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Google’s “knowledge panels” materialize at random, as unsourced and absolute as if handed down by God:


Betty White is 94 years old.

The Honda Civic is 2016’s best car.

Taipei is the capital of — ahem — the “small island nation” of Taiwan.

If you’ve ever Googled a person, place or thing — which, survey suggests, you almost definitely have — then you’ve encountered these aggressive, bold-faced modules, one of Google’s many bids for your fleeting attention. Since their quiet, casual introduction in 2012, knowledge panels and other sorts of “rich answers” have mushroomed across Google, appearing atop the results on roughly one-third of its 100 billion monthly searches, not only in response to simple, numerical queries like “Betty White age,” but also to more complex, nuanced questions like “capital of Israel” or “D.C.’s best restaurant.”