27 August 2007

scalene triangles on Google

Would you believe that the #1 "hot trend" on Google Trends yesterday was scalene triangle?

I am not making this up.

The Google Trends page for yesterday is actually feeding me a fair bit of traffic right now, to this page in which I solved an unrelated puzzle about scalene triangles.

This would be mystifying to me, but there was a question on "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader" last night asking how many angles in a scalene triangle are the same. (Incidentally, I'm not entirely sure whether the answer is zero or one. All the angles are different. There was another question on that show that had two possible answers -- they asked for the world's longest river, whether the world's longest river is the Nile or the Amazon depends on how you measure.)

The #2 "hot trend" yesterday was "mars moons", and #8 was "feet in a mile"; "proper noun" is #21, and "worlds longest river" [sic] is #38. These also related to questions on that show.

The peak time for this search was 4 PM, which seems mystifying until you realize that Google uses Pacific time; this is 7 PM Eastern, which is the time the show aired in the East. Indeed, the four hours when "scalene triangle" was most searched were 4 PM, 7 PM, 5 PM, and 6 PM Pacific (in that order); these are, of course, 7 PM Eastern, Pacific, Central, and Mountain, respectively, which I suspect is the ranking of U. S. time zones from most to least populated. I suspect that it's possible to distinguish between trends that occur because of something on TV and trends that occur because of something that happens in the "real world" (i. e. a breaking news story) by looking at this; breaking news stories should show a single peak, while TV-inspired searches should show a large peak and then a small peak three hours later.

From what I can gather from about Google Trends, the quantity they're ranking is the number of searches done on a particular query in the day in question divided by the number of searches done on a "typical" day. My suspicion is that the various questions on the show were equally likely to be Googled, but more people Google for river lengths or grammatical terminology than scalene triangles on a normal day.

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