All roads lead to "Philosophy"

A neat widget demonstrates the truth behind an XKCD joke: Take any article on Wikipedia, click the first link in the article, and then repeat—and you will eventually end up at "Philosophy." It even works for "Justin Beiber." (And, yes, I know, this is a biased exercise because it starts with a pre-chosen endpoint. You might as well say that All Roads on Wikipedia Lead on "Ontology", because that's the first link in the "Philosophy" article. But let's not hate on fun, okay?) (Via FlowingData and Richard Fisher)


  1. It worked a couple times for me – but I also discovered a closed loop.  “Greek Language” to “IPA for Greek” to “International Phonetic Alphabet” to “Alphabetic” to “Letters” to “Grapheme” to “Greek Language.”  I had better luck clicking the first link I saw than the first link in the article.

    1. Doing it wrong – IPA for Greek on the Greek language page is in parentheses, as is Greek language on the Grapheme page, and the criteria are that it not be in parentheses or italics.

      The actual path is: Greek language -> Indo-European languages -> Language family -> Language -> Communication -> Information -> Order theory -> Mathematics -> Quantity -> Property (philosophy) -> Logic -> Philosophy.

        1. No, but it’s reasonable to assume that it may be incidental. That’s kind of what parentheses are for.

  2. I’m playing with this tool a bit, and it appears from my observations that all roads (including Philosophy) lead to knowledge and/or information. That really looks to be the center of this web. Philosophy is just another spoke.

    1. Information goes back to Philosophy, though, and Knowledge’s first hop is to Information.

      Oh, and the Philosophy loop is:

      Philosophy -> Ontology -> Philosophy.

    1. Hyracotherium -> Extinction -> Biology -> Natural science -> Science -> Knowledge and then down that whole path that I posted earlier along Information down to Philosophy.

  3. “Jimmy Johns” the sandwich franchise does not lead to philosophy!  Impossible!  I based most of my life on the philosophy of sandwiches.  This is worse than the time neutrinos went faster than light!

      1. Did you fix it?  I got Jimmy Johns > Sandwich > Bread > Staple food > Food > Plant > Life > Physical body > Physics > Natural science > Science > Knowledge > …

        1. Yes, I added the link to Sandwich.  Before that, it only linked to the founder, whose only link was right back to the Jimmy Johns article.

          1. Would’ve been more fun to modify the founder’s article, to make the chain longer. (Of course, that would make the chain from the founder to Philosophy shorter, but few would start from the founder.)

  4. I tried this, and didn’t have much success.
    What counts as the “first” link?
    If it is literally the first link on the page, it doesn’t work for me.

  5. Aha!  And also, presumptively, not part of Wikipedia’s meta-commentary.
    Thanks for the clarification.

  6. @ bhtooefr: Herp Derp, I was doing it wrong. For some reason I read it as the first “See Also” link. Reading FTW.

  7. The tool should count the number of jumps, which could then,  like a Bacon number or an Erdős number, be treated as the hub of the game. 

    “Led Zeppelin,” for example takes 27 jumps to “Philosophy.”  Is this “P-number” more or leass than average?

    1. Dunno.  “Black Sabbath” only took 21 jumps, since mentioning they’re from Aston, Birmingham, took us into government by way of monarchy pretty quickly, instead of having to get there by way of Jimmy Page, the Order of the British Empire, and chivalry, which eventually sidetracks into the Seventeen Provinces before it gets all abstract again.

  8. Highest I’ve found so far is 28 nodes each, for “NASA” and “Fallout (game)”. Anyone find a longer one?

    1. Interestingly, looks like the tool referenced in the article misses some things – on ARM architecture, it goes for ARM Holdings instead of 32-bit. Which does make quite a difference on the path length – 32-bit makes it quite a bit shorter.

  9. I tried this with rock music on Amazon one time.  All rock bands lead to the Pixies.  At the time, I was already quite sure the Pixies were the acme of rock music so this finding simply confirmed my opinion.

  10. There’s a “Wikipedia game” where you click on “Random Article” and attempt to get to Jesus by selecting links in the random article  and following articles until you get to the Jesus article. The goal is to get to Jesus in the fewest links possible.

    A friend of mine came up with two variations on this, actually:

    First, pick any article/topic/person/etc. and click on Random Article, following the above process until you find the chosen article.

    Second, click Random Article, make a note of what that page is, and then click Random Article again, following above instructions until you get back to the first Random Article! :)

  11. I like opening Wikipedia in two different tabs and clicking the  random article in one. Then I see how many clicks it takes to go from the main page to the random article in the other tab. Wikimancy can be fun, too. It’s bibliomancy with the random article.

  12. It’s very pretty, but it doesn’t reliably work for me. “Birdseed” leads to “bird food” and then “seed“, but the first non-italic, non-parenthesized link on “bird food” is “food“. (“Seed” is in parentheses, in fact.) The final link of that tree before “philosophy” is “Hindi“, and the first link there is “standardized” — philosophy doesn’t appear on the page. Perhaps it stalls out? But that wouldn’t explain the bird food problem.

    There’s a claim in the comments that the tool automatically eliminates loops, too: “But you might want to make it clearer that if the program actually finds a loop, an article linking back to another already encountered article, that it then selects the next possible link.” I haven’t verified this myself.

  13. Hm. I went through 35 links and then was re-routed to Jimmy Wales’s page asking for donations. All roads lead to Jimmy Wales’ bank account.

  14. “And, yes, I know, this is a biased exercise because it starts with a pre-chosen endpoint.”That’s not an issue: the chosen endpoint is the point at which almost all chains start to cycle.

    It’s worth comparing this to the (unproven!) Collatz conjecture –  – pick a positive integer; half it if it is even, or triple it and add one if it is odd. Repeat. You always get one.

    I’d theorise that this works for Wikipedia because many articles start with: ” is a ” or near-enough.

  15. When I try it with “Justin Bieber”, I get redirected into an endless loop between his page and “Justin Beaver.”  This must be what hell is like.

    Also, Maggie, I’m extremely jealous that you don’t know how to spell “Justin Bieber,” but I do.

  16. Wikipedia reflects reality! All western knowledge disciplines (e.g. chemistry, linguistics, alchemy, biebery) evolved from the soup we now know as “philosophy”, peeling off one by one as they acquired critical mass. Hence the advanced degree label “Doctor of Philosophy” (PhD).

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