Search Term Poetry Sans Google

Times have been rough for search poets since Google has decided to encrypt search results.

But you could also argue that search terms should be more non-mainstream, hip, and sophisticated now as submitted by users preferring non-mainstream search engines.

So this is Google-less search term poetry, created from terms harvested in Q4 2013. As usual, lines of the poem are taken from search phrases, unedited, and probably truncated at beginning and end. Search terms must not be concatenated.

[Interlude: Scholarly Wisdom]

I am reading a book highly relevant for the psychology of creating art from the virtual scrapyard: Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman describes our shortcomings in dealing with probabilities and in making sound, rational decisions in general. He gives a lot of evidence from psychological research on how our so-called intuition fails us spectacularly.

Our educated guesses on numbers – such as the age of a celebrity – are impacted by random numbers brought to our attention via a wheel of fortune. We feel that 90% fat-free is better than 10% fat. And we are insist on seeing patterns in truly random structures.

Kahneman calls the different modes of thinking or sub-entities of our mind system 1 and system 2. Yet, these are conceptual entities describing the research results; they and not intended to be related to specific parts of the brain. Physicists would call this a phenomenological approach.

System 1 jumps to conclusions quickly and helps us with making the world simpler by substituting hard questions (Why should I vote for X?) by easy questions (Do I like X?). It does al this with ease. System 2 is our strained machine for mental arithmetic. It is at work when you multiply big numbers (unless you are savant) or create list of pro’s and con’s.

Actually, system 1 seems to be in control most of the time – but my special kind of poetry is created when I give system 1 full control deliberately. Gleefully and using zero mental energy it scans search terms or spam comments in order to see patterns and relations – dialogues and stanzas – where they are none.


Lines have been formatted in bold in italics in order to denote headers (System 2 tries to contribute by providing a table of contents).

scientific terms poems

calculations to determine
42 plus 63
42 divided by 63

do not fall
quantum boffin
with counterweight

proton animation
smokerings icon
earth rotation
toy elevator
it has to be tried in practice

power grid turned off
welcome to the real world
the subversive element

analytical essay

name the four element
space balls
phase space

mouse in a microwave
is always tangential to axis

which countries
german hills
jurassic park

“the new worst slogan”
best innovation ever
harvesting ice

cultural spam(food) poetry

metaphors on a scrapyard
anti-stress spiral spring

a break on my blog
sniffing a path
decoding hidden identity

zen capitalism
google culture
the jelly bing

confessions of a luddite
feel dumb in theory

clap hands
instead of falling over

11 Comments Add yours

  1. You have to wonder what was on the mind of the searcher of “jelly bing”. Great poem both in the narration and the visual.

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks, Judy! I checked the search terms again now – I had truncated this one. The full search term was “the jelly bing poum”, I guess it should be “poem” and “jelly bean”. Here is it (I guess):

  2. M. Hatzel says:

    I laughed – awesome poetry. And shoot, I bought Kahneman’s book several months ago thinking I’d (for once) be able to read it and offer a lead on something good back to you. Alas, the book sits on the beside table, still, and my Christmas vacation was spent on work-related reading. (chuckle – actually, I thought if I got a head start on one of these books I might be able to keep up to you for a change!)

    1. elkement says:

      I could have picked Kahneman’s book even earlier, too. When I read Taleb’s books some months ago I watched a video of an interview – Kahneman interviewing Taleb, and in The Black Swan there are some references, too (incl. e.g. the impact of the wheel of fortune if I recall correctly).

      I think you will like it – it is a bit similar to The Science of Fear I had quoted earlier but I like Kahneman’s approach of not going into the alleged wiring of the brain better.

      1. M. Hatzel says:

        I want to read it soon. One of my former professors blogged about it, and I was intrigued. I hadn’t heard of Taleb at the time, and was quite delighted to find references to Kahneman in Slovic, and also the Dan Gardner book you had recommended… Paul Slovic is another who interests me, and I’d like to get to know his work, as well.

  3. You always seem to pull it off.
    Just how do you do it? Seriously–do you assemble bits here and there or do you just have these random gestalts in your mind?
    OK, so I just had a chellenge: how about poetry made from snippets of the works of great physicists. Imagine a perl script that whipped through digitized physics books and grabbed snippets here and there, but at random. The challenge would then be to assemble the snippets into poetry.

    1. elkement says:

      I copy all search terms to a text file and start skimming them from top to bottom. I pick some that look promising, that is – “as if they were” headlines, questions or answers.
      When I have about 3-5 stand-alone lines, I “search” for “related” lines, scrolling down further. The first ones are nuclei so to speak, and I try to attach new lines to existing ones as early as possible. I delete the ones I don’t use immediately. At the end I rearrange a bit, but typically not much.

      I process spam comments in the same way and check 300-400 of them from newest to latest.

  4. My best story concerning folks discerning patterns when there aren’t any is this … while still a graduate student I took a summer job mowing grass in an arboretum. The folks there played the daily numbers (the lottery) and kept very detailed records of the daily winning number. Over coffee every day they would discuss strategy and claimed that they could discern patterns in the daily winners. I can still remember them drawing their little notebooks from their back pockets and pointing to winners and then point to previous winners and show me the obvious (a posteriori) pattern. I always hesitated to ask why they were not retired millionaires if indeed such patterns existed which they could clearly see. Ah well … such is the frustrated existence of an academic. D

    1. elkement says:

      I guess you know Skinner’s research on “superstitious pigeons” who “interpreted” irregular feeding intervals as patterns and engaged in strange rituals to enforce the alleged patterns:
      I had often use mentalist Derren Brown’s related experiment on humans as a proof that we see patterns in random structures – before I learned his experiment was based on Skinner’s:
      Grown-up people behaving like actors in a bizarre theatrical performance – as they try to trigger the magic that increments numbers. Actually, the random motion of a fish in his aquarium provides the input.

  5. Mike Howe says:

    Oh Elke what beautiful poems they made me cry ;) Not using concatenated search terms has yielded so much truth and beauty!

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks, Mike – feel free to use them as inspiration for your music ;-)

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.