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Google adds very cool Q&A feature
April 7, 2005 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Google adds very cool Q&A feature: What is the population of Texas? When was Jason Kottke born? When did Hunter S. Thompson die? Google says it works for "celebrities, countries of the world, the planets, the elements, electronics, movies, and anything else we've thought of so far".
posted by JPowers (60 comments total)

 
Pretty cool, though this cracks me up (from the first link):

The following words are very common and were not included in your search: What is the of.
posted by hackly_fracture at 2:53 PM on April 7, 2005


It works for Jason and not Matt? Aghhhh.
posted by caddis at 2:54 PM on April 7, 2005


Failed on my first question, but this is a cool feature. :)
posted by knave at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2005 [1 favorite]


Who is god?
posted by goethean at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2005


If you ask it who wrote Pride and Prejudice, you get:

Jane Austen
Property: The author of Pride and Prejudice.

That 'property' tag is kinda weird. I wonder what other sorts of properties exist? Or, for that matter, how this thing is automated? Does Google have a stored bunch of categories somewhere? Did they create the categories by hand and then have a program trawl the web to gather info on them?
posted by painquale at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2005


I asked: what is soil. This then gives a webs definition page & links.. Very very cool.
posted by peacay at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2005


Interesting questions that it got right:posted by knave at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2005


This works in normal Google search. Either via it eliminating the irrelevant words in your question, or by returning results where people have asked the same question as you and more often than not received some sort of answer.
posted by fire&wings at 3:13 PM on April 7, 2005


How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
I always thought the world may never know.
posted by knave at 3:27 PM on April 7, 2005


I've been playing with this for a bit. Here are a few other questions that surprised me:

Where is the Statue of Liberty?
Where is the grand canyon?
What atomic number is boron?
Who is president? (Um... OK... Also see Who is secretary general?)
What is Quine's paradox?
Who is King Kong? The 'Who is' questions aren't very consistent: they work for Godzilla, Walt Disney, Bertrand Russell, etc., but not Balzac, Jack Welsh, etc.

Some of you seem to be misunderstanding what this thing is doing. It's not just returning a list of relevant results; it's giving you the answer you're asking for right at the top of the Google page itself. Pluggin in just 'Maimonides' doesn't work: you have to ask it 'Who was Maimonides?'

That Tootsie Pop thing rules. I was trying to think of funny pop-culture questions (Who is Keyser Soze? What is the Matrix?) But couldn't get any to yield a response.
posted by painquale at 3:33 PM on April 7, 2005


How much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2005


How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? yielded an excellent answer.

But the answer to How much wind could a windbreaker break if a windbreaker could break wind? was not too good.
posted by Fat Guy at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2005


I don't see any answers.
posted by Jairus at 3:45 PM on April 7, 2005


I don't see any answers.

Sorry for the bad phrasing. There are in fact no answers for the windbreaker question. My bad. But adding quotes gives these two results.
posted by Fat Guy at 3:48 PM on April 7, 2005


It got "how long is the tour de france?" but not "how long is the nile?" or "how many miles is the tour de france?"

Unfortunately what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow didn't work, so it's pretty much useless.
posted by Foosnark at 3:53 PM on April 7, 2005


The question I had to ask:
Who is Jeeves?

(It wouldn't give me direct answers for "What is Jeopardy?", "Where's Waldo?" and "Who wrote the Book of Love?")
posted by wendell at 3:55 PM on April 7, 2005


You just know there's someone at google think of questions people might ask, I want to be that person.
posted by drezdn at 3:56 PM on April 7, 2005


What do beavers eat?
posted by JGreyNemo at 3:59 PM on April 7, 2005


Who is president? (Um... OK... Also see Who is secretary general?)

Try to be more specific...

Who is president of the usa?
and Who is secretary general of the un?

posted by togdon at 4:02 PM on April 7, 2005


What is the point of this? and Why should I use this instead of Ask Jeeves?

I guess they don't know, either
posted by davejay at 4:07 PM on April 7, 2005


It works for Jason and not Matt? Aghhhh.

Indeed. Clearly Matt had better follow this Jason Kottke's lead and get busy writing his autobiographical Wikipedia entry in the royal narcissistic third person!

I mean come on.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 4:08 PM on April 7, 2005


Unless, of course you meant Who is president of Kyrgyzstan?, or perhaps Iraq, which are a bit more difficult to answer it seems... ;)
posted by togdon at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2005


All this technology and I still don't know where my pager is.

Google didn't know either.
posted by cedar at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2005


Failed on my first attempt, How many movies did Alfred Hitchcock direct?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2005


When was Google founded?
Nada.

Who founded Google?
Zip.

What is Google?
Zilch.

Apparently they don't consider themselves celebrities.


posted by MarvinTheCat at 4:21 PM on April 7, 2005


Who is god?
posted by goethean at 3:04 PM PST on April 7 [!]


Clapton, of course. Must be borken.
posted by grateful at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2005


Pretty good:
Who shot John F. Kennedy?

Not so good:
How many fibers are intertwined in a shredded wheat biscuit?
What does touche-et-eh-lay-pooh mean?
How many times did the Batmobile catch a flat?
posted by muckster at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2005


What is the meaning of life?
posted by I EAT TAPES at 4:32 PM on April 7, 2005


Who put the bop in the bop-shoo-bop-shoo-bop?
posted by LionIndex at 4:43 PM on April 7, 2005


Google says:"Who" (etc.) is a very common word and was not included in your search, but you'll get slightly different results if you search without the "Who". So Google uses the "Who" for the question search algorithm, but doesn't bring it up in the results.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:47 PM on April 7, 2005


It will even spoil movies for you:

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
posted by poppo at 4:52 PM on April 7, 2005


Who is the Miserable Failure.

(Like we didn't know already -- Carter comes close second. Ha.)
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:58 PM on April 7, 2005


What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
posted by chipr at 5:06 PM on April 7, 2005


What is Google?
Zilch.

It gave a web specific definition, the picture of the dictionary, unlike,
Who put the bop in the bop-shoo-bop-shoo-bop?

It threw me too when I first tried it. Seeing property or the picture of the dictionary was when I knew it was working for a search.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:08 PM on April 7, 2005


Who Shot JR?

Nothing, and good thing - I'm only on season two of the series!
posted by Boydrop at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2005


This is the primary future of IT.

Well it was supposed to be in the 80s that AI took off, but I can't see why the best & brightest won't be able to adequately solve the problem of language < -> machine < -> knowledge in the next 10-20 years.

TBL is working on that 'semantic web' idea, it's a start but I think the good folks at google or Microsoft Research are going to be able to develop a clustering/automatic approach to it.

Truly a fascinating field, wish I could go back to school and get my MS/PhD in this. So very challenging, yet the payoffs are more immense than even the web IMV.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2005


the picture of the dictionary
Wait, maybe I miss-interrupted the dictionary icon wrong as being Google’s answer. I just noticed it lately when asking Google a question and the search finding the question’s answer.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:20 PM on April 7, 2005


What's the frequency, Kenneth?
posted by jonp72 at 5:28 PM on April 7, 2005


Reminds me of Cyc but it does something potentially useful.
posted by alms at 5:32 PM on April 7, 2005


Apparently this has nothing to do with the price of rice in China.
posted by fatllama at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2005


Was the Pope Catholic?
posted by muckster at 6:03 PM on April 7, 2005


What is the meaning of life?

Kudos for the Monty Python reference high in the results, but overall, a failing grade for not answering "42."
posted by BoringPostcards at 6:08 PM on April 7, 2005


Who is a link whoring pinhead?
posted by underer at 6:22 PM on April 7, 2005


Wendell, how could you ask about Jeeves without asking, "Is Jeeves gay?"
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:24 PM on April 7, 2005


BoringPostcards, you have your pop references wrong. 42 isn't the meaning of life. Check chipr's post. However, I love that the answer to life, the universe and everything actually uses the Google calculator, not the new answer thing.

Another Google-related question it doesn't know the answer to:

What will Google come up with next to waste time?

A fairly easy one it should have come up with, but didn't:

Why is the sky blue?

It does, however, know who's your daddy.
posted by robhuddles at 7:01 PM on April 7, 2005


when was jesus born?
posted by scottreynen at 7:42 PM on April 7, 2005


how many roads must a man walk down?

Nope. Couldn't tellya.
posted by grateful at 7:43 PM on April 7, 2005


What's a metaphor?

Doesn't return "Grazing sheep."

BoringPostcards: Try asking The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.
posted by unsupervised at 8:53 PM on April 7, 2005


With apologies to Irving Berlin and Ella Fitzgerald ...

How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each and every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?

How much do I love you?
I’ll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
To be where you are?

How far is the journey
From here to a star?


And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?


It couldn't answer a single question. Not even the less nebulous ones.
posted by crunchland at 9:01 PM on April 7, 2005


It doesn't work on google.ca, where I am, by default, sent.

I wonder why not?
posted by ouchitburns at 9:10 PM on April 7, 2005


I wouldn't be surprised if Google got a lot of "questions," written in grammatical English and all, before this feature was added. There are still a lot of people who think computers are magic, or at least don't know how else to treat them.

... and, thanks to Google, it's beginning to look like they have the right idea.

My findings: Google can tell you who got the Oscar, but it can't tell you how to mix a drink (and a fairly obvious one at that). See, it should ask me, so it'll know next time!

I asked what time it is. No answer, but a News result informed me that the U. S. Congress is considering extending daylight savings time a month in either direction, as a conservation policy. I expect this to start happening every year or so -- we'll make the sun shine at ten minutes to midnight...

Oh, and Feelings people get.
posted by aws17576 at 9:30 PM on April 7, 2005


Uh, the airspeed of a swallow thing works for me..
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:37 PM on April 7, 2005


Try this one:
What search engines are better than Google?"

Four million hits, but the results on the top on the first page are excellent. Even a news result: "Better Desktop Search Arrives - Forbes - Apr 6, 2005". Then look at the image hits. The graph for hit #2 is now outdated, but is relevant to the question if asked two years ago.
posted by PlanoTX at 9:44 PM on April 7, 2005


ouchitburns, me neither for a lot of these - I'm in New Zealand and usually redirected to google.co.nz which only returns standard results. But for some of these posted searches (e.g. What atomic number is boron?, Where is the grand canyon?) I stay on google.com and can view the answers. I'm not sure what factor in these searches determines google.com/google.co.nz.
posted by Pigpen at 3:05 AM on April 8, 2005


I keep getting redirected to google.co.uk and not getting any answers. How do I get Google to stop deciding what I want to look at for me?
posted by Orange Goblin at 4:06 AM on April 8, 2005


Would you like fries with that?
posted by debralee at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2005


This one is bound to tick some people off:
Who is the Madonna?
posted by notbuddha at 8:13 AM on April 8, 2005


I wonder if you used an american proxy server, like Anonymizer.net, Orange Goblin?
posted by crunchland at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2005


Ayn Rand would be pissed:

Who is John Galt?
posted by COBRA! at 8:24 AM on April 8, 2005


According to Inside Google, MSN and Jeeves have had this feature for a while; they're just playing catch up with the others.
posted by TheDonF at 9:33 AM on April 8, 2005


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