Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Oh, Ngrams

Nobody knows what the hell "anthropogenic" means,
but "global warming" is def out of style
try Ngrams 

Public acceptance of climate change affected by word usage
Jan 2013

Public acceptance of climate change's reality may have been influenced by the rate at which words moved from scientific journals into the mainstream, according to anthropologist Michael O'Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. A recent study of word usage in popular literature by O'Brien and his colleagues documented how the usage of certain words related to climate change has risen and fallen over the past two centuries. Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public.

"Journalists must explain scientific terms in ways people can understand and thereby ease the movement of those terms into general speech. That can be a slow process. Several words related to climate change diffused into the popular vocabulary over a 30-50 year timeline."

O'Brien's study found that, by 2008, several important terms in the discussion of climate change had entered popular literature from technical obscurity in the early 1900s. These terms included: Biodiversity – the degree of variation in life forms within a given area Holocene – the current era of the Earth's history, which started at the end of the last ice age Paleoclimate –the prehistoric climate, often deduced from ice cores, tree rings and pollen trapped in sediments Phenology – the study of how climate and other environmental factors influence the timing of events in organisms' life cycles. Not every term was adopted at the same rate or achieved the same degree of popularity. Biodiversity, for example, came into popular use quickly in only a few years in the late 80s and early 90s. Other terms, like Holocene or phenology  have taken decades and are still relatively uncommon.
University of Missouri

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