Google Q&A is a fun answer feature built directly into the Google.com web search. It answers certain questions right above the search result, so there's no need for you to visit a web page – the answers themselves are extracted from web pages.

You haven't seen this before? Give it a try by entering the following:

Albert Einstein birthday

Above the web page results there will now be a box reading:

Albert Einstein – Date of Birth: 14 March 1879


This works with a whole lot of search queries. You can even enter Who is Clark Kent ... and have Google reveal to you "Clark Kent is the civilian secret identity of the fictional character Superman." All of the following yield direct Questions & Answers results (note the answers are not always correct!):

Population of Germany
President of USA
President of France
Birthday of George Bush
Birthday of Albert Einstein
What is the birthday of Albert Einstein?
Who was President of the USA in 1996?
When did Isaac Asimov die?
Isaac Asimov date of birth
Isaac Asimov birthday
What is the birthplace of Bono?
Bono birth place
Who is Prime Minister of England?
Where is the Eiffel tower
Where is the Statue of Liberty
When was Star Wars released?
Who is the Queen of the United Kingdom?
Who wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Catch-22 author

Permutated Sentences

Before Google's Q&A feature, a fun way to find instant facts was to move around the words of a question sentence until you hit on an answer. To explain, let's say your question is "When was Albert Einstein born?" We remove the first word, "when". We'll now do a search for the several possible rearrangements of the words, and check the Google page count for each:

  • "Albert was Einstein born" (0 results)

  • "born was Albert Einstein" (0 results)

  • "Albert Einstein was born"(17,500 results)

  • "Albert was born Einstein" (5 results)

... and so on.

The one phrase search of these returning the most results is our "fact finder." In this case it would almost certainly be "Albert Einstein was born", and the continuation of this sentence contains our answer. This can be automated, but takes a while as going through all permutations requires many Google searches. FindForward's "Ask Question" search (findforward.com/?t=answer) returns the following answer (you can see there are some left-overs from the snippet which aren't meaningful in this context):

1879, Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 German born American physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity.