Thursday, October 28, 2021

A wikipedia article all grown up: Brine Pools

I was watching some nature show back in the mid-aughts that covered the topic of the ocean floor.  This show mentioned the geological formation called brine pool.  Brine pools are amazing "lakes" of brine at the bottom of the ocean.  The water of a brine pool is separated from the ocean above due to the pool's extreme salinity.  Brine pools even have their own surface upon which objects can float.  Imagine this: a submarine floating on top of a brine pool at the bottom of the ocean.

So, why all this talk about brine pools now?  Well, at that time, I was interested to learn more about them.  Upon searching the topic on the Internet, I found nearly nothing.  Wikipedia didn't even have an article about brine pools.  That means it was up to me to create the article.  The only thing I had to go on was what I remembered from the nature show.  So, all I could say was this:

"Brine pools have been discovered at on the ocean floor near methane vents. Lifeforms around these pools do not depend on the sun for energy."

That's it.  That was the whole article.  It's dangerous (metaphorically) to add articles to Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is a vicious and uncaring environment with nearly draconian rules about what can stay and what must be removed.  It's doubly risky (again, metaphorically) to create an article with only one sentence for a topic that isn't well know.  The final risk is posting such an article without any citations.  

By some miracle, the brine pool Wikipedia article grew.  This happened due to other editors adding more detail and cited sources.  Images were added soon after.  I kept an eye on the article and helped edit it further from time to time until late 2010.  At that time, the article grew to include a couple of images and three subheadings, each with a short paragraph.  By the Wikipedia measure, it was "2,960 bytes".  

2010 is around the time I stopped editing on Wikipedia in general, but for no other reason than I just got too busy.  So, I forgot about this little article over time.  It wasn't forgotten by others, though.  The article had a moderate number of edits between 2010 and 2017.  Its size grew to a modest 3,410 bytes by the middle of 2018.  

In August of 2018, according to the article's history, something weird happened.  An anonymous editor added a new subheading with a rather large paragraph.  The problem with this edit was that the subject of the subheading had nothing to do with brine pools, but was actually about the land formation of artificial brine sinks.  The edit appears to have been made in good faith by someone who did not understand the topic of brine pools.  After some back-and-forth edits, the incorrect subheading was removed by other editors.  After that, edits to the article went quiet until September last year.

It appears that someone familiar with the topic of brine pools added a ton of detail in Fall of 2020.  Edits by others quickly followed.  The article ballooned to 10,269 bytes, then again to 21,471 bytes.  Over the past year, the article has received regular and quality edits.  It's turned into a good article about the subject.  The current version of the article is 28,184 bytes with five well flushed-out subheadings and tons of cited sources.  Of course, a lot new information has been discovered about brine pools in the past 15 years, which may have something to do with the explosion of information added to the article.  Most of the cited scientific studies were published since the inception of the brine pool article.

How did I suddenly remember this little article that could?  Literally yesterday, a related geological formation, called cold seep, showed up in a news feed.  Cold seeps are associated with one of the three methods that form brine pools.  So, I was reminded about the article I created all those years ago.  I checked out the brine pool article, and it is glorious (hyperbole, of course).  

I'm glad I was able to contribute in some small way to the dissemination of scientific knowledge.  I've created many other Wikipedia articles, but this one seems to be the most impactful.

One side note, I've actually referenced Wikipedia a lot over the years!  Check out this search: Wikipedia search.