I was introspective this morning, and found myself Googling about death. I ran across this comic by xkcd, got inspired and ended up collecting quite a bit of data about the number of search results Google gives back for any given age of death. I’ve put those results into a graph for your pleasure, and you can also download the spreadsheet data in .xls if you like.
Download the image.
All searches were done from a completely clean Google Chrome (v23.0.1271.95) instance on a Macbook Pro running OS X 10.8.2. Searches were done over Google’s SSL.
I used the following query, substituting X for the numbers 10 through 110: “dies at age X” OR “died at age X”
Then I copied Google’s estimated number of possible results - the “About 100,000 results (0.25 seconds)” part - into a spreadsheet next to the value of X.
There were several notable spikes in the graph for a particular age. Whenever I would get one of these, I’d scan the first few results and see if there was one major contributing player and put that name in a third column of my spreadsheet. For some ages (13, 45, and 37) there was a significant number of results, but no single individual I could credit.
The most significant ages were:
- 17 (15,700,000 results) Transplant patient Ollie Green
- 20 (14,100,000 results) Director Bobby Farrelly’s son
- 67 (6,910,000 results) State Rep. Yvonne Kennedy
- 82 (5,600,000 results) Astronaut Neil Armstrong
- 84 (3,620,000 results) Singer Andy Williams
- 81 (3,530,000 results) “Dallas” Star Larry Hagman
Alternatively, the ages that returned the least amount of results were:
- 107 (44,600 results) No one
- 104 (194,000 results) Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer
- 108 (223,000 results) Oldest survivor of Auschwitz
If you’re looking for an unconventional way to make a splash in Google’s search results, I’d recommend being somewhat famous and dying at age 107 or older.
I don’t know what put me in an introspective mood this morning, but I spent some time thinking about how short life really is. I thought about how we could go at any time, and that got me searching for various ages of death on Google.
I actually had to start the research over about halfway through my first attempt. The query I used initially left out the word “age,” which returned lots of items not related to human death. By including “age” I noticed the results were much more accurate for my goals. If anyone has a better query in mind, I’d love to hear about it.
You can contact me on Twitter at @dreger or email@example.com.
—Sunday, 9 December 2012