Have you played with Google Labs’ NGram Viewer? It’s an addicting tool that lets you search for words and ideas in a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how it works, and a few of the surprising things we can learn from 500 billion words.
Jean-Baptiste Michel holds joint academic appointments at Harvard (FQEB Fellow) and Google (Visiting Faculty). His research focusses on using large volumes of data as tools that help better understand the world around us — from the way diseases progress in patients over years, to the way cultures change in human societies over centuries. With his colleague Erez Lieberman Aiden, Jean-Baptiste is a Founding Director of Harvard’s Cultural Observatory, where their research team pioneers the use of quantitative methods for the study of human culture, language and history. His research was featured on the covers of Science and Nature, on the front pages of the New York Times and the Boston Globe, in The Economist, Wired and many other venues. The online tool he helped create — ngrams.googlelabs.com — was used millions of times to browse cultural trends. Jean-Baptiste is an Engineer from Ecole Polytechnique (Paris), and holds an MS in Applied Mathematics and a PhD in Systems Biology from Harvard.
Erez Lieberman Aiden is a fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and Visiting Faculty at Google. His research spans many disciplines and has won numerous awards, including recognition for one of the top 20 “Biotech Breakthroughs that will Change Medicine”, by Popular Mechanics; the Lemelson-MIT prize for the best student inventor at MIT; the American Physical Society’s Award for the Best Doctoral Dissertation in Biological Physics; and membership in Technology Review‘s 2009 TR35, recognizing the top 35 innovators under 35. His last three papers — two with Jean-Baptiste Michel — have all appeared on the cover of Nature and Science.