Slow News Saturday: Google flubs on basic math problem

Google and Bing are the two leading search engines consumers have to choose from when they need to find content on the web. While Google has the majority of the market share, Bing has made gains in the past few years but still has a long way to go.

But, if you are looking for one more reason to use Bing over Google, well, here you go. In an odd quirk that is likely a rounding issue, if you type a massive, but simple, math problem into Google, it gives you the wrong answer.

Spotted by @microsoftoholic, if you type in 39999999999999999-39999999999999998 into Google, it will tell you the answer is 0 but it’s quite obvious that the answer is 1; Bing will calculate the math correctly.

Sure, it’s a small little bug in the Google search engine, but it goes to show that not even Google is perfect.

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It's likely that they use doubles (64-bit IEEE754 binary floating point numbers) to perform the computation. Try "39999999999999999.0-39999999999999998.0" in most programming languages and you'll get 0 as the answer. Note you cannot even enter 39999999999999998 in Windows' calculator - it gets rounded to 39999999999999999. This is an artifact of how numbers are typically represented by computers. It's not really a bug; there's only so much precision a fixed number of bits gives you, that's all.

Bing must use a special, higher-precision numeric type like the .NET Decimal, which can also give incorrect results with even larger numbers (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-u...vstudio/system.decimal.aspx)

Edited by Andre S., Jul 21 2013, 5:36am :

Asik said,
It's likely that they use doubles (64-bit IEEE754 binary floating point numbers) to perform the computation. Try "39999999999999999.0-39999999999999998.0" in most programming languages and you'll get 0 as the answer. Note you cannot even enter 39999999999999998 in Windows' calculator - it gets rounded to 39999999999999999. This is an artifact of how numbers are typically represented by computers. It's not really a bug; there's only so much precision a fixed number of bits gives you, that's all.

Bing must use a special, higher-precision numeric type like the .NET Decimal, which can also give incorrect results with even larger numbers (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-u...vstudio/system.decimal.aspx)


This demonstrates how should people discuss on similar topics: Give proofs, give references, stay on topic, instead of trolls (e.g. those NSA-related comments shown above).

Of course, after reading this news, they added yet another "if" in their monolithic and bogus search algorithm...

if(q == "39999999999999999-39999999999999998")
     return 1;
else
     return fetchUserDataLolz_ohAndSearchFor(q);

Google's a search engine, if you want maths go and use a calculator or a computational engine like wolfram alpha. Pretty sure if you put numbers large enough into bing it probably fails.

MeowPurr said,
Bing's a search engine too, yet it does answer the problem correctly.

Put in a 20,000 bit number and see if bing still works it out correctly...

Why, when Bing's input algorithm passes mathematical queries to Wolfram for you?

this is so not news since Neowin published the Bing-Wolfram partnership TWO years ago.....

Damn the 24h news cycle.