It’s Language–and SCIENCE!

Is there anything about Google’s new Ngram Viewer that isn’t addictively cool? You can debate the merits of the Google Books project vis a vis their “Don’t Be Evil” slogan, but this byproduct of the project appeals to the lit/sci wonk in all of us (or at least, in all of me). Presented for your amusement:

Fantasy vs. Science Fiction

Cyberpunk vs. Steampunk

Reader vs. Critic

Scientist vs. Engineer

Actually, I’m surprised that engineers consistently lead scientists–and also that the concept of  ‘a scientist’ appears to be so recent.

What have you discovered using the Ngram Viewer tool? Are there any particular graphs you’d like to see here?

3 thoughts on “It’s Language–and SCIENCE!

  • January 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I have avoided Google Books since they seem to be a “read online” place instead of a “download an ebook”, so I wasn’t aware of Ngram until I saw your post. I don’t understand what parameters are being graphed. Take the Scientist vs Engineer plot: is that plotting the number of books each term appears in, per year? Or number of times each term appears?

  • January 6, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Google looks at all the words it has digitized as part of the project, and then calculates the percentage of all those words that match the search term. So in the Scientist vs. Engineer plot, ‘Engineer’ tops out at 0.002% of all words in the database for 1915. ‘Scientist’ appears to top out at around 0.00125% in 1965 or so.

  • January 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    That makes sense. I used the terms rocket and robot and got interesting peaks for each.


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