The Sciences

I've got your missing links right here (n-grams edition)

Not Exactly Rocket ScienceBy Ed YongDec 18, 2010 5:00 PM


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Top ten picks I wrote about a paper analysing some 500 billion words from 5 million words scanned into Google Books. As part of the study, the authors worked with Google to create an real-time browser that could search the publicly available database, and the Ngram Viewer was born. This rapidly blossomed into a game to find the most insightful or amusing “ngrams” ("n-gram" means a set of words where n is the number of words; “apple” is a 1-gram, while “never gonna give you up” is a 5-gram). Here’s a short FAQ from me on common problems encountered with the search, and some of my favourites:

This is amazing. A doctor manages to get a hoax "buttock cupping" talk into a complementary and alternative medicine conference. The conference organisers, becoming the butt of his joke, end up looking like asses. I’ll stop now. How do you identify a shark on a biting rampage? Slate has the answer. "The Return of Count Spirochete" It's an educational cartoon about syphilis. No, really. Jess Palmer has the find of the week. Knackered bees waggle badly. The paper I wish I’d written this week but didn’t have time to. It involves a machine called the inseminator. Surprising no-one, a FOX “News” boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science. Charlie Petit has a measured analysis of the leak. FOX have no comment. Here’s probably the worst job in the world. I’d apply but first, I have to put a campfire out with my face. I wonder if the previous position-holder is just lying in a ditch somewhere, crying in a foetal position. And interesting, is it not, that no science qualification is required? An invisibility cloak that hides objects a few mm tall. Now all we need is a shrink ray. But wait, Joerg Herber cautions against hypeSo you want to be a journalist? Hilarious primer for students. Health scare! Mobile phone masts linked to sharp rise in birth rates. A salutary lesson in stats with Matt Parker More after the jump...

News/writing/science “Blood spatter suggests that forensic research was hit in the back with an axe” Child clones shape-shift to escape hunters. Algae led the way on the day that life almost died. More from Katherine Harmon on the antibiotic resistance gene NDM-1, or why we're all going to die. Do we now have a “cure” for HIV? Not so fast – read this Nature News Q&A on the same trial from a few years ago. Cancun climate talks: important, but very very dull. David Biello wrings out the story. "Fear of one's own glance" - a Japanese diagnosis where people believe their glances hold offensive powers Peru’s Ocucaje Desert: a boon to fossil hunters, a magnet for smugglers That's no moon, those are Saturn's rings. “The rings are the leftovers of a large moon that was torn asunder when Saturn’s gravity reeled it in four and a half billion years ago” Jonah Lehrer’s article on The Decline Effect has drawn many responses, including from Steven Novella, Orac and Jerry Coyne. Jonah takes the criticism with grace. A great New Scientist feature on animals that can tap solar power & how we're learning how to make more Chronic Lyme and the dangers of writing about medical manufactroversies Women are underrepresented as movie leads but they also make up just 17% of "in crowd scenes and group scenes” Brian Switek takes a look at spinosaurs - some of the most enigmatic dinosaurs so far discovered Pug-nosed crocodile lived the life of an armadillo. Ancient crocodiles are brilliant. “We believe we've got more free will than the other guy,” says SciCurious, but that’s just what I wanted her to think. Fighter pilots' white matter are writing cheques their bodies can't cash. Or something. King Henri IV's mummified head identified 400 years after assassination The chronic fatigue syndrome-XMRV controversy has implications for blood donations US President's Bioethics Commission gives green light to synthetic biology, calling for "ongoing system of prudent vigilance" What happens in the brain of musicians when they do an improvisational solo? This awesome SEED piece finds out. Huh/wow/heh NCBI ROFL outdoes itself with the headline: Beer batter begets better bar bites You cannot possiblycare about impact factors this much. Do you think there was a party? Scientists prove that you look shit when you don't sleep for 31 hours. I love the BMJ’s Christmas special. A flooded Tube map of London in 2100. So if we speed up climate change, we can drown Leicester Square? XKCD on relationships and data and Wikileaks. Both instant classics. A top ten of last decade's newly-discovered species "Allow only orphans to enroll at universities." The stunning conclusion of a breakthrough study on the Dead Grandmother Effect A fly that reproduces only in the stomachs of rhinos2,400-year-old pot of soup found in China. Somewhere, a student thinks, “It’s still good...” A list of undeveloped but highly rated Hollywood scripts. Think an ant is an ant? Then Alex Wild would like to show you his "tiger". "I will design a poster a day for 365 days in reaction to a headline on the BBC." Journalism/internet/blogging A silly report on an unpublished study. I’m linking to this because it’s interesting that we have (allegedly) a study participant actually slating the study’s methods in the comments of a report! I’m surprised this sort of thing doesn't happen more. "The finding is not novel and the solution induces despair.” A selection of superbly catty (and some positive) peer-review comments from Environmental Microbiology. The Knight Science Journalism Tracker slams the worst kind of he-said-she-said reporting about the Haiti cholera epidemic (the kind where there's not even a she-said) Martin Robbins discusses the sinister threat to our language and brains. OMG. WTF? Innit. Wikileaks defectors to launch Openleaks alternative. The founder’s parting shot to Assange is interesting. A great post from Hannah Waters on “purpose-based science”. Now, the indefinite embargo. Endless forms more bizarre. WordLens: translating text in augmented reality. The future is here

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