Google disagrees with scientist on power-issue

Mon 12 January 2009 12:43, Bas van den Beld

Google disagrees with scientist on power-issue

This weekend there were a lot of blogposts and articles on the web referring to a study performed by Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross. He claimed that two Google searches can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea.

With the ‘green’ trend in the world this could be a major issue and with the subject ‘Powering a Google Search’ being on the top of Techmeme this seemed to be the case on the web.

Gross is very serious about his statements. “Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” he said. He has even set up a website to inform people about his research. Time for Google to step in.

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At its official blog Google explained “why this number is *many* times too high”. According to Wissner-Gross a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. Google says one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2.

Google tries to compares the search queries to the amount of energy a human body produces: “Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.”

The question that now arises is ‘who is right’? Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, therefore the research isn’t confirmed yet as being accurate. But the question is also if Google is telling the whole truth. The answer will probably be somewhere in the middle.


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