Physics is Least Popular in July

Google Trends tracks the popularity of a search term over time and throughout the world. Type in the word “dog” and you get back a whole set of graphs, charts, and maps that show that the English-speaking world really loves “man’s best friend” (unsurprising perhaps since non-English speakers presumably search for dog in their own language).

As a physics blog, we’re interested in the online popularity of physics, and when we can expect the largest number of readers. This graph shows the relative popularity of the term “physics” in worldwide Google searches from January 2010 to January 2015. Just a quick glance at the data shows that the popularity of physics is cyclical, with an annual peak interest every October when the Nobel Prize in Physics is announced.

Data from Google Trends. Annotations by Tamela Maciel

July is the least popular month for physics, marking the bottom of a decline that starts in May. This is not really surprising given that schools in the Northern Hemisphere tend to finish in May or June, and that July is the most popular month for vacations for Americans. Physics is definitely an academic term and it makes sense that its popularity aligns with students and researchers working to the academic calendar. Other academic terms such as “literature“, “economics“, and “math” also have minimum online interest during July. “Surfing“, on the other hand, has a peak interest in July.

But what about all the people in the Southern Hemisphere? Yes, this data will be somewhat balanced by the Australian, New Zealand, and other Southern Hemisphere schools that are still in session during June, July, and August, but keep in mind that nearly 90 percent of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere, which dominates online trends.

That means that very few of you will read these June musings; come back in October for some physics articles with truly global popularity.

Physics Worldwide

But if you are one of the dedicated few that wants your summer served with a splash of physics, here’s another dataset: the following map shows the relative online interest in “physics” per country. Physics is most popular in the Philippines, which is given a relative search volume of 100. Next are Bhutan, Somalia, and Ethiopia. This doesn’t mean that these countries have the largest total number of internet searches for physics, but simply that the concentration of physics searches compared to other search terms is very high.

The United States comes 17th with a relative search volume of 48. A closer look at the data reveals that the two US cities with the largest amount of physics interest are Houston and Seattle (read: NASA and Boeing/Microsoft).

You can check out the full, interactive data set here. Let us know in the comments below if you come across any other interesting physics trends!

By Tamela Maciel, also known as “pendulum”

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