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Google's search data draws a picture of a violent 2015

Google's search data draws a picture of a violent 2015

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Google has trawled through its records to get a picture of how we searched for things in 2015, selecting the terror attacks in Paris, the Oscars, and the Cricket World Cup as some of the year's biggest moments. In its year in search, queries have been lumped together to cover major events, combining varying but contextually related search topics like the migrant crisis, the collapse of the Greek economy, and the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Shootings sparked gun control searches

Of these, the Paris attacks loom largest, with more than 897 million people having searched for information about the attacks since they took place in November. The first requests came mere minutes after the assaults began, but continue to this day, with people across the world asking questions like "what is 'Pray for Paris,'" "what is ISIS?," and "what band was playing in Paris?" Other tragedies this year, such as the shootings in Charleston, Chattanooga, and San Bernardino, sparked renewed searches for the topic of gun control in the United States.

Where searches for Paris-related topics obviously spiked after the attacks took place, other major topics from 2015 saw millions of searches throughout the year. British Queen Elizabeth II, marking her 62nd year on the throne, became the country's longest-ruling monarch in September. With her name consistently in the news, searches ramped up as September approached, with Googlers asking everything from "why does she have two birthdays" to "what does she even do?" Star Wars, too, started the year strong but saw a gathering storm of interest as time drew closer to The Force Awakens' premiere. Of more than 155 million searches on the subject, Darth Vader remains the most-searched character, with almost half of all character-specific results related to the redeemed Sith lord.

But where Google has chosen world-altering events, major scientific breakthroughs, and entertainment phenomena as its biggest moments for the year, some of its search data seems to suggest the world didn't really want to know about any one specific thing as much as it wanted to know about a man who was found unconscious in a brothel. Lamar Odom — who used to play professional basketball and is married to Khloe Kardashian — was first in Google's global top trending searches for 2015, sitting atop a strange list that included a fairly small online and mobile game, a Fast and the Furious movie, and only two actual news events.

Lamar Odom was the world's top trending search

That strange ordering can be explained by the modern taxonomy of searching for things online. Although almost a billion people searched for information about the Paris terror attacks, the blanket "Paris" search term only came in fifth on Google's trending searches, behind Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine whose offices were attacked by gunmen in January, and Agario, a simple-looking free online game about competing blobs that rose to popularity around August. By combining searches on the same topic that might use different terms, Google looks to have drawn up a better picture of what we were actually looking for, but its trending searches can still give us an idea of the very specific topics people cared about.

Fallout 4, Furious 7, Jurassic World, and American Sniper also feature on the trending top 10, big-name games and movies that sparked specific interest at and around their launch. Ronda Rousey and Caitlyn Jenner also had entries on the list, their search popularity undoubtedly spiked during the former's big-ticket fight against Holly Holm, and the latter's Vanity Fair cover. These spikes help explain why megacelebrities like Kanye West and Taylor Swift haven't made this list — while Lamar Odom came out on top, it's notable that his sister-in-law, reality star Kim Kardashian, didn't even crack the top 10 despite fervent interest in her everyday activities.