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Google vs. the dictionary and the encyclopedia

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By the time I got home tonight, my 9-year old was nearly finished with her homework. The only question remaining on her assignment sheet was "What is Olympus Mons?"

Now I knew I had heard of this term before, but I just couldn't come up with a definitive answer. Was it a crater on the Moon? A rock formation on Mars? I was certain the term pertained to some off-earth object, but it's a big space with lots of objects.

So I promised her that we will look it up in the dictionary after dinner. Her response, "Let's look it up on Google first?" I was struck with how fast the Internet has endeared itself to even the elementary school kids today. The truth is that I do the same when I am looking for something, so why shouldn't she? But somehow I can't help feeling sad about how drastically the Web has mutated our culture.

Instead of opening a book or two, now we just Google it. In some ways we have been robbed from the fun and challenge of searching for something the old-fashioned way. But there is no defying progress.

As a compromise, I suggested for us to look the term up on wikipedia.com. At least that Web site has some semblance to a real encyclopedia. No dice, wikipedia was stumped, though it came up with some suggested links. But clicking on those would mean too much effort. And so Google became the clear the winner, and we didn't even have to click on any search results. In a flash of a page-load, the answer sat before us.

Olympus Mons, located on Mars, is the largest volcano in the solar system. A speedy answer, courtesy of the omniscient Google.

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