How does the pill work? You asked Google – heres the answer | Holly Grigg-Spall

Every day millions of internet users ask Google lifes most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries

The pill was the first drug to be created and prescribed for healthy people. Oral contraceptives became available in 1961 and within a decade were so ubiquitous as to gain the pet name of the pill. Fast-forward to the present: 100 million women will take a form of the pill today, right after brushing their teeth or before they go to bed. In fact, 80% of women will use oral contraceptives at some point during their lives. Many women now start taking the pill during their teens and continue taking it, every day, for several decades. The pill has become such a normalised, commonplace part of womens daily routine that its easy to forget that the pill is actually a powerful medication. But all of us, at some point, will want to know: How does the pill work?

The pill is made up of a synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone (known as progestin). These synthetic hormones are not the same as the hormones produced by the female body. The pill actually stops the production of those endogenous hormones via the brain. It suppresses the creation and fluctuation of hormones that make up the menstrual cycle and replaces that cycle with an artificial, flat stream of synthetic hormones. The body stops producing its own hormones and the pill acts as hormone replacement.

This process switches off the ovaries, preventing ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary). The pill also prevents the production of fertile cervical fluid (essential for sperm to reach the egg). Plus, the lining of the uterus does not grow thicker (this uterine lining is what would usually, in an unmedicated cycle, become your period). This is the three-fold action by which the pill prevents pregnancy. Although women are only able to get pregnant on six days per menstrual cycle, the pill is taken every day to ensure infertility.

The usual language used for describing how the pill works is too often a mix of half-truths, platitudes, and a simple fudging of the facts. Understanding how the female body works when not on the pill can help us understand how the pill works. However, the female body and reproductive health have long been after-thoughts in science, as in our society. As a result, the pill has become both a product and a proponent of a sexist set-up, creating a gap in knowledge that gets filled with a host of medical myths.

For example, you may have heard that the pill regulates periods. The pill doesnt manage the menstrual cycle, it replaces it, and therefore the pill does not regulate the menstrual cycle. When women take the pill, they do not experience a cycle or periods. When they take a break from the pill once a month or take the placebo/sugar pills and bleed, this is not menstruation. The bleed experienced on the pill is a withdrawal bleed (your body is withdrawing from the synthetic hormones) and very different from a physiological period.

Why birth control can never regulate periods

Early pill researchers decided to create the break week (or the few days of placebo pills) to allow women to experience a bleed each month. At the time, it was considered a good sales tactic to design the pill packs this way; they thought women would be concerned by not bleeding month-in-month-out and, as such, would be reluctant to take the pill. Today youll often hear that there is no medical reason to have periods on the pill. What is meant is that theres no medical reason to have withdrawal bleeds on the pill, and thats precisely because the bleeds on the pill are not real periods. Withdrawal bleeds are an inessential design feature of the pill, but actual menstruation is different. There are many good medical reasons to have a period in fact, the American Committee of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women view their periods as the fifth vital sign of health.

Part of the mythology that surrounds the pill is the idea that menstruation is unnatural. This developed from the paleofantasy of one doctor. He assumed that, because paleolithic women did not experience many periods in a lifetime (presuming they were pregnant often, breastfeeding, and then, of course, dying very young) in comparison to modern-day women, it is therefore more natural for women today to not have a menstrual cycle. It is more natural, he reasons, for them to be on hormonal birth control. So, the theory is that the pill takes women back to our presumed natural state of constant pregnancy and breastfeeding (no ovulation, no periods).

But its just a theory, without evidence, as we cannot know what occurred pre-science, or pre-society for that matter. Anyway, the pill does not actually mimic pregnancy; what happens to the body on the pill is more like a chemically induced menopause. The pregnancy hormones are estradiol, estriol and progesterone, which give many benefits. The pill contains ethinylestradiol and a synthetic progestin (like levonorgestrel or drospirenone, for example, as there are many kinds), which do not give the same benefits, and actually have many of the opposite effects.

Rather than questioning if a biological function is natural, it makes more sense to investigate whether it is important for good health. Its interesting to note that there are few functions of the male body we consider obsolete, unnecessary, or unnatural. Ive yet to hear a doctor make the argument that men might actually ejaculate too much, and as such should avoid ejaculation (preferably with ejaculation-preventive drugs), unless its for the purpose of conceiving a child.

The connection between the menstrual cycle and womens health is not theory, but scientific fact. The menstrual cycle and ovulation, specifically female biology, allows women to get pregnant and give birth, but thats not its only reason for being. Menstruation and ovulation are two connected parts of the same biological system. That we ask do women need periods? rather than do women need to ovulate? reveals that theorising around the necessity of menstruation is always wrapped up in the culture of period shaming and taboo.

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Google trends reveal just how confused the country is right now

Image: AP/charles krupa

If our parents or president can’t provide the answers, Americans turn to Google.

After last night’s historic upset, many people searched online for help understanding what just happened. Some, it appeared, were looking for facts. Others wanted emotional reassurance that the electoral map that they were looking was somehow, magically, wrong.

First and foremost, Americans wanted to know basic facts about their often confusing electoral system:

They didn’t understand how the candidate every poll projected would win, didn’t win:

Some were looking out for Hillary Clinton:

Mostly, they just wanted to know how this happened.

Hopefully, they’ll find the Google answer they’re looking for.

BONUS: Van Jones on CNN.

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Did Google search data provide a clue to Trump’s shock election victory?

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., Nov. 9, 2016. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Donald Trump spectacularly defied pollsters and pundits on the way to his shock election victory over Hillary Clinton, but Google search data may have hinted that an upset was on the cards.

Google data show that Trump accounted for 55 percent of search views between Nov. 6 and Tuesdays Election Day, after regularly dominating his Democratic rival in search during the final weeks of the campaign.

Data compiled between Nov. 6 and Nov. 8, for example, show Trump winning the Google search battle in the key state of Pennsylvania, where almost every poll predicted a Clinton victory. Trump also dominated search in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan and North Carolina.


The Election Day search numbers should perhaps come as no surprise after announcing his candidacy in June 2015, Trump Google led search for most of the election campaign.

Experts are now weighing the value of search information in providing clues to his eventual upset win. With all these Google searches, people were obviously looking him up for a reason, and they wanted to know before they went to the voting booth, social media expert and President of JRM Comm Jason Mollica, told Any political campaign, especially the bigger it gets, needs to look more closely at what people are searching for and where they are searching from.

See the Fox News 2016 battleground prediction map and make your own election projections. See Predictions Map →

Trumps Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway credited the phenomenon of undercover Trump voters as a factor in the upset win during an interview with Fox & Friends Wednesday. Conway described small but potent force who didnt reveal they planned to vote for the Republican nominee and drew parallels with the so-called “shy voters” who backed the U.K.s shock “Brexit” vote earlier this year. 


The fiercely-contested election also sparked intense activity on Twitter, which said that 75 million global Tweets related to #Election2016 were sent out through 3 a.m. ET Wednesday when Trump claimed victory.

Trumps first Tweet as president elect, sent out at 6:36 a.m. ET, has garnered over 154,000 retweets and more than 377,000 likes.

The billionaire made extensive use of Twitter during the campaign, often to explosive effect, which helped pave his way to the White House, according to Ben Kaplan CEO of viral PR firm PR Hacker. A high frequency of controversial tweets and comments made Trump stronger in aggregate because they took over the news cycle while reminding voters he’s a non-establishment outsider (the key message of the election), he explained, in a statement emailed to Triggering viral emotions (like anger and anxiety) mattered more than Hillary’s “ground game” and high TV ad spend in driving voter turnout.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers


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Google’s Alphabet defies expectations with 20% revenue rise

Alphabet, alongside Facebook, is dominating the fast-growing mobile ad market and has benefited from robust sales on mobile devices and YouTube

Googles parent Alphabet defied expectations to report a 20.2% rise in quarterly revenue on Thursday, while retail giant Amazon slightly missed predicted predicted forecasts due to spending on preparations for the holiday season.

Indicating an end to its record-breaking profits streak, Amazon reported profit of $252m or 52 cents per share, though analysts had predicted 85 cents per share. Revenues reached $32.71bn but are predicted to reach between $42bn and $45.5bn for the busy fourth quarter.

Alphabet meanwhile continues to dominate the fast-growing mobile advertising market, along with Facebook. The company has benefited from robust sales of advertising on mobile devices and on YouTube, and also said it would repurchase about $7bn of its Class C stock.

Shares of Alphabet, which is the worlds second largest company by market value, were up 1.6% in after-hours trading.

Googles ad revenue rose 18.1% to $19.82bn in the third quarter, accounting for 89.1% of Googles total revenue, compared with 89.8% of revenue in the second quarter.

Paid clicks rose 33%, compared with a rise of 29% in the second quarter. Paid clicks are those ads on which an advertiser pays only if a user clicks on them.

Cost-per-click, or the average amount advertisers pay Google, fell 11% in the latest period after dropping 7% in the second quarter.

Analysts on average had expected a decline of 7.9%, according to FactSet StreetAccount.

Per-click costs have been falling as people shift to mobile devices from desktops. Because of the limited space, advertising on mobile devices is generally cheaper.

Research firm eMarketer has estimated that Google will capture $52.88bn in search ad revenue in 2016, or 56.9% of the global market.

Googles Other Revenue, which includes the companys increasingly important cloud business, jumped 38.8% after rising 33% in the second quarter.

The cloud business competes with services offered by market-leader Amazon, Microsoft and IBM.

Alphabets Other Bets generated revenue of $197m, but reported an operating loss of $865m. In the year earlier period, revenue was $141m and the loss was $980m.

Other Bets includes broadband business Google Fiber, home automation products Nest, self-driving cars as well as X, the companys research facility that works on moon shot ventures.

The companys consolidated revenue rose to $22.45bn in the three months to 30 September from $18.68bn a year earlier. Net income rose to $5.06bn. Alphabets shares have risen 5.1% since the start of the year.

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Google hides another math joke in its earnings report

It holds (nearly) all the Google news in one place.
Image: Rex Features via AP Images

Alphabet Inc. is getting serious about reining in spending, but the math whizzes who run the company are still playing games when it comes to some big financial decisions.

The internet search giant buried a math game in its share buyback announcement on Thursday.Googles parent company said it will repurchase $7,019,340,976.83 worth of its Class C stock. That amount comes from the number of letters in the alphabet (Alphabet Inc., get it?) and “e,” an important mathematical constant that equals 2.71828.

Heres the calculation, courtesy of Googles search engine: 26 to the power of “e” equals 7019.34097683. Multiple that by $1 million and you get the new repurchase number.

This is just the latest math joke from the company. Last year, Alphabet said it would buy back as many as $5,099,019,513.59 of its Class C shares. To get that number, it took the square root of 26, then multiplied that by $1 billion.

The company has been under pressure to return some of its huge cash hoard to shareholders, so the most-recent math games have focused on buybacks. But its been obsessed by large numbers since inception in the late 1990s.

The name Google is a play on googol, which is the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros. When it first filed to go public, it said it planned to raise $2,718,281,828, a billion times the value of “e.”Nearly a year later, it said it was going to sell 14,159,265 shares of stock.

Those are the numbers that follow the decimal in pi. And when the company tried to buy Nortel Network patents, one of its bids was actually pi around $3.14 billion. Its other bids were plays on numbers, too. Google lost the bid.

This article originally published at Bloomberg here

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Googles Real-Time Map of Voter Issues Is Totally Captivating

News junkies will find no shortage of live election coverage on the internet today, but if you’re craving something to distract you from the live blogs and the hot takes, do yourself a favor and check out the this real-time visualization of the issues voters are Googling in cities across America.

Created in collaboration with design studio Pitch Interactive, the map uses real-time data from Google Trends and historical search queries to identify up-to-the-minute interest in what Google says are the five most relevant voting issues: problems with voting machines, long wait times, information on inactive voter and provisional ballot status, and voter intimidation at polling sites. The map distills hundreds of keywords related to these issues into color-coded blips. The bigger the blip, the bigger the gap between national search frequency and the search frequency within the indicated city. (To even register on the map, there needs to be at least twice as much interest locally as there is nationally.) Click on individual issues to turn them on or off. The ticker at the bottom of the screen displays sudden spikes in search interest from around the country.

Put it all together and you have one captivating data visualization. “When it comes to this kind of tool, you have to give people something they understand and want to play with, otherwise it’s not going to tell a story or communicate anything,” says Google News Lab data editor Simon Rogers.

The map also provides a fascinating glimpse at America’s electoral process in action. This year, ProPublica teamed up with Google and hundreds of news organizations to launch a project called Electionland. Its mission: to monitor and report on voting issues across the US. This map is an essential—if experimental—part of that mission.

“This is the first time Google Trends data has been made available in real time during a US election, and it’s really interesting stuff,” Rogers says. For instance: According to the map, the greatest number of searches related to broken voting machines have originated in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, while search interest in lines peaked in Georgia at 7am, shortly after polls opened.

It’s important to remember that these are just signals—the fact that lots of folks in Anytown, USA are Googling about broken voting machines does not mean that voting machines in Anytown are, in fact, broken. But these signals can serve as early leads, or as ballast for developing stories. “We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible,” Rogers says. “We’re showing that this data is something that can be used to complement news in a way that wasn’t possible in the past.” To that end, Rogers says there’s a good chance his team will publish data from the trends map on its GitHub account after the election. We hope they do. A good test of the map’s utility would be to go back, after the election, and cross reference the trends data with confirmed reports from election day.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For now, sit back and enjoy obsessing over this map. Polls are only open for a few more hours.

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Google’s search definition for ‘hero’ could use a gender-powered update

Image: Press Association via AP Images

Halloween season is upon us, and everyone is dressing up as their favorite monster, sexy plumber and, of course, comic book hero. But if you take a quick look at Google’s definition of “hero,” you might be surprised that, in 2016, it still defines a hero as a man.

I stumbled upon this while looking for cool comic book hero costume images. Here’s the definition Google returned when I typed the word in on Saturday:

“a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

That’s right. In 2016, in a time when we have our first woman presidential candidate running in the U.S., and big budget films are being devoted to comic book heroes like Wonder Woman and a female Captain Marvel, and Iron Man and Thor have become women in print, the word hero is still, somehow, just for men.

Image: google search

And yes, I know the word “heroine” exists. But when was the last time you heard a courageous woman in fiction or real life referred as a “heroine”? I regularly call my mother and my grandmother heroes heroine never crossed my mind.

Just last year, women in the Army and Marines were finally allowed to serve in front line combat posts. And after they do, they’ll likely be called heroes, not heroines.

Nope. They’re “heroes,” just like us dudes. Disagree? Well, the online versions of the Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries get it right.

Hero: A person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.

Hero: A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

(In a later entry, Oxford does describe hero as “the chief male character,” but, again, that’s not the first definition you see.)

Some of this is definitely down to real world usage trends versus traditional written definitions. But if we can add words like “selfie” and “twerk” to official dictionaries, an adjustment to such a powerful word like “hero” on Google shouldn’t be a problem.

Google’s sourcing for this dictionary info has changed over the years, so it’s not clear where it’s getting its current definitions. (Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.) But the good news is, if you think the definition of “hero” should include women in Google’s definition, you can leave feedback related to the definition via a link right below the box.

Google is still an incredible search engine, and the detailed definition feature is one of my favorite tools. It just needs a tweak now and then. #DefineHero

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‘Who is Taylor Swift voting for?’ is one of the election’s top Google searches

Image: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Taylor Swift, who once said that voting makes her feel, so completely American,” must have felt pretty American today!

The pop star definitely voted for one of the candidates running for president or possibly wrote in Taylor Swift in that blank space even though she’s about a decade too young for eligibility but we have no idea who she cast her ballot for. And we, the people, cannot shake it off.

According to Google Trends, Swift’s ballot was a hot search on this election day ahead of anyone who actually has anything to do with politics.

“I follow it, and I try to keep myself as educated and informed as possible. But I dont talk about politics because it might influence other people,” Swift told Time back in 2012. “And I dont think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.”

Although Swift has budged on some of her previous views, including publicly embracing feminism, she didn’t endorse a candidate during this election.

Some people are really mad that Swift has declined to become a political figure, accusing Swift of squandering her influence in order to remain friendly to as many markets as possible.

Others believe she’s keeping quiet because she’s a Trump supporter, citing a few reasons Swift might not be with her. Many of Tay’s known enemies (Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, etc.) are Clinton supporters. Tay’s bestie, Karlie Kloss, would be Ivanka Trump’s sister-in-law if she ever marries her longtime boyfriend, Joshua Kushner. Swift’s dad was a Wall Street dude before the family relocated to Nashville.

It’s a lot of baseless speculation, which, of course, is the internet’s specialty.

What we do know is that Swift voted for the next president of the United States of America bright and early this morning.

Today is the day. Go out and VOTE

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Swift posted the Instagram at 8:01 a.m. PST, meaning she likely voted in California, the location of one of her residences, even though she went to jury duty in Nashville earlier this year.

Considering that she was in NYC last night throwing a birthday party for Lorde amongst Clinton supporters like Lena Dunham, Mae Whitman and Aziz Ansari, she likely got on her private jet first thing in the morning to participate in democracy.

Since everything Swift does is intentional, we must look at clues wherever we can find them.

From the image, we can see that Swift is standing by a man in a blue shirt. Is he a Democrat? Or, like all men, does he just have a closet stocked with several light blue button down shirts that have no discernible differences?

Swift opted to wear a cold shoulder style shirt, which could be a sly nod to Clinton that may have been inspired by Dunham.

Can this broken nation heal itself without a confirmation of all of our pop stars’ political leanings? We may have to.

Bonus: Doug the Pug Recreates Taylor Swift Instagrams

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