Posted by: Rob Viens | May 24, 2012

Darwin Gets Trendy

May 24th came and went and all Darwin had to say was:

“Remained at home.” (May 24)

Hopefully, he was settled in with another good book. I thought I’d follow Darwin’s lead today and keep things light.

Google Trends is an interesting site that allows you to put in a word or phrase (or several words or phrases) and see how often people “search” for that word.  In a sense it gives you a feel for how “popular” that search term is.  So for example, if you put in the word “biotechnology” you can see that it is going out of style (receiving just 25% of the “hits” it did just 8 years ago). Note – you may not want to use it in the name of your new company.

If you look up “Charles Darwin” on Google Trends you see an interesting pattern.  Aside from the clear spike during the big 200th anniversary year in 2009, there is an annual cycle that seems to revolve around the academic year.  Fall and spring always have the highest hits (term papers and assignments?) and summer and winter holidays are always the lowest.  There is also a little upward spike around Darwin’s birthday in February.  This pattern seems to hold true for other well-known scientists and inventors, such as Edison, Einstein and Curie.

google trends - darwin

(Alas – there is no numbers on the scale – it is all relative and standardized to an average value of 1.0.)

You can also compare words.  So if I put in “red” and “green”, I can see that the former is used almost twice as much as the later. (Interestingly, the term “good” is searched for almost 5 times more than evil.  Who says there is not good news on the internet!)

Not surprisingly ,if you put in “Charles Darwin” and “Alfred Wallace” there is virtually no comparison.  Poor Alfred gets left in the dust.

Darwin vs. Wallace in 2011:

google trends - darwin vs. wallace

On the other hand (and probably just as expected) if you compare “Charles Darwin” to “Michael Jordan” (who is not even an active athlete), you find that Jordan’s hits are still two-to-four times greater. But I have to say, Darwin holds his own against many of the current sport and movie stars. I think Google Trends confirms it – he really is a rock star of science! (RJV)


  1. Interesting…I am so naive about what is out there on the Internet.

    • One might consider that to be a good thing 🙂

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