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Loulan Kingdom (wikipedia.org)
44 points by benbreen on Oct 17, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 8 comments

This seems like a fascinating place.

It's remarkable to google historical places like this and see just how little there is available on the internet, which we usually attribute with holding most of the world's information (the top results for 'Loulan Kingdom' are for tours).

After naively believing for years that I could find all information worth knowing on the web, I've started reading more books, which seem to hold so much knowledge with purely offline sources, gathered by interested academics over decades. Hopefully there are some on this kingdom.

As soon as I get beyond surface-level info on almost anything, I find a lot of the good stuff is locked away in academic books and papers. Papers aren't as big a problem these days (ahem) but books remain difficult. You don't even have to go that far off the beaten path, depending on the topic, to end up at "You need this book. There are four copies in libraries. All are in Europe. It hasn't been digitized. Good luck. Oh BTW hope you can read German."

This really resonates with what I've found as well, and it's a concerning dilemma.

The internet stores incomprehensible amounts of information, but there's a lot being left behind. Most of these books have been created as a result of years of dedication for which an author should be rewarded, thus the lack of free access on the internet (information seems to become free when commonly known and studied by many). Are there better ways we can better reward academics for their work while improving ease of access?

Also, on digitization, early Google had a mission to create the world's largest online library [1], and their main roadblock was the legal issues. If I remember correctly, the authors who sued later regretted their decision and had done so on the basis of a misunderstanding.

On the language side of digitization, a next-gen translator like DeepL [2] could prove incredibly useful. They debuted a couple months ago, and their more ML-heavy translations blew people, myself included, away.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14172791 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15122764

It's a real tragedy that more old books haven't been digitized. I wonder to what extent US copyright law has had a chilling effect on digitization.

this[0] has been on HN some time ago, discussing google's effort to digitize a ton of books.

“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”

[0] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/04/the-t...

It is a shame how hard some information is to find. However the book that 1/4 of the wikipedia citations reference is digitized and available here[1], with relevant info starting around pp86, I think.


The hero we need

I am curious why this article pops up in Hacker News.

Grew up in China, some of my childhood stories are related to Loulan, a mysterious place. Glad to read about it here.

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