Playing with Google Trends

I was interested to see how much blogospheric (including on line news sites, etc.) attention was being given to the firebombing of the home of a scientist by ‘animal rights activists’ vs. the death of 32 monkeys in a Charles River Research lab in Sparks, Nevada. A google search showed vastly different levels of coverage (with the former receiving much more attention) but the data are bogus because the events happened at different times (by a few days). So I thought I’d try Google Trends to see if I could compare the stories, but Google Trends does not compare small-time events like these. You have to be big … like Jesus Christ, or PZ Myers, to show up on Google Trends.

Anyway, this got me playing around with Google Trends, and I thought you might enjoy these results:

This first one is Creationism (in BLUE) vs. Evolution (in RED).
Wow. Creationism isn’t even on the map, almost.

Here we have Obama vs. McCain. Obama is in Blue, McCain in Red.


I suppose the early blip for Obama relates to his coming on the scene at the DNC convention. Notice the vast difference in magnitude between the two, google-wise, once thing get going more recently.

While we are on the subject, here’s Clinto-Obama. I’ll let you guess which is Clinton and which is Obama. The winner is automatically entered into a contest for a brand new iPhone*.


And finally, a classic. In one of the most misunderstood (willfully misunderstood, I dare say) statements of all time, Beatle John Lennon made the claim that “The Beatles are bigger than Jesus Christ.” Well, let’s see if this holds true in Googleland over the last few years:


Beatles are in blue. Sorry, Beatles, but you are only about half as big as god.

(However, look at what Google Trends shows for news volume, as the bottom graph: the Beetles are much closer and occasionally surpass the Son of God briefly once.)

Oh, what the heck, as long as we are talking about God, let’s do one more. How big is PZ Myers?

This big:


I’ll leave it to you to parse out the vertical axes on these graphs….

* yea, right, like I’m going to give you an iPhone…


  1. #1 Brian
    August 11, 2008

    You know what’s interesting? You can get some decent epidemiological data for seasonal illnesses from Google trends. Here I picked three diseases that peak at different times of the year: influenza (winter), chicken pox (spring), and lyme disease (summer). The trends chart matches up pretty well with the courses of the disease:

    I think the reason the influenza line is bimodal is that the vaccine is released in the middle of the fall.

  2. #2 Ken
    August 11, 2008

    Regarding the trend results for PZ Myers. The peaks correspond (Help from your enemies?) to the expulsion from Expelled in March and the Catholic League’s attacks in July.

    They seem to show that such attacks only create publicity for the person being attacked.

  3. #3 MikeM
    August 12, 2008

    “Intelligent design” fairs a little better than “creationism,” but not by much.

  4. #4 negentropyeater
    August 12, 2008

    RD is first, then Hitchens (to be expected), but then look at PZ, almost as big as Sam Harris and he hasn’t published a book yet.