36 Using Google Books to Track Down Quotes

Did Carl Sagan say this?

A tweet by user @cbquist posting a quote supposedly said by Carl Sagan, which states, “I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time–when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”

Quotes on the internet are some of the most commonly faked content. People misattribute quotes to give them significance, or fabricate tendentious quotes to create controversy. For some examples of fact-checking historical quotes, check out Quote Investigator.

If we know that Carl Sagan is an author of many books, rather than start in Google or DuckDuckGo‘s general search, we might start in Google Books, which will likely get us to the source of the quote faster. Even if we cannot find the source, we might find someone quoting this in a book from a major publisher, which is likely to have a more developed fact-checking process than some guy on Twitter.

So we go to Google Books and we pick out a short snippet of unique phrasing. I’m going to choose “clutching  our crystals and nervously consulting.”

The top Google Books search results for “clutching our crystals and nervously consulting.”

Down there at the bottom, the fourth result, is a book by Carl Sagan. It is from 2011, but don’t be fooled by this date; this is just the date of the edition indexed here. Let’s click through to the book to check the quote and sort out the date later.

Clicking through the book, we find that the quote is accurate. More importantly,  the surrounding context reveals that this quote is not being taken out of context. Sagan was truly worried about this issue. His prediction was that a sound bite obsessed media, combined with a sort of celebration of ignorance, would drag us backwards. He understood that the world was becoming more difficult while the communication of ideas was simultaneously becoming more shallow.

An excerpt of Carl Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World, found through Google Books, where Sagan provides the quote that was attributed to him by Twitter user @cbquist.

You can find out the original publication date of this work a number of ways. There’s a “more versions” option on the Google Books interface. You could go look for the book’s article on Wikipedia, as they will usually give you the publication date. But the easiest way is usually to turn to the front pages of the book and find the date, just as you would with a physical book.

End. FIGURE 95 Internet Archive‘s TV News Archive search for “tremendous sea of love.” The second result is our video, and I have circled the video, which is from ABC. End. FIGURE 96 A search for “pence muslim ban” in the Trump archive, which shows the text of a video in which Mike Pence, when asked if he agrees with the Muslim ban, responded, “I do.” End. FIGURE 97 Google search result for “how many men landed on the moon” in which a knowledge panel answers the query via Quora with “12 men.” End. FIGURE 98 Google search result for “last man to land on the moon” in which a knowledge panel pulls text from a Wikipedia article and puts the name “Cernan” in bold as the answer to the question. End. FIGURE 99 Google search result for “how many apostles were there” in which a knowledge panel replies “12 apostles” via Quora. End. FIGURE 100 Google search result for “how old was lee harvey oswold at the time of the assassination” in which a knowledge panel puts in bold 18, 22, and 24, which are numbers from Oswold’s date of birth, date of death, and the date of the assassination via a Wikipedia article. None are an answer to the Googled question. End. FIGURE 101 Google search result for “Presidents in the kkk” in which a knowledge panel pulls the names of several presidents from The Trent Online. End. FIGURE 102 Google search result for “is obama planning martial law” in which a knowledge panel pulls a quote from newstarget.com claiming that Obama is in fact planning martial law. End. FIGURE 103 Google search result for “why did lee harvey oswold assassinate president kennedy” in which a knowledge panel pulls text from a site claiming that Oswold did not assassinate President Kennedy. End. FIGURE 104 Google search result for “msg sensitvity” in which a knowledge panel pulls a list of symptoms from Healthline. End. FIGURE 105 Google search result for “msg dangers” in which a knowledge panel brings up Mercola, which claims that msg causes brain damage, such as Alzheimer’s disease and learning disabilities. End. FIGURE 106 Homepage of Buzzsumo, which features a search bar on its main page. End. FIGURE 107 Buzzsumo results for “cancer,” showing two articles and their Facebook engagements, which is meant to measure the virality of the articles on Facebook. End. FIGURE 108 Buzzsumo results for “cancer” scrolled down a few articles. One article, “Royal Rife: Cancer Cure Genius Silenced by Medical Mafia” uses particularly inflammatory language. End. FIGURE 109 Domain Dossier search bar with “coca-cola.com” typed in and a list of databases it searches with boxes next to them you click to include results from. End. FIGURE 110 Domain Dossier results for the search on “coca-cola.com” in which the registrant’s name, organization, street, and city are all available for public access. End. FIGURE 111 Domain Dossier search results for “protrump45.com,” showing that the site’s owner is masked. End. FIGURE 112 Domain Dossier search results showing the registrant of a site’s name as Domains by Proxy, LLC, a service that masks the real owners of sites. End. FIGURE 113 Google search results for “was 9/11 a hoax” in which the top five sites confirm the conspiracy that 9/11 was faked. End. FIGURE 114 Google search results for “are we eating too much protein” in which Google pulls a knowledge panel from Huffington Post, and the top site promotes veganism. End. FIGURE 115 Promoted tweet from user @SafeMedicine urging us to tweet our senators against our exposure to unsafe medicine. We can tell it’s promoted by the gray text that reads “Promoted” below the “reply,” “retweet,” and “like” functions. End. FIGURE 116 Twitter page for user @SafeMedicine, which features its website name, safemedicine.org. End. FIGURE 117 The homepage of safemedicine.org, which reveals the name of the organization, The Partnership for Safe Medicines. End. FIGURE 118 An article about The Partnership for Safe Medicines on the Northwest Public Radio site titled, “Nonprofit Working to Block Drug Imports Has Ties to Pharma Lobby.” End. FIGURE 119 The headline of a newspaper article from 1973 titled “Nixon Sees ‘Witch-Hunt’ Insiders Say” with the Washington Post’s name below the headline. End. FIGURE 120 Google search results for “Nixon Sees Witch Hunt (site: newspapers.com OR site: google.news.com/newspapers OR site: newspaperarchive.com)” to only search on these three sites. The first result, from the LA Times, mentions our headline in the description and is from 1973. End. FIGURE 121 The newspaper article from the first result of our last Google search, which features our headline “Nixon Sees ‘Witch-Hunt’ Insiders Say.” End. FIGURE 122 Google search results for “Airline Pilot to Fly by Seat of Panties (site:newspapers.com OR site:news.google.com/newspapers OR site:newspaperarchive.com),” in which the article appears in the first result. End. Edit Previous: Finding Old Newspaper Articles
The copyright page from Carl Sagan’s book.








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Web Literacy for College Students 2nd Ed Copyright © 2020 by NSCC and Michael A. Caulfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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