The Decline of Man (as a Word)

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Allow me to introduce you to a most excellent time-wasting tool. It's called the Books Ngram Viewer, and it allows you to track the plot of words and phrases through time. The service draws on the absolutely massive Google Books corpus. Google estimates they've scanned and OCR'd more than 10 percent of all the books ever published, and they use (as Ed Yong pointed out in the comments) about a third of the total books in the tool. So, perhaps this isn't a perfect tool for research, but man is it fun to play with.

Thanks to Tim Maly for pointing it out to me and generating what must be the most poignant word graph ever made.

If you come up with other great combinations (like dude vs bro or eat, pray, love), post them in the comments or email me and we'll collect them up for your enjoyment.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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