Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Sticklers

Well, Sunday again, another week in the books. I managed to doing something like a dozen loads of laundry. So, damn. Also managed to get my novelette up for Nook,and on Goodreads. Although I don't know what happened at Goodreads, I thought I was putting up a sample and then it said it was on sale for for $.99. Um, okay.

Watched a bit of TV with the missus, read for just a bit. All in all I think I've been pretty productive. Still may go to the movies too, maybe. We'll see.

Anyhow, the real thing that made me want to post something today is that I was posting a comment over on Andrew's post about Captain America (see here) and why a single anachronism from that movie bugged me so much. Now, I won't rehash my convoluted thinking again here, but it took me on an interesting diversion for a few minutes this morning.

I made mention that the genetic code was unheard of during WWII and then thought, was it? I mean, the concept of genes had been around for a while, the whole Eugenics movement started back in the late 19th century for crying out loud. Was the term really anachronistic, or has the meaning just changed with it's usage over time.

So, off to check Google.

I'm sure everyone has played around with Google's ngram tool, which is awesome. In case you haven't, the short version is that it lets you search every book Google has scanned as part of it's enormous digital library and look for trends.

I tend to use it in the simplest possible way, typing in a word and seeing when it begins to appear in the literature. As you can see below, when I typed in Genetic Code we can see that it came out of nowhere in the late fifties and exploded in usage up through the mid seventies. All part of the revolution in biology that followed Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA in, oh damn, I should look this up, Google is still open in another window... I won't do it... I say, 1953*.

Except for that one little blip in time, from around 1900 - 1910. What was going on there?


Well, part of the power of this tool is that it lets me see the results. So I just refined my search to show me every mention that they had between 1880 and 1910. Genetic code was mentioned 13 times during that period according to the data compiled by Google**. And I could look at all of it, well, most of it anyway.

What did I find? Around 13 instances of books that were mis-labeled, I suspect all should have begun with 20 instead of 19, they're just data errors.  Anyway, the things one learns while doing laundry.

Happy day people.

*I'll be damned, I was right. I swear I didn't look it up until after I posted this.
**Google says they normalize the data, and that you won't even see a blip on the graph unless it's been used at least 40 times in a given year. I don't know what that means when it comes to the search results. All I know is I got 13 hits. I'm doing this on a whim, not as a science project..

7 comments:

Rogue Mutt said...

I wondered that too when I saw the movie but didn't think to check it out.

I used Smashwords for my eBook, which puts it on Nook, Apple, Amazon and so forth, though not Goodreads I don't think.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Didn't even think about the DNA thing...
Finished your book last night, so review will accompany the announcement tomorrow.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never heard of Ngram before (off to check it out!) but it sounds like a handy resource.

Interesting results!

Michael Offutt said...

Interesting analysis. Laundry you are such a task master.

Trisha said...

Okay, I've never heard of ngram before this...sounds fascinating!!

Libby said...

I like how easy it is to get obsessed with little things. I do that as well. And congrats on publishing the novelette!

Andrew said...

I would guess one of two things: 1. Because that is such a part of our language, they'd didn't think anyone would notice. 2. Because that is such a part of our language, they didn't notice. Probably didn't even occur to them. However, and not to defend the writers, that's the job of the editor to catch.

I do have to say, though, that that didn't even register to me during the movie.

Thanks for the linky! Again :)