B – Ngram, mapping the language of science

Perkowitz S. Mapping the language of science. Physics World October 2011

This article describes Ngram, a free search tool for the written word. Its database contains 500 billion words in 8 languages, taken from the 5 million books that Google has scanned into digital form. Ngram can plot a word incidence as a percentage of all works used over time period between 1500 and 2008. It finds when words like “science”, “technology”, “mathematics” and so on first appeared, and also how other terms rose in usage and then fell again. It can also display the surrounding text or point to the book containing the word. It is particularly amusing when it reveals connections between real science and the speculative or junk variety.

Thanks to John Glen.