This is provocative: according to Scientific American, in this brief post, researchers at Harvard, Google, and various dictionaries are using a database of millions of books to assess English culture over time.

The study (which I can’t get access to yet, but which may be found here for those with rights to access) is evaluating about 500 billion words from approximately 5.2 million books — apparently (according to SciAm) about four percent of all books ever published.

I will seek access to this study, to look at its methodology and research directions. Until I do, I leave you with this quirky nugget from the SciAm article.  According to the data thus far analyzed,

[A]ctors become famous around age 30, writers around 40, and politicians around 50. But the fame of politicians can eventually exceed that of actors.

So what about this project? Is it fair to say that what has been published in books accurately, on the whole, measures a society’s “culture”? Give me your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or (if you see me around) in person.