on researching without google

researching w/o google – an exercise in returning to non-digital culture.

Josh’s challenge: research a topic w/o using a web search engine (including a web search function).

Research question: “How do you make a truly flat surface?”


1. Use the internet but by domain name guesses not searches.


a) http://www.flatsurface.com – one line in a simple html page, saying “Dust collects on a flat surface.”

b) http://flatsurface.net – two-page webpage with banner header saying “Every flat surface should have hot chicks dancing on it.” and photo of women dancing. The Home Page says “What is the purpose of a Flat Surface? I do not know, at this time.  I intend to find out.” The About Page says “I do not yet know what this will be about”.

c) http://flatsurface.org – wasn’t available. Josh suggested I should buy this domain and post an amalgam of the above two pages into this. Perhaps “”Dust collects on a flat surface with hot chicks dancing on it”. I didn’t do this.

d) Since I know wikipedia’s url for entries, I typed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/flat_surface which did not have an article by that name and offered links to search for mention of it. Since this would use a search function, I declined.

e) Entering a more lateral drift, we discussed other angles for discovery. Conversation was one, which we argued was still searching but since the challenge was non-web-based searching that was allowed, but to me it was cheating (since I know Josh knew the answer).

f) Josh gave a hint “the answer is in the bookshelf behind you”. Searching through the books I found “Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy” by Wayne R Moore. I asked if using the index was allowed, and Josh again said yes, since it was not a web search. Only I had found the second volume which contained “flatness” in the index but referred to the first volume. Eventually he found the original volume, located in another part of the shed, and I found the answer on Page 14: “Fig 5 – The foundation of all geometric accuracy and indeed of all dimensional measurement is the flat plane. Flatness is inherently attained by the cross matching of three surface plates…”.

We discussed what this meant and it triggered something in my head about location triangulation with GPS where at least three points must be used to pinpoint accurate location.

I then went to google to see how easy it would be to find this answer in the ‘normal’ way. A Google Books link was the third item but had the most interesting title “Descartes and the Hyperbolic Quest: Lens Making Machines“. Who knew philosophers discussed such practical matters?!

End of experiment.

[original posted via Known, October 17th 2014]