Although google.com can help you find popular pages, it really is not able to capture the most important memes that are floating around the net from moment to moment. Is such a goal even achievable? I'm not sure. But given the speed at which blogging moves, I have faith in a project put together by the folks at Daypop, called Word Bursts.
This tool attempts to "bubble-up" popular words and phrases that appear throughout blogdom over the past few days. A casual peek reveals some very strange results, such as the word "pans" (as in bread pans). But its ability to see the importance of a single the word is amazing. Take the word "Tristan", as in Tristan Taormino from the Village Voice, who wrote what is apparently a very popular story about recently deceased Great White guitarist Ty Longley. Word Bursts was able to quickly gather together the disparate posts concerning Tristan and his story. Very nice indeed.
If you're interested in this sort of technology, you may want to consider MIT's blogdex project, which gathers top web pages based upon weblog posts. Between these two sites and my NetNewsWire Lite collection of RSS feeds, I feel somewhat "up-to-date." But I'm curious to hear how you're using the Web (and perhaps blogs) to keep your finger on the pulse of goings on online and around the globe. Just send me a note on or simply post your favorite tools/techniques to Shop Talk.