Sunday, March 9

Searching for answers

The Most Depressing Day of the Year (TIME)
Dangers (xkcd)

Google is such a fun tool. Besides its pure search engine capabilities (helping you to find the web pages you're looking for), it has amassed an extraordinary amount of data that is right at your fingertips. One way to mine the data that Google has captured is to look at it as a "voting" mechanism: Use the number of search results for a given query as a proxy for a vote in favor of that idea.

Can't decide whether to spell "traveling" with one 'L' or two? Search for both variations, and see which one has more results in Google. Not sure whether author X or author Y is the true source of a quote? See which author has more search results linked to that quote. It's not the most rigorous scientific method, but it is quick and has the benefit of drawing from a vast data source.

The TIME article takes a look at this phenomenon, as does this fun comic from xkcd (my favorite webcomic).

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