Google Trends and Human Parthenogenesis (Televison & Internet Behaviour)

Google Trends lets you delve into the human search behaviour (using Google off course!) on the internet circa 2004.
Can TV mold opinions? Can TV ads directly impact online behaviour? Well here is some startling proof of that!

It starts with an episode (“Joy to the World” Season 5, episode 11) of ‘House’ the wildly popular Sherlock Holmesian medical series ,in December 2008. So what is special about this episode? Well, like all good television shows, when it’s Christmas time the writers put in the extra hours to come up with a credible holiday spirity edge to the show. House being no different, has the main character Dr. Gregory House take on extra clinic duty (which he usually goes great lengths to avoid) talking to a female patient complaining about headaches.

House in his inimitable style deduces that the woman is pregnant, a claim that she strongly denies because she and her fiance are ‘virgins’. To cut the story short, House convinces the ‘to be’ husband and the wife, that this pregnancy was the result of parthenogenesis, {—-Parthenogenesis is an asexual form of reproduction found in females where growth and development of embryos occurs without fertilization by a male. In plants, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell, and is a component process of apomixis. The offspring produced by parthenogenesis are always female in species that use the XY sex-determination system, as in humans.

Parthenogenesis occurs naturally in some invertebrate animal species (e.g. water fleas, aphids and vertebrates (e.g. some reptiles, fish). Parthenogenesis has been induced in mammals (rabbit cells) but no successful experiments with human parthenogenesis were reported till 2007,  when discredited South Korean scientist, Hwang Woo-Suk, unknowingly contributed a major breakthrough to stem cell research and produced the first human embryos resulting from parthenogenesis. It is highly doubtful that artificial human parthenogenesis would be used to reproduce humans. Induced parthenogenesis in mice and monkeys often results in abnormal development. This is because mammals have imprinted genetic regions, where either the maternal or the paternal chromosome is inactivated in the offspring in order for development to proceed normally. A mammal created by parthenogenesis would thus have double measures of maternally imprinted genes and lack paternally imprinted genes, leading to developmental abnormalities if any were present in the genes of the mother. As a consequence, research on human parthenogenesis is focused on the production of embryonic stem cells for use in medical treatment, not as a reproductive strategy. Source: Wikipedia, Scientific American —} thereby saving the woman from embarrassing  explanations.

So House does his good deed for Christmas and has the husband convinced that he and his future wife have been witness to immaculate conception or is now a virgin mother. The wife thankful for the deception sends House a gift a few days later, ensuring that he wins a bet with Wilson (a.k.a Dr. Watson)

This subject of parthenogenesis or immaculate conception would obviously make believers salivate at the very possibility, but more importantly the credulous way the news is delivered and given the ‘faith’  that people have in House’s diagnosis, the idea seems to have lept of the television and into peoples minds.

The rest of the post relates to internet behavior…so you can give it a skip if you’re not a web marketer,

Below is the data as given by Google Trends on searches for the phrase “human parthenogenesis”

google_trends_all_yearsThe above data is for all years starting 2004 (Google Trends data is available only post that year)

google_trends_2008Data for 2008

Google Trends Data on searches for Human Parthenogenesis in the month of December 2008

Google Trends Data on searches for Human Parthenogenesis in the month of December 2008

9 December 2008 was the original air date for this episode. It is clearly evident from the chart above that viewers rushed to their computers and logged on to the world wide web to confirm their suspicions and to understand parthenogenesis. A quick Google search even today for the key phrase “human parthenogenesis” will yield results that go something like “Is human parthenogenesis possible? i saw this is on “House” today…

If Google was nice enough to share real numbers with us, we’d have an estimate of the number of tv viewers that became searchers. Would that data be important for people who are advertising websites/products on tv? We certainly think so!