There is a tiny window between when a new piece of interesting information enters the world and when that information is available on web search engines. For example, today there are a series of improbable rumours about the White House that were posted on Something Awful. This new information (whether true or false) is rapidly circling the web. It's on Metafilter, you'll probably see it on TV in two days.

Is any of it true? I tried to verify one item by doing a search for ["Dick Cheney" "hydrogen peroxide"]. Right now there are 602 results on Google, very few coming from the Something Awful post. Alas, none that I see confirm the story. Tomorrow there will probably be a few thousand hits on every search engine and it will be impossible to do a search to try to find an independent source.

A better example is Quaoar, a planetoid discovered in June 2002. The day the discovery was announced there were exactly 3 results on Google for the word, all about the original mythological name. Now there are 300,000 results. For awhile I tracked the growth of search results for the word to see how fast it spread. Quickly, it turns out.

It used to be that major search engines had updates roughly once a month. So it'd take about two weeks before a new piece of information was easily findable on the web. Now a significant portion of all three major search engines updates every day, sometimes even faster. Information is accelerating.

  2006-04-12 16:47 Z