back to article Ask Google this impossible question, get web filth as a reward

An odd bug in Google's search algorithms appears to be benefiting XXX-rated websites. Searches for impossible pages - such as the contradictory search term -4^(1/4) which means "Find me pages containing a 1 next to a 4, but which do not contain a 4 - return web-page results liberally sprinkled with links to online grumble …

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  1. LaeMing Silver badge
    Happy

    Either that, or,

    the search engine is just thinking "that request is a perversion of logic... perversion. Okay!"

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Either that, or,

      Careful with those contradictory search terms then.

      You could get Total Perversion and blow a hole in the space/time continuum...

      1. Great Bu

        Re: Either that, or,

        Surely it's just the equivalent of the (already self aware, let's face it) google servers saying:

        "That thing you serached for does not exist, but this is what pretty much everybody else is looking at on the internet at the moment so I presume you will want to see it too...."

      2. Nigel 11
        Coat

        Ooh err missus

        Blow? Hole? Continu??!!!!!!!!

    2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: Either that, or,

      Is it something to do with searching for two girls but only one cup?

    3. Mips
      Childcatcher

      Re: Either that, or,

      Er actually -4^(1/4) means the fourth root of -4, i.e root 2: 1.414 etc and that is exactly what you get.

      I don't know what you have been smoking.

  2. George Nacht
    Happy

    Bit of a disappointment...or relief

    that the sentence" 1 next to a 4, but not containing 4" is NOT some obscure slang for some weird group action bang....

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Bit of a disappointment...or relief

      So you're saying it's no longer obscure?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Re: Bit of a disappointment...or relief

        "So you're saying it's no longer obscure?"

        SMOOTH !!! LIKE IT!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Bit of a disappointment...or relief

      Relief - Hand relief to be exact.

      Positive searches use different likenesses so

      1 next to 4 could equate to one next to four or fore as in solitary foreplay => hand relief

      The not containing part is probably literal so -4 means just that, although it might be difficult to find any web page that doesn't have the digit 4 in it but hey it's only an example.

      In short and seriously - positive searches are flexible whereas negative ones are strict thereby leading to results for impossible searches, as to why those results should be primarily porn sites, well, why not. According to knee jerk politicians and brain dead DM readers even the most innocent of searches return links to porn sites so the impossible ones might as well do so too.

  3. Best Before:
    Coat

    I am bitterly disappointed..

    In el reg these days, once upon yore I could rely on V central to provide me up to date information on my kitten vid accessibility before the mainstream press but now I find that you are days, (days!) behind them. How can the SMH (Syd Morning Horrible) publish this story before you good folk??

    Standards are slipping..

  4. paulc
    Stop

    according to my parsing...

    the "-4^(1/4)" is mathematical symbology for minus 4 to the power of 0.25 and is a perfectly legal term to have in a search string...

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: according to my parsing...

      Windows calc says "invalid input" when I try it. Apparently doesn't know about the 4th root of negative numbers. :-)

      But, yes, that was my first thought as well and I often use Google as a primitive calculator / unit convertor when I can't be bothered to dig out a calculator.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Windows

        @Lee

        Calc is the wrong tool for the job. For formula's you'd really want to grab Microsoft Mathematics (download link) which can easily build and parse formula's. Then you'll get -1.4142135623731 as the answer (minus the square root of 2).

        For a super cheesey movie (though I think its kinda funny) check this Youtube video on what Math 4.0 can do for schools. It'll also give you a good impression as to what Math 4 actually is.

        1. Schultz
          Megaphone

          -1.4142 or 1+1i,

          depending on whether you calculate (-4)^(1/4) or -(4^(1/4)). I don't even know what the rules should be, should the - be considered as (-1)* or as part of the number?

          1. Pigeon
            Meh

            Re: -1.4142 or 1+1i,

            Remember your BODMAS from early schooling. Brackets, Powers(Of), Division, Multiplication, Add, Subtract. The Bing result is correct, and interprets it as - (4^(1/4)), which is a +/- real result. The other interpretation gives +/- Root2 +/- Root2 i (there are four roots, with evenly spaced arguments. By the way, I'm a little rusty too. The unary minus is interpreted as (-1) * 4 by Mathematica, so I can see the confusion here.

            1. Martin Budden Bronze badge
              Pint

              You lot never fail me!

              Only El Reg commentards could hijack a perfectly good article about porn by turning it into a debate about parsing mathematical formulae!

              Have a pint, and keep up the good work!

    2. Annihilator
      Boffin

      Re: according to my parsing...

      And the answer(s) to -4^(1/4) is +/-sqrt(2)i from my memory, where i is the imaginary number equal to sqrt(-1). There is also 1 +/- i.

      1. Ralph B
        Paris Hilton

        Re: according to my parsing...

        There you go. -4^(1/4) simplifies to 1+i, which, in the form "one plus an imaginary root", is actually a pretty fair definition of pornography.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: according to my parsing... @Ralph B

          Well done that man! Almost cost me a keyboard, but the cup wasn't quite tilted enough!

      2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: according to my parsing...

        Strictly speaking, there are going to be four solutions with one in each quadrant of a plane with real numbers along the abscissa and imaginary along the ordinate. The solutions are (1,i), (-1, i), (-1, -i) and (1,-i).

    3. A J Stiles
      Boffin

      Re: according to my parsing...

      Only in BASIC.

      In real programming languages, the "hat" is the bitwise EOR operator; or means "beginning" in a search pattern, or turns a "match any" pattern fragment (such as /p[aeiou]t/ which matches pat, pet, pit, pot or put) into "match anything but" (/[^0-9]/ matches any non-digit).

      1. Anonymous Coward 15
        Unhappy

        Re: according to my parsing...

        Yeah, I've fallen foul of trying to use ^ for power in C.

    4. Stratman

      Re: according to my parsing...

      Bing gives -(4^(1 / 4)) = -1.41421356, Yahoo doesn't know and Ask Jeeves is "currently experiencing an unusually large number of Web searches. Please try your search again."

      1. LinkOfHyrule
        WTF?

        Re: Ask Jeeves is "currently experiencing an unusually large number of Web searches"

        Yeah right! I find it hard to believe they have had a large number of searches this side of 2002

    5. A J Stiles

      Re: according to my parsing...

      I get -4.74999..... as follows:

      brackets have highest priority; (1 / 4) = 0.25

      Then the unary minus gives -4

      Then the exclusive or (yes, you can have fractions in binary; 0.25 decimal = 0.01 binary) gives, as near as damn it is to swearing, -4.75 (it's actually a recurring fraction; when you flip the bits and add one, you get 100.10111..... which is close enough to 100.11. In fact if you actually used an infinite number of digits, they would actually be equal; the difference between them must have an infinite number of zeros before the 1, and therefore must be equal to zero).

      1. Benchops
        Headmaster

        Re: according to my parsing...

        100.10111..... IS 100.11 (not just close enough) in binary, in the same way 0.9999.... IS 1 in denary (decimal). It's just two different ways of representing the same number in these largely useful but very slightly broken ways of representing numbers.

    6. Old Handle
      Pint

      Re: according to my parsing...

      And in fact if you put that into Google, it does tell you -(4^(1 / 4)) = -1.41421356, having apparently decided to apply the minus last. It also returns a site titled "Free real sister sex with brother - All best porn!". So if you like incest with your maths, it's perfect.

  5. The Axe

    Fixed?

    When I type in "-4^(1/4)" I get the calculator and a result of -1.41421356237 and the "1 2" minus 1 or 2 returns nothing. So it seems they've fixed it already. Either that or it was a non-story in the first place.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Fixed?

      -4^(1/4) is the 4th root of -4, which is not -1.4142.... The 2nd (square) root of -4 is 2j (where j is the square root of -1)

      I'll leave the 4th root to your imagination and a bit more calculator fondling if you're in the mood.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fixed? @frank ly

        Nice condescension, but calculator fondling gives the same result on qalc and my Casio. Forgot all my complex numbers stuff years ago so dunno whether that's the right way for them to be reporting it.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Fixed? @frank ly

          Check what the screen shows after you do "minus 4". Windows calculator, for instance, just shows four.

          Now press Enter. You get "proper" -4. Then do the power. You get "invalid input".

      2. tony2heads

        There are multiple complex roots

        1+1j

        1-1j

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There are multiple complex roots

          But doesn't the ^ have higher prio than the minus in front of the 4? In which case it's -(4^0.25) and no complex number involved.

          1. gerryg
            Boffin

            Re: There are multiple complex roots

            no, because the minus here is a sign indicating a position on the number line not an operator

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

              Re: There are multiple complex roots

              "no, because the minus here is a sign indicating a position on the number line not an operator"

              WHAT! Unary operator is unary. Symmetry operation around point 0.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There are multiple complex roots

          > 1+1j

          1 + 1i.

          Bloody electricians....

          1. Annihilator
            Boffin

            Re: There are multiple complex roots

            There are always 4 roots of a quadratic root (^1/4). In this instance the answers are:

            1 + i

            1 - i

            sqrt(2) . i

            - sqrt(2) . i

            1. frank ly

              @Annihilator Re: There are multiple complex roots

              A quick check will show that +/- sqrt(2).i doesn't give -4 if raised to the 4th power.

              The other two roots are (-1+i) and (-1-i). If you draw them on the complex plane, the symmetry is obvious (which is how I figured it out).

              1. Annihilator
                Unhappy

                Re: @Annihilator There are multiple complex roots

                @frank ly - bugger! School boy error of assuming root(i) was -i :-(

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: There are multiple complex roots

              (1 + i)^4 = (2i)^2 = -4

              (1 - i)^4 = (-2i)^2 = -4

              (sqrt(2). . i)^4 = (-2)^2 = 4

              (-sqrt(2) . i)^4 = (-2)^2 = 4

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: There are multiple complex roots

            Python programmer actually.

          3. Not_The_Droids

            Re: There are multiple complex roots

            Hey now, we electrical engineers are just keepin' it real...

        3. cortland

          Re: There are multiple complex roots

          "Operator J! What number do you imagine you will be connected to?"

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fixed?

        -4^(1/4) = 1+1j

      4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Q = a_0 + a_1 * i + a_2 * j + a_3 * k

        j is for the Quaternions, as is k

        Please use i as intended.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fixed?

      Right now it still works on Google.com but not google.co.uk.

    3. Dick Pountain

      Re: Fixed?

      Me neither - tried all three and it's either fixed, never existed or perhaps only affects certain configs. Has *anyone* commenting on this thread had actually tried it?

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Coat

        Re: Fixed?

        No I think it must be fixed, I tried he contradictory terms "bankers" and "nice guys" and I didn't find one p0rn site.

        Mines a dity old mac (not the computer)

  6. Ole Juul
    Childcatcher

    If they fix this

    will you still be able to search for 2 for 1 pizza?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well,

    Thats me "refreshed" on this dull morning..

    Milky milky....

  8. GBL Initialiser

    Well that's one way to get folk to learn mathematics.

  9. southpacificpom
    Paris Hilton

    I just type in xhamster or pornhub usually...

  10. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    It's not a bug

    It's a feature.

  11. SiempreTuna

    Fixed ..

    .. for the UK site. The google.com still gets some dodgy links, but mostly in Chinese or Russian.

  12. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    There's porn? On the interwebs?

    Who knew?

    1. Great Bu

      Re: There's porn? On the interwebs?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbfCy1r0v4c

      1. Ian Yates

        Re: There's porn? On the interwebs?

        Can't do 'tube (geddit?) from work, but I'm hoping that's Avenue Q.

        1. John H Woods

          Re: There's porn? On the interwebs?

          upvoted for Ave Q ref

        2. stucs201

          Re: There's porn? On the interwebs?

          Nope, that link wasn't Avenue Q.

          But this one is : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-TA57L0kuc

    2. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Paris Hilton

      Re: There's porn? On the interwebs?

      Yup. More and more people are turning to "The Cloud" to store their porn rather than waste valuable hard drive space.

      Paris, wasting valuable space...

  13. amanfromearth
    Trollface

    It's a feature

    Google figured that anyone who searches for those terms needs to get a life.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    A new Wheatley

    "This! sentence! is! false!"

    "Umm.... porn! Yeah, I will download porn"

  15. Nuke
    FAIL

    I must be mad, I tried it

    It gave me a page with further links to "Mental Health".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I must be mad, I tried it

      Should have dating sites. Because anyone trying it probably needs to get laid. (I would try it, but I'm at work.)

  16. Bernard M. Orwell
    Holmes

    Breaking News!

    It doesn't really matter what search terms you put into google, you will get a link to some sort of porn within a page or so of results.

    In fact, a contest to find a search term that *doesn't* result in porn might make a better story?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Breaking News!

      Spatulifier!

      What do I win?

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        Stop

        in re Spatulifier

        I just searched for that word on google.co.uk, and got two links where the word is used 'genuinely', and one to a report of a Googlewhack.

        No prize will be awarded in this instance, I suspect.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't Google make a nice bit of dosh from all those ad-ridden porn sites? No wonder it's the "default" answer.

    1. GBL Initialiser
      Stop

      Not via AdSense at least

      "Sites with Google ads may not include or link to: Pornography, adult or mature content".

  18. Bodestone

    They've even stopped using 6 dimentional physics

    Unfortunately they have fixed this as well but meters to the 6?

    http://blog.ergatides.com/2012/03/12/stick-of-butter-half-cup-according-to-google/

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    complex fourth roots of minus 4

    The complex fourth roots of minus 4 are the solutions for x of the equation: x^4 + 4 = 0

    They are:

    x = +/- (1 + i) and x = +/- (1 - i)

    1. GBL Initialiser
      Coat

      Re: complex fourth roots of minus 4

      *Moans with pleasure*

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crudely blocked?

    Now if you search for "1 2" -1 you get a blank screen... but wait a minute... it flickered...

    Press the search button again repeatedly and you'll still see the results for a slit second presumably before a bit of JavaScript sets the DIV for the results to "display: none".... hmmm

    If I refresh fast enough I can still see the answer for the search "1 2" -2 is in fact Lilly, and Escort from Denver with a 308 ... phone number...

    G ;-)

    1. SirDigalot

      Re: Crudely blocked?

      I am guessing SLIT second was an honest spelling mistype and not some freudian slip based on all this talk about pr0nz0rz!

  21. A.A.Hamilton
    FAIL

    Completely contradictory result

    Typing the first of these search arguments into my version of LInux Chrome, with Google as default engine, produces a majority of hits as quotes from the the Bible: Jonah, Proverbs, John, Judges, 1st Peter, James, Matthew, Moses, 1st John and so on. Not a naughty bit among them.

  22. Alpha Tony

    The bug is also triggered by other such implausible query strings, such as "1 2" -2,

    Is that the string for 1 cup, 2 girls, both take a number 2?

    1. J. Cook Silver badge
      Go

      @ Alpha Tony...

      Obligatory XKCD link: http://xkcd.com/467/

  23. FuzzyTheBear
    Pint

    Awesome

    Now i can search for pr0n at work and have a clean search history and claim i was genuinely looking for a result to a complex math problem , and keep a clean search history :D

    Cheers to the guy who found this :)

  24. Nanners
    Trollface

    All the smart ones

    work in porn...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think

    a lot of grumble websites seem to take the search term and incorporate it in their returns. It's just for sensible searches, the real finds outweigh the rankings of the grumble sites. Try searching for something really obscure or a spelling mistake. It's really hard to googlewhack these days because of it (yes, I don't have enough to do)

  26. a well wisher
    Facepalm

    "And the answer(s) to -4^(1/4) is +/-sqrt(2)i"

    So you get links to SQuiRTing movies - whos suprised ?

  27. Woodgar

    Can't believe....

    ... that no one has mentioned that this was originally posted on Sophos' Naked Security blog.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    Boolean NOT Goolean!!!!!!!

  29. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Makes sense actually

    More than once, I've watched one of those videos and said to myself, "No! That's not possible!"

  30. Steve I
    Go

    Shocked...

    ...simply shocked, that there's a search term that causes Google to return with links to porn...

  31. The Alpha Klutz

    INTERNET SCUM

    THIS IS WHY INTERNET SHOULD BE BANNED FOR UNDER 18 SO U HAVE TO SHOW ID AND NO PORN ALLOWED. MAKE THE INTERNET SAFE COS I SAID SO

    1. Pigeon
      Pint

      Re: INTERNET SCUM

      Is Big Dumb Guy 555 tampering with your keyboard? Screen lock is advis(z)ed when getting more beer from the fridge.

      1. Fatman Silver badge
        Joke

        RE: Re: INTERNET SCUM

        I wonder if the OP isn't one of JIM THE BSOS' (you have to troll CW's Shark Tank to get the reference) altered mind egos.

  32. Feldspa
    Facepalm

    Still works if you switch to video search, but not on web or picture

  33. Cannorn

    More than once I've noticed a lot of websites out there respond to ANY search term you plug in even if they don't contain what you searched for and yes they tend to be for dodgy virus infected sites or sites that say YES WE HAVE "your search term", Just $5/month to access our files which contain "your search term" download now!!!!

    *sigh*

    Surely it's just a variation of this? yes the search should return null results, EXCEPT the dodgy sites that whore themselves to the top of the page simply echoing your search term regardless?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Divide by 0"

    Input that, and you have at least 30 minutes of reading entertainment and some interesting pictures... that the most filthy minded would relate to porn. Full circle, no pun intended.

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