Zombie Map: Scientists Use Data Visualization To Plot Location Of 'Zombies' Content In Google

09/30/2011 07:35 pm ET | Updated Nov 30, 2011
  • The Huffington Post

We all have our fair share of weird Google searches buried in our browsing history. And if you've ever Googled "zombies," it turns out there's a ton of content containing the term -- in the Western World, anyway.

Four researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford have used data to visually plot the location of content containing the term for the walking dead, as indexed by Google. The bigger the circles on the map, the more content available in that area.

In terms of content, the findings show that most of the world doesn't seem to be concerned with zombies, and that those who are, live mostly in the US (paranoid much, California?) and Europe. Of course, you have to consider that the study only featured results for the English term for "zombie."

"It's a playful way of exploring the layers of information that float over our heads," Mark Graham, one of the researchers, told The Huffington Post about data visualization.

Geographical data for online searches often reflect real-world offline practices, Graham said, referring to a recent study on searches for prominent religious figures. He jokingly said he hopes this is not the case with zombies.

A search for "zombies" on Google Books' Ngram Viewer yields a graph showing an increase in the number of books containing the word since roughly 1925. The Ngram Viewer shows how often phrases have appeared in books between a selected time period, in this case from 1800-2008. A closer look at the results reveals a big spike after about 1998.

A recent excavation shows zombies were even a concern in Ireland during the medieval times, according to archeological findings near Lough Key. Scientists unearthed two skeletons that had rocks wedged in their mouths, a cautionary step believed to prevent people from coming back from the dead.

Correction: The map shows where there is content containing the term "zombies," as indexed by Google. An earlier version of this article stated that the map represented Google searches for "zombies."