Wednesday, May 25, 2016

SearchResearch Challenge (5/25/16): What's in common?

Finding what's in common... 

... is often an important step in making sense of complex or confusing information.  

Finding what's common across a collection of data is often the key insight to figuring out what's going on.  Scientists look for common data across experiments, detectives search for common evidence in a string of crimes.  Everyone else looks for common elements between different models of things we're buying (from cars to tennis rackets to refrigerators) in order to identify what's the same AND what's different between different brands or models.  

So for this weeks' Challenge, I present two cases of Things that Have Something in Common.  

Your job?  Figure out what the common feature is between them  

The first case is pretty straight-forward.  (You should be able to figure that out in a couple of minutes.)  

The second case might require a bit more search.  Both are interesting cases of things worth noticing in the world...  See if you can figure this out! 

1.  Over the past 150 years there have been a huge number of floods in North America.  But what do THESE floods have in common? 

     a. May 16, 1874, Mill River flood of Williamsburg, Massachusetts
     b. March 12, 1928, Castaic Junction flood, California
     c. August 4, 2014, Polley Lake flood, British Columbia 

2.  What do these flowers all have in common? 

As always, please let us know not just the answer, but also HOW you figured it out.  (Even if you just knew the answer off the top of your head, say so!)  

Search on! 


  1. for the first question… suspected it was a dam problem, so just copied
    your flood info into the search box and each resulting SERP page had multiple
    mentions of dam breach — that's as far as I went.
    the MA example

    for the second question… recalled hearing you say the Google entity/suzerain is becoming better, much better, at
    natural language questions so used:
    [what do bougainvillea, poinsettia and dogwood have in common] and came up with bracts they all have bracteolate.
    clicked a couple of the SERP results to read about what I had previously thought of as a belch sound…
    and then did [define bract]
    dave's garden
    Goo Books - bottom of 388-389 Applied and Economic Botany for Students in Technical and Agricultural

    fwiw, found an acceptable street view image from 2012, at the 6th & Laurel location you mentioned… of those water sucking/drought magnifying/mess producing/invasive alien Jacaranda trees ;P
    turned and headed toward Balboa Park & found some other trees that were intriguing on El Prado… wondered if you saw them?
    May, 2012 street view… also current satellite view hints at the 'purple haze'…
    other trees (Quercus agrifolia? or some sort of pine or cedar?) of interest, east on Laurel/El Prado, before the Cabrillo bridge over freeway in Balboa Park… north of Nate's Point Dog Park & south of the zoo in Balboa.
    El Prado, San Diego
    El Prado, San Diego, 2nd view
    & (is the 1% improvement still true?)
    oh, that's why I couldn't find text with Command-E in Finder… :ℙ :b

  2. 2. What do these flowers all have in common? : Bracts

    Google [poinsettia bougainvillea] => "What Poinsettias, Hydrangea and Bougainvillea Have In Common"
    Poinsettias, hydrangeas and bougainvillea don’t look alike or do they? Well, the plants have different shapes and they are of different colors. So how are they somewhat the same? Here it is – what we call flowers are all modified leaf portions. Yes, those colorful portions are really what we could call leaves.

    Google [poinsettia bougainvillea dogwood leaf flower] => Introduction to Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region (Google Books):
    Bract: Any modified leaf associated with a flower or flowers. ... Examples: colorful bracts of the garden poinsettia, bougainvillea, and flowering dogwood.

    Wikipedia [dogwood] => (Redirected from Dogwood)

    Google [poinsettia bougainvillea cornus] =>
    Bracts: Leaves, Petals, or Something Else?

  3. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    For Q1:

    1. Copy/paste your 3 questions. Results only showed event #1

    The Mill River flood was the first major dam disaster in the United States and one of the greatest calamities of the nineteenth century.

    2. [Event #2]
    3. [Event #3]

    For Q2:

    [bougainvillea dogwood poinsettia]

    Leaves, Petals, or Something Else?

    [define bract]

    Bráctea (en Español)

    [bract poinsettia]Poinsettia Facts

    Poinsettia: The Christmas Flower During the 17th Century, a group of Franciscan priests settled near Taxco...Juan Balme, a botanist of the same period, mentioned the poinsettia plant in his writings... He described it as having large green leaves and a small flower surrounded by bracts, almost as if for protection. The bracts, he said, turned a brilliant red.


    1. Over the past 150 years there have been a huge number of floods in North America. But what do THESE floods have in common?
    A: All are dam disaster due to break in dam

    2. What do these flowers all have in common?
    All of them have Bracts. Some examples of plants that have showy bracts are:

    This is new for me! And super interesting.

    I'll return with more data after reading more details.

    1. Around Bracts

      Carl Linnaeus formalised the modern system of naming organisms called binomial nomenclature

      [bracts botanical unknown facts]

      What are some unknown facts about botany which even the botany students don't know? For example: The oldest trees in the world :California Bristlecone pines and Giant Sequoias are regarded as the oldest trees and have been known to live 4000 to 5000 years...Apple,Onions & potatoes have same taste...

      [9550 years sweden tree]

      Oldest Living Tree Found in Sweden

      6 of the Oldest Trees in the World

      El Árbol del Tule es el árbol con el diámetro de tronco más grande del mundo. It has the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world.

      Tule data

  4. ► FLOODS → Thing in common = We need civil engineers
    Method = I dropped each of the full text provided [August 4, 2014, Polley Lake flood, British Columbia] into Google
    Results = the teaser text of the first entry on every search provided the association

    ► FLOWERS → Thing in common = Botanists really do need to examine and name every component of the sexual organs of plants
    Method = As a botanist, I knew of the common descriptions given to the flowers of bougainvillea and poinsettia; but was unfamiliar with dogwood of the US. Google search for [dogwood] gave the link to Wikipedia entry for the genus Cornus.
    Results = The lead-in text provided reference to the bracts.
    Discussion = I looked for other commonalities. (Mate, they are all plants, right) Firstly, I checked Wikipedia for each of the species, read the text and found no recurring commonality. I searched Google: Not very invasive [Are dogwood/bougainvillea/poinsettia invasive]. Defences against browsers are important for plants; I know that bougainvillea has limited thorns and grows climbing out of reach of predators; I know that predators avoid red and sappy plants like the poinsettia; for dogwood [are dogwood poisonous] gave links that were inconsistent (consistent bad journalism in the first four links), but [can cattle eat dogwood] gave me the answer in Google's teaser text---there is no commonality of defences.
    Further research on flower structure. Your readers might take a short adventure with 'I'm feeling lucky' [anatomy of the daisy flower] ---the flower is not what you expect.

    Note: Write the common name of plants in lower case regular font (bougainvillea). Even if the common name and genus are the same. Even if the name is an adaptation of a proper noun (person = Bougainville). But not if the common name includes a proper noun (star-of-Bethlehem). My mother was a botanist AND a grammar teacher.


  5. 1. All three are man made dam failures. Polley flood I knew about from my reading of news and my friendship with a geological engineer who knew about Polley. The others I Googled. I had a hunch.

    2. I had a hunch. I punched all three in and my hunch was confirmed: all have 'flowers' that are modified leaf portions; bracts.

    Good stuff here.


  6. I found pretty much what everyone else did. First one about 20 minutes. They were all man-made catastrophes and some websites called each the worst civil engineering failure of their respective centuries - 19th, 20th and 21st.

    For the bracts, however, I found one site that talked about different types of bracts. Not all of them look like flowers and they have the role of protecting the true flower.
    This one only took about 5 minutes. I just searched on the three flower names alone and a site on bracts came right up

  7. how things ripple…
    … looping back on a couple of topics/challenges…
    I thought a 'bract' was similar to a 'splort'… ah, language
    lamp xkcd
    fishpole heliconia
    hummingbird inter-dependence -
    The bracts are often filled with water and house a distinctive aquatic micro-ecosystem
    b r a c t

    very interesting interview from 12/2015… our friend, Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar, comes up… worth the listen for some historical insight into Persia/Iran -
    they seem to be in a similar position (timing wise) in regard to the internet & some related technologies - the way they adopt/morph/adapt/align/apply moving forward will be interesting/revealing…
    as in India, China, Russia etc.. - many ethnographic PhD papers there…
    Mikiya Koyagi on Travel, Mobility, and the Trans-Iranian Railroad

    Trans-Iranian Railway

    related, tasty bit of interest… an Indiana tie:
    "In 1928 Ulen & Co. landed a huge project in Persia to construct 800 miles of railroad from the capital of Teheran to the Persian Gulf."
    mysterious end to the Ulen Company…
    Henry C. Ulen

    tougher to find without the "lyrics"
    Kernkraft 400 (without Woah Oh Oh)
    in reference to this:
    Mindtools, DMR - 41:08 (2014)
    the AL/MS 30,000' smoke talk?
    FSU (2016)

  8. [commonality of dogwood and bouganvillea is]

    The 3 plants, while not toxic to people, are irritants to skin.

    Polley Lake Flood is nearly always referred to as the name of the mine itself; Mount Polley not Lake Polley.


    jon tU where dogwood is the provincial emblem for British Columbia