Comic finds a laugh on physics website

November 21, 2003

A one-in-3-billion chance encounter with a group of US physicists provided the spark of inspiration for a sell-out tour by British comedian Dave Gorman.

Mr Gorman happened upon the American Physical Society, a Washington-based organisation set up in 1899 to "advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics", during a web search for "googlewhacks" - a craze sweeping the worldwide web.

A googlewhack is achieved when two random words, the more obscure the better, put into the Google web search engine return just one page from the 3 billion individual pages on the worldwide web.

Mr Gorman conceived his show, The Googlewhack Adventure, last year when he emailed David Harris, APS's head of media relations, after discovering a googlewhack on the society's website. A page on the website was the only one on the web to contain both the words "unicyclist" and "periscopes".

The pair met, and Mr Harris' enthusiasm for the mathematical implications of the hunt for googlewhacks encouraged Mr Gorman to mount an epic quest for other devotees of the craze.

He travelled 80,000 miles and met a range of people from a creationist scientist in San Diego to a cross-dressing Kylie Minogue wannabe in Australia.

Mr Harris - and his wife - feature prominently in the show, which is touring Britain until Christmas. It transpired that Mrs Harris had met the comedian once before, and the two men came up with about five ways in which their paths in life could have crossed even if Mr Gorman had not sent his email.

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