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Commentary on Wikipedia®

April 1st, 2009 / By: / Updates

While recently researching various additives used with soil-filled geotextile tubes, I was unsure about subtle differences between flocculation, coagulation, and agglomeration. By simply searching these words on Wikipedia, my indecisions were immediately clarified.

I thought to myself, this is a wonderful service! It turns out that others think so as well, since its developer, Jimmy Wales, was recently given Economist magazine’s annual innovation award.

That said, there are others who are not so keen on this free service — namely, most primary and secondary school teachers. My grandchildren tell me that their teachers do not recommend the use of this service since it is not sufficiently authoritative. (I wonder if they just want the kids to sweat a bit more in doing their literature research on projects and this service is simply too easy?)

At any rate, this experience prompted a look as to what Wikipedia had to say regarding our field of “geosynthetics.” I was shocked! For example, the following comments were included:

Under History: “The development of geosynthetics has been slow, mainly due to the limitations of the materials used.”

Under Geotextiles: Only chemical-bonded nonwovens were listed, and the resins listed are “PP, PET, PE, and PA.”

Under Geogrids and Geonets: … they are made from a “fairly rigid type of plastic,” then only went on to describe geogrids in reinforcement; nothing on geonets or geocomposites.

Under Geomembranes: “Geomembranes can be made from fiberglass and bitumen,” are also “made from LDPE, HDPE, PVC and PP.”

Under Disadvantages: “… geosynthetics are relatively new with concern over long-term performance,” “dynamic flow conditions are unknown,” “they are susceptible to chemical attack,” “they are degraded by UV light and organic solvents.”

Under Advantages: absolutely nothing!

If this is what the “outside world” (including students, children, and grandchildren) thinks of our technology, we are in serious trouble.

To rectify the situation, we have recently revised the entire Wikipedia site for, not only “geosynthetics” but also for “geotextiles,” “geogrids,” “geonets,” “geomembranes,” and “geocomposites.” In this regard, we kept the original categories rather than adding newer categories of GCLs, geofoam, etc. They will be added later.

Please look it over and if you feel differently about what we have done please advise accordingly. We will gladly act as a clearinghouse for commentary, edits, corrections, and additions. This opportunity for free and accurate information is just too important to miss.

Robert M. Koerner, Ph.D., P.E., NAE; E-mail: Robert.Koerner@coe.drexel.edu.

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