Yesterday I had occasion to deliver a brief workshop on Google Search Tips & Tricks. Many of the concepts covered in my post of last week were covered, though by no means all. To make sure the attendees had a chance to practice the concepts covered I set up a Search Contest Quiz in our workshop Blackboard component, and made it available for all workshop attendees for six hours only, from 6pm to 11:59pm January 29. This morning I have had two of the attendees say they simply could not find the time to do the quiz and could I open it up again. I will do so in the Blackboard workshop area, but since there seems to be interest, I thought I would repeat it publicly here to let along with a few hints about the search strategy that might be employed to find the answer to each question. Here we go.
1. In researching trilobites you are fascinated to discover that there is a robot vacuum cleaner called “the trilobite.” Who manufactures it?
This is the simplest question, and a simple [ trilobite vacuum cleaner ] query will find the answer.
2. This vacuum cleaner is composed of parts and systems which are the subject of many patents, both in the United States and worldwide. Considering it as an “autonomous surface cleaning robot for wet and dry cleaning,” it is patented by the iRobot Corporation. What is its US patent number?
This would have been very difficult to get correct, simply because there are so many patents related to robot vacuum cleaners described as “autonomous surface cleaning robot for wet and dry cleaning.” To be honest it is a poorly constructed question, but you were persistent using the patent search feature of Google, and were not fooled by the difference between a patent publication and a patent number, and looked for products with both US and international patents, you might have been lucky enough to get the correct number, 7761954.
3. Within the last month (January 2013) the New York Times ran a story about a cat named Holly who was lost by her owners and traveled 200 miles to get home. Who were the owners?
This one should have been easy. Use the News search feature of Google, limit the site to nytimes.com, limited the date range to last month and looked for cat Holly 200 miles. The correct answer is The Richters.
4. What is the Hungarian word for “Arthropod?”
This should also have been easy (if you attended the workshop). Use the define operator (i.e., define:arthropod), then click the More info linke, and use the translate tool to find the Hungarian word for arthropod: Ízeltlábú.
5. In an article about trilobites you come across a reference to a book that describes the Cambrian as the “Age of Jointed Legs.” Who is the author of the book?
You can do a simple search on “Age of Jointed Legs” using the double quote operator to find the answser, or you could have done a Google Book search to achieve the same thing. I was really tempted to ask at what library closest to Palomar College could you check the book out?, but that might have been expecting too much. Remember, however that if you do a specific Google Book search you can click the About this book link, then the Get this book in print link, to find it in a library, sorted by their geographic distance from you.
6. According to Billie Holiday’s official obituary published July 18, 1959 in the New York Times, who gave her the nickname “Lady Day”?
This one should also have been easy. Use the site operator to restrict the search to site:nytime.com, set the date range to July, 1959, and when you get the PDF of the Holiday obituary, use the Ctrl-F find feature to find “Lady
Day.” Or if you are a jazz fan you would have known it was Lester Young in the first place.
7. One of Billie Holiday’s most famous songs was “Good Morning Heartache”. What is the date she originally recorded it? (Answer in the date format mm/dd/yyyy).
01/22/1946. This one illustrates the concept of anticipating what terms will appear on the search results page. If you search on [ billy holiday "good morning heartache" ] you will get some lyrics results and youtube performances of the song, but if you add the term [ date ] to the end of the query your first hit will be the Wikipedia article about the song, including the date of the first recording in the article abstract.
8. Who sings “Good Morning Heartache on the album “A Tribute to Billie Holiday?”
Renee Olstead. A search on the quoted album title [ "a tribute to billie holiday ] will yield Amazon as the number one hit, and Ctrl-F on that Amazon page [ heartache ] will reveal the song list with the artists name.
9. What was the official california unemployment rate in Yuba County, California, for December 2012?
I like this one, because it demonstrates levels of site filtering. This search [ site:ca.gov official unemployment rates ] will yield this page as the number 2 hit: http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/Content.asp?pageid=1006. This page will contain a local profiles drop down allowing selection by county. The Yuba County rate in December 2012 was 15.8%.
10. Which has a greater total in feet: the location that has the record for most snowfall in a year, or the location with the record for most rainfall in a year?
This one is a bit tricky, because it depends on what you mean by “in a year.” Do you mean, in a calendar year from January – December, in a calendar year starting at any time, or in a season, like the winter of 98-99. Since it was a multiple choice question, however, the answer was less ambiguous than it might have been. You could have searched on [world record snowfall ] and found a total, and then [ world record rainfall ] and found another and then compared them. When I did this I got an answer, but from a not very reliable looking site. I then searched on [ world weather records ] and found an authoritative site. The answer is (from among those offered) Mt. Baker in Washington state that received 95 feet of snow during the winter of 1998-99. The most rainfall, by the way, in a single year occured in Cherrapunji, India, between August 1860 and July 1861, where 1,042 inches, or 86.83 feet fell.
11. In the city-state where you find Michelangelo’s only signed sculpture, how do people address the sovereign?
You may immediately suspect Vatican City, but to verify you might perform a search on [ Michelangelo signed sculpture ] to discover that it is the Pieta, located in St. Peter’s, Vatican City. It is easy to discover that the Pope is the sovereign of Vatican City, but how is he addressed? The query [ pope "form of address" sovereign vatican city ] gets the answer as the number 1 hit, Your Holiness.
12. Before I sent my first message, “What hath God wrought!” via my invention, I painted a piece that consisted of 38 miniature copies of famous works. What was my piece titled?
This is a bit complicated. By searching on the famous quote (if indeed you need to search) you discover the author is Samuel Morse, famous of course, for inventing the telegraph and Morse code. Many people do not know that he was an accomplished painter, however. Once we learn it is Morse, we can search on [ 38 miniature copies ] to discover the answer: “The Gallery of the Louvre.”
13. The final question required a search by image, from http://images.google.com, where you can upload an image to perform a search. Here is the image:
And here is the question:
13. The leaves of this plant are used to make a medication, an overdose of which can be fatal. It was a favorite poison used in numerous detective novels in the 20s and 30s. In what famous 1928 novel by Dorothy L. Sayers did the drug play a key role?
Once you learn the image is of a foxglove plant, it is child’s play to find out that the drug/poison is digitalis. Searching on the novelist, the year and the drug results in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, the still unequaled golden-age masterpiece.
By the way, the winner of our contest got 15 out of 18 possible points. (The last few questions were worth 2 points, rather than 1 because of their difficulty). Could you have done better?