Sex, Obama and God: What the People Want (In That Order)

If knowledge is power, then Google is the New York Yankees, CIA and Vitali Klitschko rolled into one. As the internet juggernaut maintains its dominance online, its influence on the physical world is growing thanks to the sheer amount of data it controls.


While one arm of Google is fighting to digitize and sell the field of human knowledge, another arm, Google Trends, is analyzing search terms as raw sociological data. By counting the frequency with which a given search term is entered over time, Google has its finger on our collective pulse.

Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, claims that the real-time data is a more accurate gauge of public behavior than traditional predictors which rely on agèd data to make forecasts. Varian has urged the U.S. government to stop looking at the past to predict the future.

The government, for example, was caught off guard by the popularity of its Cash for Clunker’s program. Google’s data, however, showed a tremendous spike in interest over the length of the program i.e. the number of people searching for the program online was very, very high. Had the government been aware of this data, or so the logic goes, it could have been better equipped to deal with the program’s popularity.

Google Trends is still part of Google Labs, a classification which is given to projects still in the development phase, but already Trends provides a rose-colored window into our collective soul. Keying search terms Sex, Obama and God into Google Trends yields a line graph displaying their popularity as search terms over time. Only during the month of his election was Obama more popular than Sex; since his campaign began in 2008, Obama has been a more popular search term than God.

Google Trends' current forecast calls for lower unemployment and a rising housing market. Varian reports that fewer people are searching for unemployment benefits online while more frequently searching for affordable housing and real estate agents.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Should teachers be fired for nude pics from their past?

Lauren Miranda sent a nude selfie to a boyfriend years ago. Somehow one of her students discovered it.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Math teacher Lauren Miranda was fired from her Long Island school when a topless selfie surfaced.
  • Miranda had only shared the photo with her ex-boyfriend, who is also a teacher in the school district.
  • She's suing the school for $3 million as well as getting her job back, citing gender discrimination.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less