The Nuclear Century in Google NGrams

The 20th century was, in many ways, the nuclear century. In the span of 100 years, we modeled and split the atom, created nuclear weapons and converted big chunks of the power grid to run on electricity generated by atomic reactors.

Along the way, old hopes and fears about human power were given new forms and clothing. As with other technologies like steam engines ("get up a head of steam"), the technical language of the nuclear industry began to pervade common language (a child's "meltdown").

With the world's eyes focused on Japan's reactors and wondering what the trouble there will mean for the future of nuclear power, I thought I'd use Google's NGram viewer, which looks at the frequency that words appear in a massive corpus of books, to look at our relationship with the atom over time. This gallery shows you what I found.

Presented by

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Technology

Just In