Scientist Burns The Times

A couple of days ago we brought you a story from The Times that "revealed" the CO2 emissions of a Google search by Harvard University Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross.

With The Times quoting the 7g/search and, later in the day, Google responding with their 0.2g/search figure we suspected that something was very wrong here. It was a bit like a debate over something costing £7 when it was actually on sale for 20p (Or $7 when it was priced at 20c for our American guests) So we naturally and logically reserved judgement, promising to report back to you if we had any further developments.

According to TechNewsWorld, Wissner-Gross was a little upset by The Times for a number of good reasons.

Firstly, Wissner-Gross says he never mentions Google in his report. The Times seems to have over egged this point for some reason and Wissner-Gross believes that, for some reason, somebody had an axe to grind with Google.

Secondly, the report does not single out ANY search engine or company for their energy use and emissions. The report is generic in that it calculates that it takes 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to view a webpage.

The Times then used the analogy of the boiling kettle to illustrate the comparative energy use and we followed on that flow to compare the claim vs. the counter-claim. Wissner-Gross says he has

"no idea where they [The Times] got those statistics."

If you read the TechNewsWorld story, a spokesman for Google says that Larry Page & Sergei Brin, the founders and heads of Google, are very passionate about the environment. He quotes numerous initiatives by Google to cut emissions and states the business case that cutting energy use for an organisation such as Google obviously cuts costs too, and that's all good for the bottom line.

So the question still remains unanswered as to why The Times name-dropped Google for their alleged energy consumption and why those claims were "accredited" to the Harvard scientist. As Wissner-Gross closes his interview with TNW:

The short answer is, it's a really easy way to sell papers. Google is a very successful company and it's a very easy way to get readership by making grandiose claims about them.


Well, I think I might just do a Google search to celebrate, then. :)

(Or at least I'll spin it that way....really it's an unavoidable aspect of my job and I have a looming deadline...) ;)