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- World's hottest day and How Google search confirms your bias
World's hottest day and How Google search confirms your bias
World records hottest day
July 3rd 2023 was the hottest day recorded since the human civilization began recording daily temperatures way back in the 19th century.
Average global temperatures soared past 17 degrees Celsius (62.62 Fahrenheit) since satellites began monitoring them in 1979. The previous high was recorded in August of 2016 when the average temperature reached 16.92 degrees Celsius (62.45 Fahrenheit).
Regions in the southern US are under a heat dome where temperatures have crossed the 43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) mark. A heat dome occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or a cap.
Image credit: Guillame Falco/ Pexels
Even research bases in Antarctica have recorded temperatures as high as 8.7 degrees Celsius (47.66 Fahrenheit) and they are bang in the middle of their winter right now, when temperatures dip to -60 degrees Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit).
Adrar in Algeria recorded a record high of 39.6 degrees Celsius (103.3 Fahrenheit) and that's the temperature at night.
🔥 https://t.co/ZQxgmkH3UY" / Twitter
Now that’s hot and difficult to write off even for climate change deniers.
But there is a problem. It is likely that this information will never get through to that cohort of people, because of how we use the tools at our disposal.
Google Search - The best at agreeing to your point of view
Have you noticed how search results in Google are always accurate and extremely focused on what you ask? You might say that's the best part about using the tool. But in being so specific, search results on Google leave out other parts of the story that might help you have a more balanced view or perhaps even the truth.
When players in the American National Football League (NFL) began taking a knee as a mark of protest, then President Donald Trump claimed that NFL ratings were going down.
Google zooms in on your question while obfuscating supplementing information. Photo credit: Tech Crunch
Now, if you asked Google, "NFL ratings going down" - typically the type of query we use for our searches, it would show you results that match them. If you ask for "NFL ratings up", it will send your way results that confirm this. But it is unlikely that you will put in the second query when the first one confirms what you are presuming.
Psychologist Peter Wason coined the term confirmation bias to describe this behavior that will not let us prove to ourselves that our hypothesis or assumption might be wrong.
Writing in the Financial Times this week, author Tim Harford cites a simpler example about the color of the sky. One can ask Google why is the sky, pink or blue or green, or yellow and receive results confirming these colors without once being told that the sky appears blue on most occasions.
Harford's book, The Truth Detective: How to make sense of a world that doesn't add up is meant for kids but can also help adults who are not pretending to know everything and how the world works.
For those who like digging deep, here are also Five Science Documentaries on Netflix that you can't miss. These are not necessarily David Attenborough-narrated sequence of events but ponder over sociological and psychological factors behind what motivates people to do what they do, probed in a scientific manner.
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Until next time,