Thursday, January 15, 2009

Google Cleared of Tea Kettle Charges

Photo source: Joyerikson's Weblog

I reported Saturday that the Times Online reported Sunday that two Google searches release as much CO2 as it takes to boil water for tea. This is apparently not true.

Tech News World reported Monday that the usually reliable Times of London... um... embellished the research to include both the Google and the tea kettle references.

A Harvard researcher spent much of Monday setting the record straight about his research and how it relates to Google's energy consumption.

A story in the Sunday Times of London sent Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) public relations machine into an advanced search for answers. The Times reporters wrote about a new Harvard study that examines the energy impact of Web searches. The story's lead paragraph: "Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research."

One problem: the study's author, Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, says he never mentions Google in the study. "For some reason, in their story on the study, the Times had an ax to grind with Google," Wissner-Gross told TechNewsWorld. "Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site."

And the example involving tea kettles? "They did that. I have no idea where they got those statistics," Wissner-Gross said.

Shame on the Times for their "literary license" with Wissner-Gross's research. Technical studies are not literature, and the Times of London is not some sensationalist news rag. People have been fired for playing fast and loose with facts in otherwise reputable newspapers.

Jonathan Leake and Richard Woods had better keep their peepers peeled for pink pieces of paper coming their way...


Jacob said...

How can you report something on a Saturday that the Times reported on a Sunday? Unless there's are time zone difference or something in it.

Hehe, "reported". Like you're a journalist! Bless.

SkyePuppy said...


You got it. Time Zone difference.

My "reporting" what the Times said is at least as good as their "reporting" what the research said.