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NGram: Cool New Tool to Track Trends

Rex

Wow! is this cool.

Google has released a cool new tool for looking at trends in society (profiled in the New York Times here). Not perfect as it only counts words in books, and only from books that Google has scanned as part of their cultural hegemony project.

But, it is a cool tool to get a sense of what’s being written about in the English speaking world. I tried NGram to compare the frequency of three words I follow closely: bicycles, automobiles and traffic. Check this out:

Full size and readable version here

Bicycles first show up in the 1890s, then are overtaken hugely by mentions of the automobile which peaks, surprisingly to me, in 1940 , maybe something to do with WWII, and then drops rapidly while bicycles slowly rise.

Now for traffic. Not all traffic is cars. There is traffic in drugs, in slaves, in a host of things. It would be fun to parse this out. Is the huge number of mentions of traffic in books due to the takeover of our cities by cars or it is something else?

What can you find out? Have fun!

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Why Getting to 2100? The next century will be a test: can humans use their intelligence and foresight to successfully transition from our consumption-fueled economy to one that balances the needs of humans with the Earth’s available resources. Getting to 2100 aims to be a forum for sharing of good ideas and good works. Got a good example or a new idea? Share it with the world!

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