On January 11th I was checking out some of the log files produced by wikipedia. I was trying to write a script to determine which articles are being read by people on an hourly basis to get results a little like this. I noticed that while Mitt Romney was way up in the page view hits on wikipedia at 8522 hits per hour, a less well known name was far more popular by more than an order of magnitude at 155257 hits per hour, Nicolas Steno. The question is, why is everyone looking up a 17th century catholic scientist?
It turns out that Google happens to have featured him on their main search page for the day of January 11th, corresponding to Steno’s birth date in 1638. The company produced an artistic version of the Google logo made to look like geological layers and people clicking on this were told about Steno. It shows quite a lot of power over people’s behavior to be able to trump the publicity of a leading political candidate by such a large factor. Let’s hope that they carry on using this in a neutral manner and continue to educate.