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The mathematics of history - Jean-Baptiste Michel


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TED Talk

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What can mathematics say about history? According to TED Fellow Jean-Baptiste Michel, quite a lot. From changes to language to the deadliness of wars, he shows how digitized history is just starting to reveal deep underlying patterns.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

The difference between linear and logarithmic scales can be hard to wrap your head around. Check out this video for a more visual explanation. Exponential increase can get pretty philosophical according to the sustainability principle. Jean-Baptiste Michel explains that we can mathematically analyze history to discover trends and even predict future developments. Professors Joshua S. Goldstein and Steven Pinker analyze historical trends and conclude that war is becoming passé. In his TED Talk, The surprising decline of violence, Steven Pinker charts the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present and argues that we are actually living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence. Can math tell us about death? NPR’s Robert Krulwich writes about physicist Geoffrey West’s research on using nature’s patterns to predict death of species. Jean-Baptiste Michel’s research focuses on using data to better understand our history and culture. He helped develop the Ngram viewer, an interactive tool that displays a graphs showing how specific phrases have occurred in a corpus of books over a selected time span. With this cool Google tool, you can enter in different words or expressions and visually understand trends in their usage.

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