What’s your impact? Checking out Google’s Books Ngram Viewer

Look what Google have done now – they’ve only graced us with a significant new resource… and a spectacular new displacement activity!  Google’s Books Ngram Viewer shows the percentage of books a word or phrase has appeared in, by year:


You can choose your language (including US or UK British).  Sometimes data prior to 1800 is shown.

How is your subject?

I was proud to be an AI’er there (to the extent that I am), but here:

…I decide I’m even more proud to be a psychologist!  (I’ve arranged the names so the lowest at 2008 is the earliest in the list, and so on; it doesn’t happen automatically.)

It’s only recently I’ve begun to realise how big the psychology octopus has become.  And it’s only now I realise the AI bubble has burst!  It’s astonishing that even a couple of years ago electronic engineering should only register as a fraction of operations research.

Surely simple chemical elements couldn’t go up and down in fashion could they?

Down at the bottom we see sulphur with ph will soon re-overtake sulfur!  Goodee 🙂 .  The concentration on carbon footprints and carbon-based fuels of the last decade or so seems to be being counteracted by some unknown dark cloud pushing it out of our… thoughts.  Also unexplained is its rocketing at the start of the 20th century, and the 1930 dip in everything.  Was the latter was due to economic depression?  It shouldn’t have ameliorated suddenly in 1930 though.  And why wasn’t sulfur with an f affected?  If the USA didn’t suffer, what caused the dip in the rest of the chemical contingent?

Who then is the top scientist?

Although Darwin is taken as the standard for fame calculations, they say Bertrand Russell in fact has a 50% greater fame impact by this metric over the last century or so.  (NB: top thinker is a philosopher!)

Chomsky is said to be the most cited scientist, presumably helped by being not just in psychology and a monster in the surprisingly significant linguistics as well as the non-science stuff.  (NB: like Russell, a peace activist.)  Presumably Stephen Hawking is the best known physicist alive today – perhaps the best known scientist.  Herbert Simon seems to be the biggest AI name.  He did get the Nobel prize in economics in 1978, which, by the unsmoothed graph…

…does appear to have helped, but he would have been ahead without it.  Names like John McCarthy (and mine 🙂 ) are perhaps unsuitable for searching with this tool.

How about some ‘evolutionists’?

Greg Paul also registers separately as Gregory Paul but I think he also gains a few spurious entries from others with the same name so just the Greg is probably about fair.  Interesting that Bakker and Norell seem to be so well connected.

Darren Naish, Tom Holtz, Aaron Filler, Marc Verhaegen and George Olshevsky don’t trouble the chart, though you do need quite a few books to mention you before Google bothers.  Nor even does Zhonghe Zhou (in either order), despite heading the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, even though Xu Xing is right up there. The latter has of course named a waggonload of dinos.  Larry Martin I think might be too common a name for a meaningful result, but Elaine Morgan’s curve does look like it belongs to her.

Some top philosophers of science:

…and some others:

And finally, some pop etc. musicians, and I become an arts commentator:

The curves of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon show considerable post-mortem vigour, and presumably Michael Jackson will be top in a few years.  Despite his common name, Michael Jackson’s curve looks believable.

I didn’t include George Harrison who closely parallels Paul McCartney.  John Lennon allows comparison here.

Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell act as the links with an earlier chart.  It’s easy to estimate how much of Iron Maiden is not the group, but the group is still much higher profile than Brucie [D].  (Iron Maiden is the highest in the world in something – I think it’s T-shirts or some such.)  But the Pretenders, once Bonnie Prince Charlie et. al are subtracted, probably are lower than Chrissie Hynde.

That’s enough cultural insight for today 🙂 .

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