I'll be honest, I have no idea how Google works. In fact, computers in general baffle me. I can do a few basic things, enough to get by on, but I really haven't the first clue about how it all works. And the whole search engine concept -- whatever its amazing utility -- seems to me like magic.
The "magic" analogy is pretty apt, because it shares with that dubious practice the characteristic of unpredictability. I discovered this when I started checking the statistics on my blog, and looking at how readers had found Skeptophilia. Predictably, many folks found me through Twitter and through the Networked Blogs feature on Facebook, being that I post links to my site on both of those social media platforms. But as my hit rate went up, an increasing number of folks found my blog via Google searches. What was fascinating and mystifying, however, was the search parameters they had entered that got them here.
Some were logical; my post on the alleged monolith on Mars was tracked down by googling, surprisingly enough, "Mars monolith." But apparently six people have found me by googling "panda apostasy." What? I am baffled as to how those words would end up in the same search to start with, much less how that got them to my site. I tried googling those words together myself, and the first three pages of hits had no links to Skeptophilia, so I still haven't explained that one. The same applies to the three people who found me by googling "scary German shepherd."
Sometimes, however, there's a connection, even if it takes me a while to figure out what it is. I saw two days ago that five people found my blog by googling "gootan." My reaction was, "What the hell is a 'gootan?' It sounds like some kind of obscure Chinese food." So I googled "gootan" myself, and I found not only my link, but a whole bunch of other stuff, as well.
It turns out that last year, I wrote a post about the writings of noted wingnut Erich von Däniken, and at the end I made a passing comment that if von Däniken was right, and the Greek gods were real (albeit extraterrestrial) superpowerful entities, they might want to protect us from the impending invasion by aliens from the planet Gootan. And I posted a link to a site that said we're about to be so invaded. And then I proceeded to forget all about it. But there's apparently a whole wacky mythology developing about Gootan, and its sister planet Zeeba, and how there's this gigantic fleet of spaceships on the way to invade Earth. Mentions of invasion by Gootanians (Gootanese? Gootanoids? Who the hell knows?) have made it into hundreds of sites about UFOs, aliens, and conspiracy theories, countless blogs... and most notably, the Korea Times (check out their story here).
So, I started doing some digging, to see if I could figure out where it all started. And in an eerie repetition of a previous attempt to find the origin of a weird news story (this one in Pravda, regarding an alien mass burial in Uganda -- read my post about it here), I found out that the whole Gootan and Zeeba thing began four years ago in...
... wait for it...
... The Weekly World News.
And I'm thinking: does every ridiculous story in the world start with these people? It's like they're the living embodiment of "All Roads Lead To Rome," except that it's "All Bullshit Leads To The Weekly World News." (Yesterday's headline: "Bat Boy to be Romney's VP") And as I commented about the whole Ugandan alien thing, what never fails to get me is how using the wonderful cut-and-paste ability computers have, stories get lifted in toto and posted elsewhere, and depending on where the posts end up, a ridiculous claim can end up garnering unwarranted credibility simply by virtue of moving around the internet for long enough.
So anyway, that's this morning's jaunt through the world of the woo-woo, along with some musings about how weird search engines are. At least I figured out how I got connected to the Gootan invasion -- it was my own fault, predictably enough. And now by doing a whole post on the Gootans I'm just going to make it worse. I still, however, am at a loss with regards to "panda apostasy."