Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Geographical connection engine ...

I believe there are huge geographical databases already available to Google, or any search engine.

Let's call it a Map Rank, attached to a search rank, which would return a reasonable geographic approximation of text data.

Take, as an example, the search string "Nobel Prize Winners". Search through wikipedia, find all Nobel prize winners, rank them, find all places mentioned in the article, rank them by prominence in the article, and then draw balloons on the map. You'll get nice clustering, and snippets of text will appear when you click on the balloons, or when you zoom in close enough so that there are just a few.

Now, imagine multiplying this over dates. Dates are found in the articles, and become milestones along a timeline. Type in a time window, and a map is shown, with a slider on a time line -- only those nobel prize winners with dates within the slider window are shown.

Make some assumptions about time & space in an article: like "if a year and a place are mentioned in the same phrase, there's an association". Then you could show the movement of those nobel prize winners, according to the available information.

Open up other databases, for population, poverty, commerce ... add old phone books from around the world, and the currently digitizing research libraries, and you can find this "geographical connection engine" will tell you a lot about the real world you would not have easily guessed.

If you animate some of these searches, you can watch the ebb and flow of history. It will look very ... geological. And, OK, it might spawn a new kind of cliometric physics, somewhat reminiscent of Hegel ...