If we are what we Google, then Google Hot Trends — an hourly rundown of search terms "that experience sudden surges in popularity" — is the Web's best cultural barometer. Here's a sampling of today's top searches. (Rankings on Hot Trends list current as of 11 a.m.)
No. 9: "Prickly Shark." The prickly shark is an extremely rare shark with dual dorsal fins, and on Tuesday, scientists in Monterey, Calif., captured and displayed one for only the second time ever. A tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the shark's home for 15 hours before it flipped over in a "hypnotic trance," according to the Monterey Herald . This signaled to scientists that it was time to return it to the sea.
No. 21: "David Letterman Sarah Palin." Last night, Letterman responded on-air to complaints from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that he had made "sexually perverted" jokes about "raping" her 14-year-old daughter on his show Tuesday night. (The jokes were a little perverted but they were definitely not about rape.) Letterman's unapologetic rebuttal was a brilliant judo move: "I can't really defend these: They're just jokes." Whether it satisfied Palin remains to be seen, but the controversy has been good for ratings: Letterman has been beating Conan in the numbers since Tuesday.
No. 35: "Amanda Knox pictures." Tomorrow, 21-year-old Amanda Knox takes the stand in Italy to defend herself against charges she killed her British roommate in 2007 while on an exchange program there. Since Knox was charged five months ago, the case—and its attendant sexy details —has captivated Italy. But Timothy Egan in the New York Times notes that the case against Knox "has so many holes in it ... that any fair-minded jury would have thrown it out months ago." The fact that "pictures" is appended to Knox's name suggests many Googlers are subjecting her to their own judgment—namely, whether she's worthy of the nickname bestowed upon her by the foreign press: " Foxy Knoxy ."