Lifestyle & Belief

Google bug pulls up pornographic search results instead of solutions to equations


A Google user online in a cybercafe in Brasilia, on April 09, 2008.



A Google search bug that returns pages of pornographic results when users enter certain equations or search strings has the experts stumped.

A user on Quora uncovered the bug by accident in January, but according to Australia's Fairfax media Google was still trying to eradicate it.

Fairfax tested the glitch, typing in a Google search for "-4^(1/4)" which revealed the result on a calculator but below listed several pages of porn links with titles such as "four guys and a hooker" and others apparently that needed censoring.

According to Fairfax, other search strings that return mostly adult links include:

  • "1 2" -1
  • "1 2" -2
  • "h 3" -h
  • "1 4" -4
  • "apple 1" -apple

The Verge, meantime, wrote that the glitch appeared when the search engine was asked to solve equations and "impossible questions" combined with "what appears to be nefarious search engine optimization (SEO)." added that the bug was ineffectual with SafeSearch turned on, and cited a Google engineer as saying the company would fix the problem. 

In the meantime, those so inclined can try a few equations and try to crack the Google porn bug themselves.

The Verge points out that Google doesn't seem to return porn results for just any contradictory query, but rather with search terms that include numbers.

Meanwhile, Google engineer Jeremy Hoffman gave this explanation on Quora:

"As a web search query, [-4^(1/4)] is interpreted like [-4 "1 4"], as in "Find me pages which contain a 1 next to a 4, but which do not contain a 4." This should return zero results, because it is impossible to satisfy both requirements. However, we have uncovered a bug that causes some web pages to "match" these contradictory queries. Since these are the only results that "match" the query, they are the results that get shown. We are working on a bug fix. Thanks to the Quora community for bringing this to our attention."