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Cells! – Playing with Wordle

by Eva Amsen

Wordle is a site that lets you make word clouds out of a bunch of text. I entered the full text of my one finished thesis chapter and this is what came out of it:

cells in wordle
It’s so pretty! And it actually kind of conveys what I wanted to say.
The second-largest word is the topic of the chapter. I didn’t quite realize how often I used the word “cells”, but I guess half of those are in the methods section.
I’m especially thrilled that it keeps the greek lettering (see the delta in the top left corner).
(Wordle link through Accordion Guy)


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Anna Kushnir June 17, 2008 - 1:27 PM

Science is so funny. Half of those aren’t even real words. Not in English, anyway.
Congratulations on finishing a chapter! It’s all downhill now.

Henry Gee June 17, 2008 - 2:20 PM

Fascinating – and could even be a useful tool for textual analysis. I fed the first two volumes of my ongoing SF trilogy into Wordle, and despite the fact that they contain more than 90,000 wordfs each, the results came back ins econds. “Volume one”:http://www.chiswick.demon.co.uk/Siege.doc looks like “this”:http://wordle.net/gallery/Untitled_0027 and “volume 2”:http://www.chiswick.demon.co.uk/Scourge.doc looks like “this”:http://wordle.net/gallery/Untitled_0028. What can one learn from this? First, that the names of one’s characters are very important, and that I seem to have a fixation with eyes. And there was I, thinking that my fixation was with other body parts, but, well, there it is.

Eva Amsen June 17, 2008 - 2:44 PM

Well, you seem to have pretty much _all_ body parts in that first one.

Henry Gee June 17, 2008 - 3:16 PM

If you look closely, I think you’ll find I missed _Crypts of Lieberkuhn_, _fenestra ovalis_ and _spleen_.

Brian Clegg June 17, 2008 - 4:27 PM

Love it! Here’s the book I’ve just finished writing – no prizes for guessing the general theme here:
_Hosted by_ “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/brianclegg/2586931615

Brian Clegg June 17, 2008 - 4:28 PM

Just noticed – it can’t cope with apostrophes (must be written by a greengrocer) hence the ‘isn’ and the ‘doesn’

Heather Etchevers June 17, 2008 - 5:08 PM

Thanks! What a fun link!

Bob O'Hara June 17, 2008 - 5:37 PM

Henry – Jack (the Beast) is delighted. He hadn’t realise you had written a novel about him.
That’s a much nicer tag cloud than “the one I used earlier”:http://network.nature.com/blogs/user/boboh/2008/05/07/head-in-the-tagclouds – if I get time, I’ll convert all my papers to tag clouds with this.

Henry Gee June 17, 2008 - 8:53 PM

Here is the “Wordle cloud”:http://wordle.net/gallery/rage_of_stars to vol 3 of the SF epic (not quite ready to post yet) — once again, character names come to the fore. I wonder if that’s true for fictiopn in general?
@Bob – please give my best regards to the Beast. But delicately, mind. I wouldn’t want Heidi to get jealous.
@Brian – the apostrophe thing varies. Sometimes it catches them, at other times it doesn’

Cath Ennis June 17, 2008 - 8:55 PM

OOh, it suddenly got all busy on Nature Network comments. Anything to do with the football match that just ended?

Brian Clegg June 18, 2008 - 7:44 AM

Henry – I’ve had a quick email exchange with Wordle’s creator (yes, I’m the sort of nerd who reports bugs). It could handle ‘standard’ quotes, but not smart quotes (i.e. the ones at an angle/curvy rather than a standard open/close quote). He has now fixed it.

Bob O'Hara June 18, 2008 - 7:55 AM

bq. Here is the Wordle cloud to vol 3 of the SF epic

Henry Gee June 18, 2008 - 8:33 AM

Ooh, this is fun. “Here is the cloud”:http://wordle.net/gallery/By_The_Sea for a novel I wrote called _By The Sea_, which Jenny kindly hosted on “LabLit”:http://www.lablit.com/series/4 last year. Once again, the names of the main characters are the most prominent.
@ Brian – hooray for nerds, I say. I can’t work out how you post the clouds here, whereas I must resort to linking to them (something to do with _flickr_, which I always thought was a term from physical geography that meant a periglacial feature in Iceland).
@ Bob – Dogfinger. He’s the great Palaeolithic Hero, a kind of cross between Good Ol’ Charlie Brown and Conan the Barbarian.

Richard P. Grant June 18, 2008 - 8:37 AM

Y’know, I’ve learned far too much about the McGee psyche already.

Henry Gee June 18, 2008 - 8:48 AM

Sheepwool is the hard-bitten detective heroine of _By The Sea_. I cannot take responsibility for inventing her name – it was created in the wonderfully imaginative and mildly aspergic mind of Gee Minor, verily, the same one responsible for that astringent concept, the “Unicycling Girrafe”:http://network.nature.com/blogs/user/henrygee/2007/10/23/no-girrafes-on-unicycles-beyond-this-point. She also came up with the name for a locale featured in the book, a pub called the _Dazed Haddock_ .

Richard P. Grant June 18, 2008 - 8:56 AM
Henry Gee June 18, 2008 - 10:30 AM

It’s very _small_, Richard.

Richard P. Grant June 18, 2008 - 11:22 AM

Proteins are, usually.

Brian Clegg June 18, 2008 - 11:57 AM

Henry –
I’m doing a screen capture from Wordle and saving as a jpeg, which I’m then hosting on Flickr (“www.flickr.com”:http://www.flickr.com) which is a free online photo hosting service, as NN can’t cope with its own pictures. (Aw, poor ickle thing.)
Here’s another of my books, Light Years:
(Or see in more detail at “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/brianclegg/2590080618/)

Henry Gee June 18, 2008 - 12:23 PM

Thanks, Brian. Screen capture. That’s the bit I hadn’t thought of. Sometimes genius resides in those little things that most of us take for granted.

Stephen Curry June 18, 2008 - 2:02 PM

What a funky tool and very easy to use – thanks for pointing it out Eva! I have used it already to dress up the “publications page”:http://www.bio.ph.ic.ac.uk/~scurry/SC_pubs.html on my web-site.

Eva Amsen June 18, 2008 - 5:01 PM

Stephen, that’s a great idea!

Heather Etchevers June 19, 2008 - 8:24 AM

Indeed, Stephen; I did the same. But I’ll point over to “my blog”:http://humans.scienceboard.net instead, because that’s what I plugged in (easiest). I’ll definitely give it a try for the next article, though; it should bring out over-abused words very nicely.

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