All Roads Lead to Philosophy

Recently I stumbled on a cute xkcd comic with the hidden message:

Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at “Philosophy”.

Naturally, I started to experiment. The first thing I tried was mathematics. Here is the path: Mathematics — Quantity — Property — Modern philosophy — Philosophy.

Then I tried physics, which led me to mathematics: Physics — Natural science — Science — Knowledge — Fact — Information — Sequence — Mathematics.

Then I tried Pierre de Fermat, who for some strange reason led to physics first: Pierre de Fermat — French — France — Unitary state — Sovereign state — State — Social sciences — List of academic disciplines — Academia — Community — Living — Life — Objects — Physics.

The natural question is: what about philosophy? Yes, philosophy goes in a cycle: Philosophy — Reason — Rationality — philosophy.

The original comic talks about spark plugs. So I tried that and arrived at physics: Spark plug — Cylinder head — Internal combustion engine — Engine — Machine — Machine (mechanical) — Mechanical system — Power — Physics.

Then I tried to get far away from philosophy and attempted sex, unsuccessfully: Sex — Biology — Natural science. Then I tried dance: Dance — Art — Sense — Physiology — Science.

It is interesting to see how many steps it takes to get to philosophy. Here is the table for the words I tried:

Word # Steps
Mathematics 4
Physics 11
Pierre de Fermat 24
Spark plug 19
Sex 12
Dance 13

Mathematics wins. It thoroughly beats all the other words I tried. For now. Fans of sex might be disappointed by these results, and tomorrow they might change the wiki essay about sex to start as:

Modern philosophy considers sex …



  1. Norm M:

    “Fact” leads to “truth” which leads back to “fact”, and so it doesn’t get to “philosophy”. But it’s hard to find examples that don’t!

  2. Tanya Khovanova:


    Someone already edited it. Ha.

  3. Sam Alexander:

    Actually, I posted about this before xkcd did (May 22 ), except I used mathematics itself as the universal sink. I’m not sure whether or not mathematics still is a universal sink; once this info was out, of course, people started editing Wikipedia to tamper with it.

  4. ObsessiveMathsFreak:

    Actually, I always found World War 2 to be the inevitable destination of all Wiki-trips. Admittedly, I wasn’t clicking on the first link over every page.

    Anyway, I did check this and at the time I found a non-philosophy cycle.

    Human-Taxonomy-Ancient Greek-Archaic Greece-Ancient Greece-Civilization-Culture-Alfred L. Krober-United States-Federalism-Politics-Greek Language-Indo European language-Language Family-Language-Human

    The first link rule would divide the set of all pages into disjoint orbits. The examples above show that this set has more than one orbit, but I suppose the real question is whether Philosopy is a member of both the largest orbit.

  5. Norm M:

    Someone did a full analysis of all first links in Wikipedia for 7/22/2011 for this question: “”. He found that, in this data set, 3.6 Million first links lead to Philosophy, 50 thousand lead to a cycle that doesn’t include Philosophy, and 50 thousand end with a broken link.

    There’s been a tremendous amount of editing of Wikipedia related to this, as I discovered when I tried to post a counter example!

  6. David Wilson:

    It’s scary, but

    -> group decision making
    -> group decision making
    -> individual
    -> person
    -> human
    -> extant taxon
    -> biology
    -> natural science
    -> list of academic disciplines
    -> knowledge
    -> fact
    -> truth

  7. wonderer:

    fact now leads to argued and then to philosophy 🙂

  8. Logic:

    Does Logic count? It would take one step.

  9. Logic:

    Science gives a continuous loop.

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