Fun with Google Correlate

By Razib Khan | May 30, 2011 12:45 am

A few people have pointed me to Google Correlate. Google says that this tool is like “Google Trends in reverse.” You know I love Google Trends, so of course I’m going to poke around Google Correlate. The tool shows you the strongest correlations by query over time, as well as concentrations and correlations of the query by state. So here’s the distribution for “Jesus”:

If you know something about the United States, I assume you aren’t surprised. But how about something like “Krishna?”

Does this make sense to you? What’s up with New Jersey? As a proportion it has by far the greatest number of Indian Americans. (the #1 correlate is “Radha,” which makes sense)

How about something more obscure? OK, “Ludwig von Mises”:

The Ludwig von Mises Institute is based out of Auburn, Alabama. They’re a radical libertarian outfit whose aim is to promote the thought of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (whose more moderate student, F. A. Hayek, is much more famous today). It doesn’t seem like they’re doing that great of a job at broader outreach about von Mises’ legacy if Alabama, presumably the institute and its affiliate scholars, can make such a large splash on the query stream.

But onto more pressing concerns in relation to the topicality of this weblog. For the “theory of evolution” most of the correlations make sense, but “the sumerians” and “hector of troy”? Either there’s a lot of noise below a really high threshold of state level correlations, or, the world is more mysterious than we can comprehend. “Genetics” and “Genomics” were pretty straightforward.

So far I’ve been looking at correlations of queries as they vary across states. Spatial. How about time series? “Theory of evolution” now is a little less weird. But why does it correlate so strongly with “jim crow laws”? Looking at the time series gives us a plausible hypothesis:

The school year. People are looking for “theory of evolution” and “jim crow laws” when school is in session. During the summer, and over Christmas vacation, they stop looking. Compare to “bank” and “bank of”:

Finally, let’s look at two different queries going in different directions. First, “restaurant”:

And now, “groceries”:

Finally, let’s look at the trend for Facebook. First, the time series isn’t surprising:

But look at the map which shows the concentration of queries. Facebook started at Harvard and other elite schools in the mid-2000s. But in 2011 the only place to expand its mindshare is in places like Maine and Mississippi I guess.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
MORE ABOUT: Google Correlate
  • http://sep.stanford.edu/sep/jon/ Jon Claerbout

    The facebook caption seems opposite to the map — or I’m missing something.

  • Weiss

    Jon, I’d guess this is a 2011 map, so Facebook has the most searches in Maine and Mississippi – where the “mindshare” is still expanding, and where the map is darkest.

  • John Emerson

    It’s pretty amazing. “Symmetry-breaking”, “fractal”, “emergence”, and “arrow of time” all show New Mexico as #1, where the Santa Fe Institute is.

  • Nandalal Rasiah

    “paleo diet” hits Oregon, Washington and Colorado–not exactly fat states. Proud to see my home state of Va is king of “Islam” although the “allah made me funny” correlate seems out of place.

  • Zi Ye

    @Jon Claerbout:

    Maybe the author means that the searches come from people who want more information about Facebook, and because there are most searches in Maine and Mississippi, those are the places to expand its mindshare.

  • Clark

    Utah is high for Krishna as there is a big Llama fest down in Spanish Fork run by the Krishnas. There’s a big Krishna temple there as well. I’d have assumed it would be higher in other states but that might account for the search correlation since there really isn’t an unusual number of Indians in Utah.

  • John Emerson

    Utah is #1 for “magic underwear”. Pawlenty registers only in Minnesota and North Dakota. Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate with a heavy presence. Vermont comes up big on Bob Dylan, the Talking Heads, Zizek, and Lacan. Iggy Pop is widespread. The Three Stooges are big in MO, IL, PA, and NH, but not VT. Lindsay Lohan is big in ND, Lindsey Vonn is big in MN, and Lindsey Van is big in WS.

    Etc. This could go on forever.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    “New atheism” is to “groceries” what “apologetics” is to “restaurants” (only more so).

    My google, doesn’t that feel satisfactory.

  • pconroy

    Razib,

    Northern New Jersey is replete with Indian-Americans, especially professionals. The locals call the train running from there to New York, “The Curry Express”…

  • Mike T

    The correlations between states and searches for ‘facebook’ may be skewed by the fact that a significant number of neophyte computer users use Google to navigate to Facebook instead of typing it into the URL bar.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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