This week, Google went live with an experimental tool that allows people to explore various public data sets - from unemployment in the U.S. to education statistics in California. Of Google's new Public Data Explorer, the Los Angeles Times offered "Ho-hum Statistics Come Alive." But for people in state and local government who need these "ho-hum" statistics to figure out basic stuff like how much collectively states and localities raised in revenue during a down economy, this could become an incredibly valuable tool. While its data is still pretty limited - the project currently pulls from only 13 data sets - its potential is exciting. The new site takes public data and mashes it up into line and bar graphs, maps and bubble charts. According to a statistician for the project, the charts are dynamic too, "so you can watch them move over time, change topics, highlight different entries and change the scale." Plus, once a chart is created, it can easily be linked to or embedded on a Web site. To help prioritize which data sets to include as the project grows, Google statisticians analyzed anonymous search logs to find patterns in the kinds of searches people are doing. They put together a list of the 80 most popular data and statistics search topics, which include searches on school comparisons, unemployment, sales taxes and crime statistics in the top ten. (Photo: Google Public Data chart on U.S. unemployment)