Friday, November 16, 2007

How can I use spreadsheets to answer some of my many questions about the world?

The following was produced by Google and the original can be found here. For some reason, the URL is unacceptable to several social bookmarking sites. I've reposting it here so it could be shared, which I'm assuming Google is OK with ;-D. The video demo below is also an offical Google one, but I found it from the Googlesystem Blog.

This is some pretty powerful stuff You can basically create dynamic spreadsheets with data snarfed from all over the web!!

You can get answers to many common questions by using the GoogleLookup function. Please note that this function is only available in English at this time.

The GoogleLookup function attempts to answer your question using the web, with information about people, places and things, like the population of Japan, the mass of Jupiter, or the place of birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Keep in mind that, while the GoogleLookup function knows quite a bit, it doesn't know everything. Not all of the formulas that you might try will work, but we encourage you to experiment with the function and see what does work.

Using the GoogleLookup function

To use the GoogleLookup function, enter the following formula in the desired spreadsheet cell:

Syntax: =GoogleLookup("entity"; "attribute")
where "entity" represents the name of the entity that you want to access, like Kuala Lumpur, Audrey Hepburn, or oxygen, and "attribute" is the type of information that you want to retrieve.

Different attributes apply to different objects. For example:

  • Boston has a population.
  • Kofi Annan has a place of birth.
  • The Mississippi River has an origin.

Here are a couple examples using the formula:

  • To insert the number of Internet users in Paraguay:
    =GoogleLookup("Paraguay"; "internet users")
  • To insert the Earned Run Average of Roger Clemens:
    =GoogleLookup("Roger Clemens";"earned run average")

Note: In order for the formula to compute properly, quotation marks must be used around both the "entity" and the "attribute."

Some of the entities and attributes you can use

Here are some of the types of entities you can access using GoogleLookup, and a few popular attribute names (some entities won't have all these attributes, and some will have more, so feel free to experiment):

  • Countries and Territories (like "Burkina Faso"): population, capital, largest city, gdp
  • U.S. States (like "Tennessee"): area, governor, nickname, flower
  • Rivers (like "Amazon River"): origin, length
  • Cities and Towns (like "Chicago"): state, mayor, elevation
  • Musicians (like "John Lennon"): date of birth, place of birth, nationality
  • Actors (like "Audrey Hepburn"): date of birth, place of birth, nationality
  • Politicians (like "Anwar Al-Sadat"): date of birth, place of birth, nationality
  • U.S. Presidents (like "Zachary Taylor"): date of birth, place of birth, political party
  • Baseball Players (like "Wade Boggs"): games, at bats, earned run average, position
  • Chemical Elements (like "Helium"): atomic number, discovered by, atomic weight
  • Chemical Compounds (like "Isopropyl Alcohol"): chemical formula, melting point, boiling point, density
  • Stars (like "Betelgeuse"): constellation, distance, mass, temperature
  • Planets (like "Saturn"): number of moons, length of day, distance from sun, atmosphere
  • Dinosaurs (like "Velociraptor"): height, weight, when it lived
  • Ships (like "USS Chesapeake"): length, displacement, complement, commissioned
  • Companies (like "Hewlett-Packard"): employees, ceo, ticker

  • Note: You're allowed 250 GoogleLookup calls in a single spreadsheet.

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