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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Oh, the Places You’ll Go(ogle) by Yan Z. '12

The path to enlightenment is paved with Google searches.

Late last night, I cut the brakes on the Sleep-8-Hours-Per-Day bandwagon and pinwheeled into a rut of intense, hardcore* Googling. Or, to cast the situation in the linguistic frame of an 8 year-old, the auto-complete search feature easily transforms Google from a resource-filled virtual classroom into the hyperactive-kid-infested ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese: addictively entertaining in the most kindergartenish, brain-frazzling sense of the word. Whilst dragging myself from the caffeinated fog of Internet wanderlust, I metaphorically sprained my ankle over the fact that brilliant, unborn sociological research papers were practically waiting to be pulled from the womb of Google search statistics. What follows may be read as a sloppy, unedited abstract to a half-dozen papers that will never kiss the light of publication.

*If Propel Fitness Water commercials should ever feature X-Treme Web Browsing among shots of sweat-spurting sprinters and tennis players straining their facial muscles into Wolverine-esque contortions, I will sell more bottles of highlighter-colored water than anyone ever should, using my right index finger alone.

Take, for instance:

Forget philosophical inquiry; I submit that this picture contains all that anyone ever needs to know about the unanswerable questions that trouble humanity. Mankind, trembling in fear of the natural mysteries that engulf his daily existence, turns to Google and utters through his eternally-present keyboard, why is this movie called bees? (The contextual ambiguity of “this movie” defies reason. Am I the only remaining Internet user unaware that Google has been able to read minds since 1999? Remember, kids, Google knows what movie you watched in your house last night. And why were you watching a movie called bees anyway?) Although I derive Hofstadlerian comfort from #4’s implication that thousands of people are using their computers to make their computers run faster*, I pray that the people who search “why is the ocean salty” are seeking an answer subtler than, “Because it contains salt.”

The implications of this next gem of a screenshot are monolithically more befuddling. Of the innumerable places and professions that begin with an M, MIT is the fourth-most popular one to get into (third if you regard “med school” and “medical school” as the same thing, which you probably should if you ever want to go to medical school instead of mediocrity school, which was incidentally where I went to high school, by the way, but let’s save that story for another pair of parentheses). I felt a surge of pride, until I realized that MIT’s potential applicant pool is only a few perilous notches above the set of people who spend nonzero energy trying to get on Myspace at school.

Second, the terrifying popularity of “how to get into medical school with a low gpa” makes me want to abandon faith in health insurance and maybe even dentists. When you can’t even trust your dentist anymore, you know that your life is pretty much over.

A year of experience has taught me that MIT inspires questions the way Oprah’s book club inspires soccer moms. Common examples range from “Why can’t shopping carts go 35 mph on 4-lane roads?” to “Why does the Stata Center make my eyeballs burn in pain?” to “Assuming that the mass of a space ship is 1000 kg, with a circular sail made of a lightweight, perfectly reflective material, how big would the sail need to be for the space ship to explore the Solar system in 30 years if it is propelled only by radiation pressure from the sun?” Shockingly, Google turned out a vastly different lasagna of cheesy, multilayered inquiries. The following series of questions is left as an exercise to the author.

Ready? Here’s the answer key. For extra fun, pretend it’s written upside-down and then try to read it.
1 .No, but sometimes we win Harvard vs. Yale football games anyway.
2. For engineering, science research, problem-solving, hacking, checking your laundry status on the Internet, and staying up past your bedtime and then past your waking-up time with the most brilliant and quirky people you will ever know- yes. For learning how to live a healthy, productive life without omnipresent wifi- no.
3. Yes
4. See answer to #3, apply logic skills.
5. See answer to #2, apply inference.
6. I hope so.
7. Yeah, it’s pretty tasty.
8. A functionally equivalent question is, are you comfortable with bizarre gardens of creativity flowering relentlessly through the toughest intellectual landscape on Earth? Also, does the crudely hilarious simplicity of the following image melt your heart with warm, buttery pride? If so, yes.

(Seeing this was like getting creamed in the face with a plateful of whipped irony. Even I can’t run and hide from the nagging reminder that MIT is one of the world’s pioneers in [insert whatever technological field you feel like inserting here at the moment]. Google, on the other hand, primarily registers MIT’s creative minds as the generators of mailing lists and “quantum teleportation devices.” Which, come to think of it, almost dead-on encapsulates the weirdness of MIT’s public image while paying tribute to the ingenuity of mailing lists like free-food.)

9. In case of severe party emergency:
10. Ivy League? MIT is party league. See # 9.

Deconstructing MIT’s image through the shallow windows of the proletarian Googler sort of made me paranoid and self-conscious after about 10 minutes. Although I’m chill with the archetypal student persona jigsawed together from 21, last summer’s subway hack, and sundry news stories about MIT students wearing permutations of computers, the last item on the next list still gives me nightmares. What if my roommate’s sixth sense is the Internet? Am I supposed to feel inferior or weirded out or worried about network problems that I can’t fix because they’re emanating from inside my roommate’s cerebral cortex? Is MIT right for me?

This was even more disturbing. Could it be possible that the MIT Student Center basement is much, much deeper than I thought?

And then I saw this. Like a hefty swig of Drain-O gulping down clogged pipes, the following juxtaposition dissolved every last hairball of doubt in the mental sink where I’d been pouring my Googlified impressions of MIT.

At first glance, MIT’s online street cred is hardly anything memorable . . .

And then, like a violently acerbic streak of balsamic vinegar in your mild white strawberry ice cream, you’re struck by a gleaming contrast that fills every corner of your brain with delicious, dessert-like irony. To wit:

According to the Internet, Harvard just got 1-upped.

30 responses to “Oh, the Places You’ll Go(ogle)”

  1. Raff says:

    I believe I have just discovered my new hobby.

    (I love that MIT is hard and Harvard easy.)

  2. Yan says:

    @ Albert:

    I thought you were supposed to use Google auto-complete to spell check everything. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have ever used “lasagna” in a public blog.

    If you do a timeline search for “blog”, I’m pretty certain you can almost perfectly fit the results to (half of) a Gaussian curve. Googling “internet” turns up a mess though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This post is
    covered in bees

  4. Labib ?14 says:

    Does make you wonder doesn’t it how many people ask Google the weirdest questions.

    My favorites: mit finds bin laden, mit is easy when you study biology – I wonder if this it true?

  5. Albert '13 says:

    I just want to throw it out there that I’m obsessed with Google (Wave this week?), so this post is auto-awesome.
    There is an inferior, but nonetheless entertaining (and less logical as well, thus reinforcing the latter point) applet that completes sentences with Google. Google it because their insight into what people think about MIT is always fun.

    One of those searches shows my favorite MIT coincidence (to date): it constantly returns German results for shorter queries because “mit” is German for “with”.

  6. Albert '13 says:

    Speaking of Wave, the Spelly robot uses the same auto-complete information to spell-check. Not as “philosophical”, but quite useful!

    Oooh you know what’s great for getting distracted on Google? The new Wonder Wheel under “show options” in a search!

  7. Yan says:

    @ Labib:

    Refer to

    I’ve heard that it’s not really true though.

  8. navdeep says:

    mit finding bin laden …
    i really liked that one

  9. Anonymous says:

    The results for “mit blog” are interesting. Clearly the internet has named you the best blogger, Yan. Congratulations.

  10. Oasis '11 says:

    @ Labib –

    I would like to see all the non-Bio majors try it.

    ~riffed Bio major smile

  11. charles says:

    i remember when i could write as vividly (perhaps as outlandishly) as you do


  12. Anonymous says:

    When I typed in “is mit”, I got “is mitch fatel retarded”…

  13. ;) says:


    Google vs Bing ?

  14. Liz says:

    I love this post. I’m about to try searching a couple of other things now.

  15. hamsika '13 says:

    this post is brilliant smile interesting, hilarious, insightful

  16. Anon says:

    MIT wins in a Google Fight as well. :D Yay!

    (Use fewer metaphors; some of your sentences need to go on a diet.)

  17. Reena says:

    Yan, I posted a facebook album of screenshots like this months ago. Alas, I think yours are funnier, I never thought of starting with much other than the w-words.

  18. Reena says:

    Surprising that there was only one result that took “mit” as the German word for “with”, though.

  19. Albert '13 says:

    Indeed! It is a much better spell-checker than anything else. (How else would you spell lasagna? From now on, it’s lazonya for me.)

    The Internet is a mess! That’s why Google tries to “organize the world’s information” (or something to that effect; refer to Google corporate).

  20. Cam says:

    Last night, Charles and I were rather surprised that google popped up … entirely appropriate and mechanically relevant suggestions, when we typed in ‘ball nut’.

  21. Bobwrit says:

    Haha, you’ve gotta love what comes up on google sometimes. Esp. ‘Harvard is my safety'(BTW that’s a bands name…)

  22. Chris says:

    Google “I am extremely” and look 7 entries down. Hilarious.

  23. NathanArce says:

    roflmao… okay, I take back one thing I’ve said before…. There are *some* things that can completely compensate for no food pics XD

  24. charles says:

    oddly enough, ‘ball nut’, ‘ball screw’, and ‘ball screw jack’ all came back with mechanical engineering-related hits.

  25. Cam says:


    Charles is trying to trick you into looking at porn. Just like he did with that whole “LOLriokart” scam.

  26. NathanArce says:

    LOL, where the hell did that come from, Cam?

  27. charles says:

    actually this is porn

    complete with gyrating movements and squirting mysterious white fluid.