Archive for the ‘statistics’ Category

I was listening to a PBS radio broadcast the other day and they mentioned the Beta of Google Trends – a service from the search engine folks that allows you to compare the search volume traffic for from one to five search terms you enter. Once activated, it spits back interesting data – graphing your terms against each other, showing related terms, the top physical locations (by country/city) that the searches originated from.

Trends deserves a fair amount of discussion all by itself – but that’s not what I’m here for, so you’ll all have to do that for yourselves. Check it out, it’s a lot of fun and an interesting web time waster.

Being who I am, what do you think the first search terms I typed in were? You got it – SCIENCE FICTION and SCI FI.

Here’s what it returned for those two names:


“sci fi” 1.00 (blue) “science fiction” 0.92 (red)
Scale is based on the average worldwide traffic of “sci fi” in all years.

As you can see, searches for “science fiction” have been on a steadied and measured decline since 2004, while “sci fi” has risen steadily (if more slowly than “science fiction’s” decline); the two names traded places during the second quarter of 2006. Since then, “sci fi” has been searched for more frequently.

You’ll also see that “science fiction’s” search volume is a mere .08 percent lower than “sci fi’s”. The graph, I think, tends to exaggerate this relatively small difference. On the other hand, the search volume is measured in millions, so on an individual basis, there’s probably a good several hundred thousand people more around the world who are plugging in “sci fi” than there are typing in “science fiction”. (See what I did there? I used the modern term for entering a search term for “sci fi” and the older word, one synonymous with ancient and decrepit technology, for “science fiction”.)

The thing that I found most interesting (and which didn’t show up today) when I did this yesterday (11/13) was that Morocco turned up as one of the highest originating countries for searches.

I looked at that for a bit and then checked the languages. Yesterday, English was number one, and French was number two. Most of the Moroccan searches were done in English.

Hmmmm. A small group of expatriates hidden away in Casablanca are feverishly searching the net for sci fi stuff. And science fiction stuff (but doing .08 percent more searches for sci fi…)

Somewhere off in the background, I hear Peter Lorre (Ugarte) saying “Reeek, Type in ‘sci fi!’, you must help me, Reeek!”

Rick types “science fiction” into the search engine. “I stick my neck out for nobody” he replies.

Watching, Ugarte says “You despise sci fi, don’t you?”

Rick doesn’t bother looking up, keeping his eyes on the screen. “If I gave it any thought, I probably would.”


(All in fun Bill.)

I think I’m going to spend some time re-writing ALL of the dialogue for Casablanca as a discussion of science fiction versus sci fi, rather than the struggle between good and evil that the story really is.

Right now though, I have to go to Concord to buy some pants.


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The science section of the NYTimes covers the lack of funding NASA is currently dealing with (and has been dealing with) in its search for  NEOs that could seriously ruin your day.

Here’s the end of the piece: “It may be subtle,” he said, “but failure of the international decision process is the most likely reason that we’ll take a hit in the future.” – Rusty Schweickart (yes, the astronaut)

Statisticians can come up with all kinds of estimates of the liklihood that something might kill you – your chances of being in a fatal plane crash, your chances of getting hit by lightening, your chance of being underneath an asteroid that decides to immolate itself in our atmosphere.

So. I’d like to know what the chances are that an idiot politician will fail to do something intelligent that might result in my death…?

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