Damn that John Durant. Just as I was beginning to get a handle on all my tasks he comes up with something that’s just too fun not to play with.
It’s Google’s search engine for the millions of books they’ve digitized over the years. John explains.
Google has been digitizing books for years now, and a team of researchers just published some amazing findings based on the corpus so far — over 5 million books. That’s 4% of all books. Ever. Printed. You can read about the paper here. The full paper is easy to read, and incredible (free with registration). Google also released this tool to view the frequency of any n-gram since 1720. (An n-gram is a set of characters separated by a space. 1-gram = technology, 1942, R2D2; 2-gram = yellow fever, John Wayne. And so on.) I wish they had tools like this when I was writing history papers back in college.
Careful, ’cause it’s addicting. But you can essentially conduct your own mini studies for associations as much as you like. Here’s my stab: whole grains, saturated fat and obestity epidemic. You can click on it to see the larger version or, simply click here.
What I find particularly interesting is how both mentions of whole grains and saturated fat track in lockstep with one-another beginning in about 1970, and then you have mentions of the obesity epidemic taking off in 2000, 30 years later. Could that have anything to do with that 10 pounds per year gain (= 30 pounds and you’re obese)? I don’t know. Of course, this is only valuable for getting hints of what you might want to study further.
What would be interesting is to plug those same terms into a tool that does the same thing for all published research. Whaddya want to bet it looks about the same?
Alright, one more, for fun. How about Atkins diet vs. low fat?
Interesting how the Atkins diet came out right at the dip in low fat mentions. Not sure how to hypothesize an interpretation on that.
Alright, go have fun. If you find interesting associations, drop the link in comments here, at John’s or both.
(Can’t wait to see what Ned Kock come up with).