How does science get new ideas? One way is to hold a contest. When the rest of us (who aren’t geniuses) want to know something, we usually look it up on the internet. Now Google has released the top 10 searchers on their site for 2008. Alas they show a lack of imagination: Sarah Palin, Facebook and Barack Obama. No wonder most of us will never win the X Prize!

In, Michael Schirber quotes Sarah Evans, the head of the X Prize Foundation, as saying, “We recognized that we don’t have all of the answers, and wanted to reach out to the people that a prize in energy and the environment would affect and find out their ideas for what we should be focusing on.

“The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea. We haven’t yet had a major breakthrough in green technology yet, so all of the ideas challenge the current conceptions of energy production.

“The reason we were looking for ‘Crazy Green Ideas’ is because we did not simply want the standard ‘use more solar power’ answer. X Prizes exist at the intersection of audacity and achievability, so the ideas need to be just outside of the bounds of what is currently possible.”

Meanwhile, BBC News quotes Google CEO Marissa Mayer as saying, “Social networks comprised four out of the top 10 global fastest-rising queries while the US election held everyone’s interest around the globe.”

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