A few math nerds from Harvard may change the way we study language…forever

By | December 17, 2010

In today’s New York Times, Patricia Cohen writes about a new data base developed by a team of mathematicians at Harvard and MIT that tracks the frequency of words in hundreds of thousands of texts published in the past 600 years. The article is called “In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture,” and explains how users are able to graph the rising and falling of single words or phrases.

 The database is able to identify linguistic trends, cultural phenomena and other facts worth knowing. The full paper will appear in Science this week, but seriously, who reads that? Apparently the database is not only useful for scholars, but has a simple interface, easy enough for a curious ten-year-old to navigate. With the age of ebooks destroying everything we know and love about books, it’s nice to finally hear that some good is coming out of digitizing the written word.

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With google and other search engines, card catoluges in libraries have become completely obsolete…until a few savvy Brooklyn interior designers decided they make wonderful additions to the modern home.

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