provides enticing features such as 'This day in history' and 'Today's famous birthdays.'
InfoPlease's partner site, Fact Monster (http://www.factmonster.com), is a search engine replacement for kids. Complete with a bright colour scheme, games, and quizzes, FactMonster weeds out the detritus and helps kids learn by piquing their curiosity about the world around them. An example: The site's headings under the category Science include 'A peek inside your body,' 'the ladder of life,' and 'the brain: more than just a thinker.'
Merging facts with function is the purpose of HowStuffWorks (http://www.howstuffworks.com), a site that combines informational texts and videos on subjects ranging from autos to zoology. Designed similarly to a Web-based magazine, HowStuffWorks reels you in from the start with headlines such as 'how digital cameras work,' 'how safecracking works,' and 'how laptops work.'
Click on one of the thousands of articles, and you'll get the inside scoop on something you might otherwise never have learned about. A visit to the site's Health Stuff section, for instance, lures you with an article on 'how tatoos work,' while a doctor in the corner of the screen starts talking to you about the anti-wrinkle drug Botox. 'In 2004,' the doctor says, 'there were over 3 million Botox injections, as more and more people seek a youthful appearance.' The doctor then goes on to explain how Botox enables people to look younger by apparently doing away with wrinkles.
Globalists will want to give two fact-filled world statistic sites a spin. GeoHive (http://www.geohive.com), a treasure trove of global statistics, and WorldStats (http://www.worldstats.org), an atlas with lots more than pretty pictures, can take you around the world in the comfort of your computer chair. How else would you learn, for example, that India's population is increasing by 41,435 people a day?
GeoHive and WorldStats don't provide the type of immersive, first- person, three-dimensional experience that you'll get with Google Earth (http://earth.google.com). But they do make it easy for you to learn high-level facts about any continent, country, and city on earth. Through descriptive text, tables, charts, and maps, you can quickly learn about a country's people, currency, government, languages, transportation and communication issues, military, and much more.
More is of course what the Internet is all about, so it's fun from time to time to find out just how Internet penetration is progressing around the world. Internet World Stats (http://www.internetworldstats.com) will tell you all about it. Every Internet-related statistic you can imagine is probably represented here.
While you might not be surprised to learn that Internet usage as a percentage of total population is largest in North America, for example, with 68 per cent of the population having access to the Internet, Internet use growth is greatest in Somalia, where from 2000-2005 use of the Internet grew at a rate of 44,400 per cent.
Surf these fact-based Internet sites long enough, and you'll probably come away having learned more about the world in a few hours than you have in a long time. But just be careful about how you use your newfound knowledge in public: citing population growth statistics on a first date may not be the best way to break the ice.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur