Author Archives: Elisabeth Leoni

Chatting with the National Spelling Bee champ on her success and what’s next

Last month, Ananya Vinay clinched the National Spelling Bee with the word “marocain.” (I’m guessing she has never needed to use the "Did you mean" feature in Google Search.) When we ascertained that Ananya endeavored to visit the Googleplex, we invited her for lunch and a peregrination around campus. I had the chance to confabulate with her about her alacrity for spelling, her multifarious approach to practicing a preponderance of words, how Google Hangouts helped her maintain equanimity at the Bee, and which venture she plans to vanquish next.

Ananya at Google

Keyword: What was your favorite part of the tour at Google?

Ananya: I really liked seeing the first server (known as the “corkboard server”) at the Visitors Center. Then I got to use Google Earth, and zoomed in on my grandmother’s house in Kerala, India.

If you could work at Google one day, what kind of job would you want to do?

I’d like to work in the division where they do research on AI and medicine. I’d want to diagnose diseases. This summer I went to a camp called “mini medical school” where I got to do a bunch of dissections—I really like that stuff.

We heard you used Google Hangouts to practice for the spelling bee, can you tell us more about that?

There’s a spellers chat on Hangouts, and when you make it to the National Spelling Bee, another speller will add you to the chat. People use the chat to share resources on how to study and quiz each other, which helped expand my knowledge of words. When we used Hangouts Chat (instead of video), autocorrect got in the way of spelling, which is really hilarious. The words are so strange that autocorrect doesn’t recognize them. I’ve beaten autocorrect a lot.

Is there a word that always trips you up? Or does that only happen to me?

When I was younger I always messed up “mozzarella.” Now it’s easier for me to guess words because I go off of language patterns and word rules, so I can figure out a word based on language of origin. There’s a lower chance I’ll miss a word because I have a larger word base.

What’s next? Are you going to keep doing spelling bees?

I can’t compete again because I already won the national competition, but next year I get to open up the Bee. Now I’m going deep into math and science. I’m going into seventh grade, and my new hobby is going to be debate.

If you could have a dress made of marocain, what color would it be?

I’m going to use a spelling bee word: cerulean* (which means sky blue).

*Editor’s Note: While I was taking notes during the interview, Ananya immediately called me out on my misspelling of cerulean (not cirulian, as I thought). She’s good.


The High Five: Live every week like you’ll discover a dinosaur fossil

This week a human races a shark, and a dinosaur was discovered a million years after it walked the Earth. It’s a whole new world out there. Here’s what people are searching for this week:

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Phelps has the gold, now he’s going for the White

Shark Week returns Sunday night on the Discovery Channel, and this year it’s going to the next level with a “race” between Olympian Michael Phelps and a great white shark. So far Phelps is beating “great white shark” in search traffic, but all bets are off in the water. Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are the regions with the most searches for “Shark Week,” but people are also interested in Amity Island’s resident killer “Jaws,” which was the top searched shark movie of the week.

Stumbling on history

This week’s excavation of a million-year old Stegomastadon is making news after a boy tripped over its fossilized skull while hiking with his family in New Mexico. Search interest in Stegomastadon went up than 700 percent with queries like, “What does a stegomastodon look like?” and “How long ago did dinosaurs live?” Even with its moment in the limelight this week, Stegomastadon was searched less than Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor.

Get those people a croissant

After 23 days, 21 stages, and more than 2,000 miles, cyclists will cross the Tour de France finish line in Paris this weekend. Curious about how that is physically possible, people are searching: “How many rest days are there in the Tour de France?” and “How long is a stage in the Tour de France?” Search interest in “yellow jersey” (worn by the leader of the race and ultimately presented to the winner) spiked 200 percent this week.

O.J. stirs things up

After serving an eight-year prison sentence for armed robbery, O.J. Simpson was released on parole this week. Leading up to the hearing, people searched: “What did O.J. Simpson do?” “What time is OJ’s parole hearing?” and “What is a parole hearing?” Search interest in O.J. spiked 350 percent this week, and interest in his now-deceased attorney Robert Kardashian—yup that Kardashian, father of Kim, Khloe and Kourtney—went up 200 percent.

Harry goes in a new direction

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated movie about the World War II battle in which 300,000 troops were evacuated from a French beach, opened in theaters this week. This month search interest in “Dunkirk evacuation” reached its highest since 2004, and it spiked more than 200 percent this week alone. People are also looking for info on one cast member in particular: One Direction frontman Harry Styles, who makes his acting debut in the movie. Search interest in “Harry Styles Dunkirk” was searched 900 percent more than “Harry Styles songs.”


The High Five: The Seven Kingdoms at war and Floridians band together

This week, we’re eagerly awaiting the return of “Game of Thrones,” where some alliances come together like Floridians at the beach and others break off like the Larsen C ice shelf. Here are five of this week’s top searches, with data from Google News Lab.

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My search has just begun

The Great War is here, and ahead of the “Game of Thrones” season seven premiere, fans are getting ready for the episodes to come (some context: for the weeks leading up to their final seasons, “Game of Thrones” was searched 300% more than “Breaking Bad,” and 1000% more than “Mad Men”). GoT’s most searched creatures are “dragons,” “direwolves” and “three-eyed raven,” and Jon Snow was the most searched character, followed by Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. And of last night, the internet is fired up about another queen, Mother of Twins.

In queso you hadn’t heard…

Chipotle introduced a new cheese dip this week, making “queso” a more popular search term than other dips, like hummus and guacamole. Cheese lovers turned to Google to scoop up answers to their questions, including “Is Chipotle queso gluten free?” and “Is Chipotle queso good?” For those who prefer homemade queso, the top searched queso recipes this week were white queso, queso fundido, queso fresco and chili con queso.

Humanity at its finest

In Panama City, 80 Florida beachgoers banded together to save a drowning family in a rip current, leading people to search for “human chain Panama city beach.” Search interest in rip currents currents swells every July with related questions like, “what to do in a riptide” and “how to spot a riptide.”

Chilling news

This week a trillion ton iceberg separated from the Larsen C Ice shelf in Antarctica, forming one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. Top searched questions include, “Where will Larsen C go?” and “What will happen when Larsen C raises sea levels?” This great frozen schism caused search interest  in “climate change” to spike by 195 percent, reaching its highest point this month.

Let’s take a selfie

… said a monkey. And now a federal appeals court in California is expected to rule whether that monkey can sue over the rights to its selfie. It’s bananas! Even with all the hype about the selfie-taking monkey this week, “dog selfie” was still a more popular search term than “monkey selfie.”

Source: Search


The High Five: an old photo and a new world record

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Search trends this week—with data from Google News Lab—made us re-think history, re-evaluate what it means to be “full” and reconsider what to eat for dessert today.

Could it be?

Eighty years after her mysterious disappearance, legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is back in the news. A recently discovered photograph suggests that she may have survived the crash in which she was thought to have died. Searches for the History Channel spiked 200 percent after the network’s documentary revealed the photograph, and the most common search queries included, “When did Amelia Earhart die?” “What happened to Amelia Earhart?” and “When did Amelia Earhart disappear?”

Frank-ly impressive

Search interest for hot dogs heats up every July, but this year it peaked after Nathan’s annual Hot Dog Eating contest. Joey Chestnut relished in his record-setting victory of 72 hot dogs and buns consumed in 10 minutes. Will competitors ever ketchup? Top search queries about this hot-dog eating feat include “How much money did Joey Chestnut win?” ($10,000) “How many calories did Joey Chestnut eat?” (approximately 11,520) and “How does Joey Chestnut eat so many hot dogs?” (We’re stumped on that one.)

Getting the (arti)facts

Turns out “tile samples” that traveled from Israel and the United Arab Emirates to Hobby Lobby-owned stores in the U.S. are not actually tile samples. They’re ancient clay cuneiform tablets that had been smuggled into the United States from Iraq, and now Hobby Lobby has agreed to forfeit the artifacts. After the incident, queries for Hobby Lobby artifacts spiked 19x higher than Hobby Lobby coupons, and people also searched for “Hobby Lobby smuggling,” “Hobby Lobby cuneiform” and “Hobby Lobby fined.”

Swinging rackets and swatting ants

People were buggin’ out at Wimbledon this week when hundreds of amorous flying ants swarmed the courts. Love was in the air for the male ants, who swarmed and followed the queen ant as she set off to create a new nest. People in the U.K. were searching the most about the flying ants, but worldwide, search interest spiked 400 percent higher than search interest in termites. People are curious about, “How to get rid of flying ants?” “How to treat flying ant bites?” and “When do flying ants mate?”

Would you like some coffee with dessert?

We’ve been dunking our Oreos in milk for years, and now Dunkin’ Donuts and Oreo have come together to create a new snack—classic chocolate Oreo cookies on the outside, with mocha-flavored creme on the inside. Sweet tooths and caffeine-fiends are searching for “Dunkin Donuts Oreo review” and “Dunkin Donuts Oreo near me,” and they may be more interested in sweet snacks than sweet drinks. Search interest in Oreo Mocha was over 300 percent higher than Mocha Frap.

Source: Search


The High Five: wave your wand and your flag

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Accio, trends! Translation for non-Harry Potter fans: we’ve summoned five of the top search trends this week, with data compiled by the Google News Lab team. 

20 years of magic

June 26th marked the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series—shall we celebrate with some butterbeers? At Hogwarts, Harry and friends got their answers from the Sorting Hat, but fans are turning to Google to learn more about the four Hogwarts houses. This week search interest in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw was at its highest in the past five months, with interest in Hufflepuff slightly above the others. Did someone say Wingardium Leviosa? Because search interest in Kings Cross Station (where Platform 9 and ¾ was filmed) reached new heights this week.

McEnroe gets served

Serena Williams was in the news this week after John McEnroe claimed that Williams is the best female tennis player, but she’d be ranked 700th on a list of men. His comment prompted people to search, “How fast does Serena Williams serve?” and “What would Serena Williams be ranked in men’s tennis?” Despite McEnroe’s contentious comments, search interest in Williams was still 258 percent higher than him this week.

Oh, say can you search?

It’s America’s 241st birthday, and the country is throwing a big party. And it’s not a party without cupcakes, cookies, jello shots, cheesecake and deviled eggs (top-searched Fourth of July recipes). During this time of year, Myrtle Beach, Niagara Falls, Ocean Beach, Washington D.C. and Catalina Island are the most searched destinations, and according to YouTube, the most popular Fourth of July songs are Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, Bruce Springsteen’s Born and Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.  

Pooches with paunches

Exercise isn’t just for the two-legged among us. A study from the Banfield Pet Hospital revealed that one in three cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight due to poor diet and lack of exercise, and pet-lovers unleashed their searches, like “Banfield state of of pet health obesity by state” and “Banfield vet and obese pets.” Though all of our furry friends need to watch their figures, search interest in “dog weight” was 149 percent higher than “cat weight.”  

Literally surreal

This week a judge ordered Salvador Dali’s body to be exhumed for a paternity test, to investigate the claim of a 61-year-old woman who says that Dali is her father. After the judge’s order, search interest in Dali reached its reached its highest peak in five years, with queries like “How old was Salvador Dali when he died?” “Did Salvador Dali have children?” and “How much is Salvador Dali’s estate worth?”

Source: Search


Talks at Google: one of Google’s most beloved perks, shared with the world

Every morning, a new name pops up in my inbox. It could be a scientist, an artist, a politician, an actor, a business leader, a cast from a Broadway show, an investor, or any expert. These people I’m getting emails about have one thing in common—they’re coming to give a talk at a Google office.

Talks at Google, a regular speaker series, is one of the company’s most beloved perks and a staple of our unique culture. It was started in 2006 by Googlers who noticed that some pretty interesting people were walking through the hallways, and thought, “how about we sit down and talk to them?” They invited anyone at Google to attend, recorded the talks and put them on YouTube so that—following Google’s mission—the talks would be universally accessible and useful.

Eleven years later, there have been more than 4,000 Talks at Google events. It started with talks from Googlers themselves, then expanded to authors and experts from all around the world with different backgrounds. The talks are hosted by Googler volunteers in offices around the world, with about 12 talks happening each week.

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To share the talks with a wider audience, we’ll publish a monthly roundup of some of the best Talks at Google from that month or on a given topic. To kick things off, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite talks from the past 11 years:

Andrea Bocelli

World-renowned musician Andrea Bocelli gives a special performance to Googlers in Mountain View, and tells the story of how, from an early age, he knew he wanted to be a performer.

Andy Puddicombe: "Get Some Headspace"

By testing out some meditation techniques with the audience, Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe shares how anyone can meditate—even if that means just sitting quietly for ten seconds.

Christiane Amanpour

Veteran journalist and Chief CNN Correspondent Christiane Amanpour reveals her top list of people she still wants to interview, and discusses her decades-long career of investigative journalism.

Chris Anderson: "TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking”

Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference, discusses TED’s evolution to “a media organization devoted to sharing ideas,” how to make a story come to life on stage, and the importance of nurturing curiosity.

Dan Ariely: On Dating & Relationships

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely discusses why a canoe is the best place to test your long-term compatibility, and shares insights and advice for relationship-seekers in the age of dating apps.

Diane von Fürstenberg

Iconic fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg shares a timeline of her life (and her unique sense of humor), sprinkled with personal anecdotes from her early days in Belgium and her rise to fashion fame.

Gloria Steinem: "My Life on the Road"

Legendary feminist activist, author and journalist Gloria Steinem discusses her eighth book “My Life on the Road,” the ancient cultures that most inspire her and technology’s influence on human interaction.

HBO's "Silicon Valley"

The Pied Piper team visits Google to chat about which cast members are most like their characters and how instances from the actors’ real lives (or the pranks that happen on set) make their way into episodes of “Silicon Valley.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "Writings on the Wall"

Six-time NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goes beyond the court to discuss his book “Writings on the Wall,” along with his perspective on race, equal pay and religion.

Marie Kondo: "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

Marie Kondo, author and guide to cleaning up your life, discusses why it’s important to ask yourself if each of your possessions brings you joy (and what to do with those joyless items).

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, often referred to as the “father of modern linguistics,” muses about the development of his political views and the humble beginning of his writing career in 1939, when he was the “editor and only reader” of his fourth grade newspaper.

Janelle Monae and Pharrell Williams: "Hidden Figures"

Hidden Figures cast member Janelle Monáe and Executive Producer Pharrell Williams visited Google Atlanta to chat with computer science students from historically black schools about “women in STEM who changed the world,” and their advice for how to break through barriers and stay motivated through trying times.

The Broadway Revival of Spring Awakening

In partnership with Deaf West, a deaf theatre company based in Los Angeles, Google hosted a special performance from the cast of Spring Awakening, and heard about what it’s like to work on Broadway.

Tina Fey: "Bossypants"

Actress, writer, comedian and producer Tina Fey brings her comedic chops to Google to discuss her book “Bossypants,” and insights from her experience as a woman in Hollywood.

Toni Morrison: Home

In an interview at Google New York, author Toni Morrison discusses her book “Home,” how she builds her characters and her writing method—each time she sits down to write, “it’s like she’s never written anything before.”

To see more talks, look out for future roundups on Keyword—or subscribe to Talks at Google on YouTube, follow them on Twitter or browse their website.

The High Five: sun’s out, man buns out

Winter and summer. George and Amal. Barbie and Ken. These classic duos were among the top searches from this week.

Changing of the seasons

This Wednesday was summer solstice in the northern hemisphere—which means in other parts of the world, winter is coming. The cities searching the most for “first day of summer” are in Southern California (don’t they have good weather all year?), while New Zealanders are searching the most for “first day of winter.” And around the world, people are searching 3,200 percent more for summer than winter.

Is it hot out here, or is it just me?

For some, summer was a little too much this week. It was so hot in Phoenix, AZ that planes couldn’t take off safely, prompting searches like “too hot to fly in Phoenix, “Phoenix airport delays,” and “Phoenix high temperature today.” Other U.S. cities that were searching most for weather: New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago and New York.

Bambinos and amigos     

George and Amal Clooney welcomed twins earlier this month, but this week people were more interested in George’s other big news: the sale of his tequila company, Casamigos. Top-searched questions included, “Where can I buy Casamigos tequila?” “How much is a bottle of Casamigos tequila?” and “Who bought George Clooney’s tequila?” In fact, search interest in tequila shot 350 percent higher than vodka.

Meat lovers are ticked off

Doctors are reporting that bites from the so-called Lone Star Tick can cause red meat allergies. But is it real? How can people avoid it? And why is it called the Lone Star Tick? These are the questions people are curious about. Most people searching for the lone star tick (named for a star-shaped mark on its back) aren’t actually in the Lone Star state—the top states searching were Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas and Maryland.

Ken gets a makeover

This week, Mattel unveiled a new cast of Ken dolls, the biggest revamp since 1961. These new Kens come in different shapes and sizes, including “broad” and “slim” body types, leading searchers to look for “dad bod Ken doll” and “diverse ken dolls.” But in the end it wasn’t Ken’s new bod that had people searching—it was his hairstyle. One new Ken is sporting a highly-contested accessory from the past few years: the man bun. The internet couldn’t resist satirizing man bun Ken’s personality, fitness habits and political leanings, and search interest in "man bun ken" spiked 300 percent higher than “dad bod Ken.”

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The High Five: sun’s out, man buns out

Winter and summer. George and Amal. Barbie and Ken. These classic duos were among the top searches from this week.

Changing of the seasons

This Wednesday was summer solstice in the northern hemisphere—which means in other parts of the world, winter is coming. The cities searching the most for “first day of summer” are in Southern California (don’t they have good weather all year?), while New Zealanders are searching the most for “first day of winter.” And around the world, people are searching 3,200 percent more for summer than winter.

Is it hot out here, or is it just me?

For some, summer was a little too much this week. It was so hot in Phoenix, AZ that planes couldn’t take off safely, prompting searches like “too hot to fly in Phoenix, “Phoenix airport delays,” and “Phoenix high temperature today.” Other U.S. cities that were searching most for weather: New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago and New York.

Bambinos and amigos     

George and Amal Clooney welcomed twins earlier this month, but this week people were more interested in George’s other big news: the sale of his tequila company, Casamigos. Top-searched questions included, “Where can I buy Casamigos tequila?” “How much is a bottle of Casamigos tequila?” and “Who bought George Clooney’s tequila?” In fact, search interest in tequila shot 350 percent higher than vodka.

Meat lovers are ticked off

Doctors are reporting that bites from the so-called Lone Star Tick can cause red meat allergies. But is it real? How can people avoid it? And why is it called the Lone Star Tick? These are the questions people are curious about. Most people searching for the lone star tick (named for a star-shaped mark on its back) aren’t actually in the Lone Star state—the top states searching were Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas and Maryland.

Ken gets a makeover

This week, Mattel unveiled a new cast of Ken dolls, the biggest revamp since 1961. These new Kens come in different shapes and sizes, including “broad” and “slim” body types, leading searchers to look for “dad bod Ken doll” and “diverse ken dolls.” But in the end it wasn’t Ken’s new bod that had people searching—it was his hairstyle. One new Ken is sporting a highly-contested accessory from the past few years: the man bun. The internet couldn’t resist satirizing man bun Ken’s personality, fitness habits and political leanings, and search interest in "man bun ken" spiked 300 percent higher than “dad bod Ken.”

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The High Five: these shall be released, top search trends this week

Here's a look a few of the most-searched topics from the week of June 12:

Rep. Steve Scalise

Earlier this week, a gunman opened fire on a Congressional baseball practice, wounding Rep. Steve Scalise and several others. The event prompted people to search about the details—Scalise’s age, his political party and identity of the gunman. “How is Steve Scalise doing?” was a top-searched question, search interest in “support Scalise” spiked 1000x, and interest in “Democrats prayspiked more than 600% following the shooting.

This is why you should floss

Daredevil Erendira Wallenda broke her husband Nik’s record for the “iron-jaw hang,” 300 feet above Niagara Falls (yes, she was hanging by her teeth!) People searched for the livestream to watch her complete the historic stunt, as well as “What time will Erendira Wallenda walk across Niagara Falls?” and “How old is Erendira Wallenda?”

Love is love

Let the parades begin! June is LGBT Pride Month, and celebratory parades are taking place across the country. Washington, D.C., Maryland, Indiana, Massachusetts and Virginia are the top regions searching for Pride, with queries about where and when pride parades are occurring, as well as “what to wear to Pride.” Turns out many parade-goers are thinking about their outfits—search interest for “Love wins shirts” grew 250% this week.

It Ain't Me Babe

Cramming for your high school English test and delivering a Nobel Prize lecture are the same thing, right? In his Nobel Prize lecture, Bob Dylan spoke of novels (including “Moby Dick”) that have inspired him—and he took a few lines from SparkNotes for the speech. Though this may not be the the first time Dylan has borrowed inspiration for his art, people searched for “Bob Dylan plagiarize Sparknotes,” “Bob Dylan Nobel Prize speech,” and “Bob Dylan Sparknotes Moby Dick.”

One small sandwich for man

KFC’s latest ad campaign, starring Rob Lowe, promised to launch a fried chicken sandwich into space. Now, it’s going to happen. An Arizona company plans to send the sandwich beyond Earth in a balloon, which left people wondering, “How is KFC going to space?” and “When is KFC sending a chicken sandwich to space?” The extraterrestrial news has led to search interest in “KFC sandwich” rising 300% above “McDonald’s sandwich.”


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The High Five: trending searches this week

The tragic attack in Manchester was top of mind for many searchers this week. Here's a look at what people wanted to know, and four other trending topics from the week of May 21.

Attack in Manchester

This week, a terrorist attack in Manchester, England claimed the lives of 22 people attending an Ariana Grande concert. People turned to Google to make sense of the event, searching to find out what happened, where the bomb went off, and who was responsible. Top countries searching for “Manchester” since the attacks include Mauritius, Ireland and Uganda, while the top U.S. states are New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

BRETter prepare

Search interest in “hurricane season” spiked 160 percent when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that it predicts an “above average” Atlantic hurricane season this year. The organization expects five to nine hurricanes, which led people to search “Is NOAA ever right about the number of hurricanes?” and “How does NOAA predict hurricanes?” Here’s one thing we do know: The next hurricane will be named Bret.

Noses are red

On Thursday in the U.S., we celebrated the return of “Love Actually” Red Nose Day, which raises money and awareness to end child poverty. To honor the cause, the cast of “Love Actually” got back together for a 12-minute sequel, and stars like Ben Affleck, Ed Sheeran, Ellen DeGeneres and Emma Watson donned their red noses. Despite the backing from A-list celebs, people still turned to search for more info, like “Where can I get a Red Nose?” and “Where did Red Nose Day originate?” Fun fact: Though Rudolph used to dominate the red nose game, the biggest spike in searches for “red nose” now occur in May for Red Nose Day.

Pandora-monium

On Saturday, Pandora World of Avatar will open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando (what would Walt think if we called it Pandor-lando?). You don’t have to rely on your CGI-inspired imagination anymore, this park is REAL (and it’s not built from unobtainium). Search questions ranged from the logistical: “What day does Avatar land open?” to the more curious: “How much did it cost to build Pandora World?” to the niche: “What font is used for Disney’s Avatar land?”

It was 50 years ago today

Fixing A Hole in our hearts since 1967, this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Fans got a little help from a friend (that’s us!) when they searched for the origin of the Beatles’ name, where they’re from, and why they broke up. And who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned British pop rivalry? Search interest for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” spiked 600 percent higher this week than when Harry Styles’ album was released earlier in the month, proving that the Beatles’ music is Only Getting Better.


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