The Quantum Pontiff

Algorithmic Steampunk?

From the annals of “is that really the word you wanted?” from a New York Times article on steampunk:

“There seems to be this sort of perfect storm of interest in steampunk right now,” Mr. von Slatt said. “If you go to Google Trends and track the number of times it is mentioned, the curve is almost algorithmic from a year and a half ago.” (At this writing, Google cites 1.9 million references.)

Certainly I can interpret this as saying that the trend has a curve which can be generated by an algorirthm, but I’m guessing Mr. von Slatt meant something else, considering that the curve which is always zero is also algorithmic.


  1. #1 Pedro Pinheiro
    May 9, 2008

    Something not very interesting… y = x – x

  2. #2 Isabel Lugo
    May 9, 2008

    I saw this two, and interpreted it as a double error. People saying “logarithmic” when they mean “exponential” is quite common; then this person transposed some letters in “logarithmic”.

  3. #3 Dave Bacon
    May 9, 2008

    I think your right Isabel. I had a similar feeling when I read it.

    Still I really want to see the algorithm they use to match the google analytics graph 😉

  4. #4 Thony C.
    May 9, 2008

    A classic malapropism and that in the New York Times!

  5. #5 Oran Kelley
    May 9, 2008

    Anyone who says “perfect storm” about anything is deserving of summary execution, imo.

  6. #6 Jonathan Vos Post
    May 9, 2008

    It’s an anagram. Rearrange the letters of ALGORITHM to make LOGARITHM. So we don’t know if it was ignorance or typographical error.


  7. #7 John Sidles
    May 9, 2008

    Anagrams? 🙂 How about this one …


    Tom Friedman’s recent NYT column “Who Will Tell the People?” explains why steampunk is popular in the following passage: “If there is one overwhelming hunger in our country today it’s this: People want to do nation-building. They really do. But they want to do nation-building in America.”

    IMHO, Mr. Friedman has explained steampunk’s popularity: steampunk provides a nation-building narrative that seamlessly blends science, engineering, and history … with a place in it for ordinary folks … that embodies a hopeful vision of the future.

    That is why I am a huge fan myself!

  8. #8 Pieter Kok
    May 9, 2008

    Nevermind the “algorithmic” part, when I first saw your title I read “algorithmic teamspunk”.

  9. #9 Jon
    May 11, 2008

    He probably meant logarithmic instead of algorithmic. But it doesn’t really make sense to be excited about logarithmic growth, so he really meant exponential growth. But if you do the actual search on google trends, you’ll see that the growth is pretty linear. One word, three mistakes.

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