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Hi. All my current writing is over at Audacious Fox, and I'd love to show you around. Thanks for reading.

Google death results

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.

Graph image (.png) 115 KB

Download the image.

Details

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.

Notable numbers

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:

Alternatively, the ages that returned the least amount of results were:

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.

Backstory

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 comments@dreger.me.

Sunday, 9 December 2012