A single person, or indeed a team of people, can read only so many books. Large-scale number-crunching seemed an impossible task. Now, though, Jean-Baptiste Michel, of Harvard University, and his colleagues have used Google Books to do just that. They report their first results in this week’s Science. Dr Michel and his team hope that their approach will spur a more rigorous, quantitative approach to the study of human culture. In fact, their paper doubles as a manifesto for a new discipline. They dub it “culturomics”, making them the first clutch of culturomists. More are sure to follow—whether or not this particular, clunking neologism survives.
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