Pornoquation

Googling an impossible equation will get you nothing but porn

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As the greatest crime-solving mind in history once so sagely said, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is porno. (Go ahead, look it up on the Internet.)

The Verge recently drew attention to a post on Quora that identified this most unlikely bug: If you search Google with a query featuring a numeral that is not logically possible, you will get pornography.

At any rate, in the Quora post, the questioner mentioned that they had entered this equation in Google: -4^(1/4). Google, as an engineer later explained, interpreted this as the instruction “return pages that feature a ‘1’” next to a ‘4’ but in which ‘4’ does not appear.”

Clearly nonsensical.

Quora’s “Anon User” listed a number of similar queries, all contradictory in the same way, and all of which return porn.

  • "1 2" -1
     
  • "1 2" -2
     
  • "9 8" -9
     
  • "h 3" -h
     
  • "15 12" -12
     
  • "apple 1" -apple
     
  • "apple 1" -1

The point of this bug, if it was in fact designed as such, is baffling. Looking up anything on Google will probably give you porno. Perhaps there are hackers who did not want to have to click one deep into the answers when on the hunt for boobies?

The Verge’s Dieter Bohn has a rather less ridiculous explanation.

“As for why these pages appear,” he wrote, ”instead of something more innocuous, that's less clear. The most obvious answer would be spammy SEO.”

In other words, porn sites are so good at rigging Google's system that they come out ahead even when the search terms you use are completely nonsensical.

On Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan ruins all the fun by being the most logical of all, implying an accident of code in a gigantic landscape thereof.  

“Somehow, somewhere buried in all the code that Google uses to rank web sites,” he wrote, “these types of queries seem to be triggering results for sites that match adult content. No doubt the bug will be fixed shortly.”

Photo by The Pageman/Flickr