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This is an entry into the 16th Fortnightly Challenge -

I was using a colleague's computer the other day, and he had some ... unusual terms in his search history.

No, not that way. Just ... well, see for yourself:

total number of dead people

extra ear mutation

average number of cloudy days

exorcist scene rotating

child slavery laws

mt everest erosion

howitzer firing rate

pigeon water migration

average walking speed

Frankly, I have no idea what kind of questions he was trying to answer with those searches, and at this point I'm afraid to ask. In fact, I'm not even sure that what he was searching would answer his questions meaningfully. Can anyone work it out for me?

EDIT for HINT 1:

I think he's still pondering the same topic. I happened to see him start typing "did the rolling stones" into the search bar, but when he noticed me looking he switched to Google Maps where he plotted a route to his own house?

HINT 2:

At this point, I think he may just be going mad. I heard him talking to himself, saying "Seven? Eight? Forty-two?" over and over again.

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  • $\begingroup$ not sure what he's asking but what-if.xkcd.com may have the answer! $\endgroup$ – Jasen Sep 23 '16 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks to this puzzle, now my search history has these terms as well. :/ $\endgroup$ – Ankoganit Sep 23 '16 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Ankoganit. Ha Ha Rookie mistake. When searching the we for something related to a puzzle (not only this one), ALWAYS use incognito mode. The search may seam harmless in the context of a puzzle, but think about how it can look from "outside". You don't want Google recommending you machetes or barbed wire for the next month. $\endgroup$ – Marius Sep 23 '16 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ I will admit that I added a couple of these to my own search history in compiling the puzzle, too. $\endgroup$ – ConMan Sep 23 '16 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ It's nice—and too rare—when a puzzle is even cooler once the answer is revealed. Well done! $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Oct 5 '16 at 16:00
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He was trying to answer:

The questions in the song "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan.

total number of dead people

"how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died ?"

extra ear mutation

how many ears must one man have Before he can hear people cry ?

average number of cloudy days

how many times must a man look up Before he can see the sky ?

exorcist scene rotating

how many times can a man turn his head Pretending he just doesn't see ?

child slavery laws

how many years can some people exist Before they're allowed to be free ?

mt everest erosion

how many years can a mountain exist Before it's washed to the sea ?

howitzer firing rate

how many times must the cannon balls fly Before they're forever banned ?

pigeon water migration

How many seas must a white dove sail Before she sleeps in the sand ?

average walking speed

How many roads must a man walk down Before you call him a man ?

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  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely correct! The lyrics are in reverse order because typically search history lists the most recent search term first :) $\endgroup$ – ConMan Oct 2 '16 at 11:33
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A guess:

He was doing a "feasibility study" of some love song / poem?

Something along the lines of:

(hypothetical lyrics)

I'd climb the highest mountain
Face every bullet that comes my way
I'll fly across the seas
And keep walking till I find you
etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're on the right track. $\endgroup$ – ConMan Sep 27 '16 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ @ConMan: Ah-ha! But ... I don't know of a song that fits, and searching for lyrics with potentially matching words hasn't helped (other than making my search history look weird too). $\endgroup$ – KeyboardWielder Sep 27 '16 at 18:50

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