One of my good friends from high school I knew mostly because of home room. Home room at Paisley High School was a strictly alphabetized affair, and my friend Jon’s last name came right after mine. Similarly, some of the most interesting things I ever learned in an encyclopedia came from the article just before or just after the one I was supposedly looking up.
Online encyclopedias are wonderful resources, but one thing you lose is the ability to turn the page and see what’s next. Sure, it doesn’t have anything to do with what you were looking for, but you never know when a quick peek at the entry for Paracelsus will turn up the fascinating fact that the Paracel Islands, just north of the Spratlys in the South China Sea, were seized from Vietnam by China in 1974, or indeed that paracetamol is the international nonproprietary name of Tylenol. As you might suspect, the name comes from para-acetyl-amino-phenol.
But since all things are possible on the web, so is alphabetic serendipity. Try searching Wikipedia using the
LookAhead feature from WikiWax. Just start typing and it will quickly show you everything in the neighborhood. Nifty.