Google’s Getting Suggestive

It’s always fun seeing what the folks at Google are up to. While there are several cool things in the lab at Google, I think Google Suggest is particularly interesting.

As you enter search terms in suggest mode (which looks surprisingly familiar,) Google makes some educated guesses and offers some additional words to narrow your search.

Google offers this description:

What is Google Suggest?

As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google’s “Did you mean?” feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type “bass,” Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include “bass fishing” or “bass guitar.” Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like “progr,” Google Suggest might offer you refinements like “programming,” “programming languages,” “progesterone,” or “progressive.” You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse.

After trying suggest on a few of my common search terms it seems like the suggestions could be useful for narrowing down searches, but I think the bigger advantage may be helping less savvy computer users understand the power of Google and get better, faster, more accurate results.

Check out Google Suggest at

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Better Weather Forecast

So I, like most people tend to default to the easiest, most memorable sites on the web. As such, had been my preferred site for local weather for quite a while. At first the site was great, but as time passed, displayed more ads, then animated ads, then popup ads, then animated popup ads, then more animated popup ads. At the time of this writing is showing nine ads on the local forecast page which additionally pushes the actual forecast so far down the page I have to scroll to see it.

While working at Boston University I stumbled upon a much better alternative. While checking some background information on a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) grant I stumbled across the site for the National Weather Service’s site. offers the same kind of localized forecast as with no (none, nada, zilch) ads. Check it out. Enter your zip code in the box on the left of the page and click go. You will be taken to a 7 day forecast with current conditions, satellite images, a graphical “Forecast at a Glance” and a detailed 7-day forecast all free of commercial intrusion.

Since we’re already paying for this through our taxes I think it’s about time we start taking full advantage of it. I think you’ll agree this is a much better site to get your weather from.

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How does the gas pump shut off

So being a very curious person I can’t stand not knowing how things work. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Google, I can usually find a fairly quick answer. So when I got a burning curiosity to know how gas pumps shut off when the tank in my car is full (and my credit card is empty) I was surprised I couldn’t find a quick answer.

My favorite site for this type of thing is They are very comprehensive on most topics I have pursued there, but have barely more than a paragraph on the topic.

Not being satisfied with my initial findings I moved on to more advanced search techniques (really I just kept trying different search terms in Google.) From there I came up with this article from (you’ll have to page down past the article about sleeping birds.)

The short story on this is basically there is a small vacuum tube that runs down the spout and has an opening near the tip. The pumping gas produces suction on the vacuum tube and when gas gets high enough in the tank to cover the end of the tube it increases the vacuum on the other end of the tube which trips the shut-off.

Think about it this way: if you were sucking air through a straw, then someone put the other end of the straw into a cup of water you would notice that it became harder to suck. With any luck at all, you would stop sucking before you filled your lungs with water, just like the gas pump stops before it fills your shoes with gas.

For a better explanation, here is the article from Another interesting article from Husky describes the technology, as well as goes into more detail as to why it sometimes fails (as well as describing why their nozzles are the best, of course.)

All-in-all a very elegant, low tech solution requiring no electricity, sensors, floats, or any other fancy gadgets; one that has passed the test of time.

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