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College of Arts and Sciences Algorithms

Dr. Universe: What’s the best story ever made?

Dr. Universe: a cat in a lab coatHumans have been telling stories for thousands of years. At first, they told these stories out loud, then they started to write.

There are more than a hundred million published books on our planet now and to find out which one is best, I visited my friend Matthew Jockers. He’s a professor at Washington State University who combines his love of stories with computer science to research what makes some books bestsellers. » More …

Data analysis, text mining drives literary research

outdoor portraitEnglish major Matthew Jockers wasn’t always a computer whiz. The new dean of the WSU College of Arts and Sciences recalls a class in high school in which he struggled to program a mainframe to print out his name. “It was that tricky,” he says.

A love of reading, writing, and literature led him to become a very good coder indeed. Jockers is an expert in R, a programming language he uses to write the pattern-detecting algorithms at the heart of his research. Jockers uses it to analyze texts—lots and lots of text. One wag wrote that Jockers may be the only literature professor to assign 1,200 novels in a single class. » More …