Google’s ‘Talk to Books’ Search Engine Brings You Answers from over 100,000 Books

A quick Google search can bring you answers in a matter of moments. Need the recipe for a Shepard’s Pie? No problem. Want to know where the cheapest hotels are in Italy? Here’s a list. The internet has brought endless knowledge to our fingertips, and now a new search engine has been created which can help answer questions that don’t have a definitive answer.

During a TED talk yesterday. author and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil introduced a new search engine called ‘Talk to Books‘, a tool which scans over 100,000 volumes in Google Books and brings users insightful and interesting answers from relevant titles.

Questions can be as simple or as abstract as you like and always bring back a number of interesting and accurate responses. I decided to give the new search engine a go and came back with some very thoughtful answers.

Firstly, I asked “Do aliens exist?” I got many answers in return, including:

“Others, like cosmologist Frank Tipler (1981), are convinced that extraterrestrials do not exist because if they did they would be here by now. Given that there is nothing special about the timing of human evolution, it is fairly likely that if intelligent beings evolved elsewhere, at least half of them would ahead of us in biological evolution, which should put them far, far ahead of us scientifically and technologically, which means they would have found Earth by now.” – Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other … by Michael Shermer, Stephen Jay Gould.

Then I asked: “Why can’t I sleep?” and received an answer which read:

In cases of onset insomnia, a person will lie in bed for what seems to be a very long period but be unable to go to sleep. Stress and anxiety are frequent causes of this type of insomnia. Maintenance insomnia occurs when sleep is frequently interrupted or early waking occurs. From Discovering Psychology: The Science of Mind, Briefer Version by John Cacioppo, Laura Freberg

I decided it was time to throw the engine a real curve ball and so I asked the age old question: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” I was surprised to find even this conundrum was no match for Talk to Books.

“Just how much wood could a woodchuck chuck? I have no idea, but if the varmint had a Facebook account, we’d all know the answer.” from Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans, Susan Bratton.

As Quartz Media reports, Talk to Books is by no means designed to replace your standard Google search, but instead offers a semantics based search with an advanced AI which can understand the nuances of human language. Results are designed to intrigue, inspire, and educate and it’s interesting how answers can be both humorous and profound.

“Semantic search is based on searching meaning, rather than on keywords or phrases” said Kurzweil on his blog. “Developed with machine learning, it uses ‘natural language understanding’ of words and phrases.” He added: “It’s good for exploring ideas, it’s fun just to play with it.”

Talk to Books is certainly a fascinating new tool and is a great way to get a variety of viewpoints on a topic that doesn’t boil down to just one answer. It’s perfect for research and can help bring new ideas and ways of thinking to users in a matter of seconds.

Royal Mail and the Inappropriate Shakespeare Play

By | Inspired by Literature, News | No Comments
To celebrate the birthday of Mr William Shakespeare, the Royal Mail decided to dedicate some postboxes to the bard. They wrote quotes from his famous play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on postboxes across the country but failed to notice the irony of their mistake.

Anyone who has read or seen the tragedy would know that the plight of the poor youngsters may have been prevented if a letter had arrived on time. Their deaths were at the hands of a late delivery! Perhaps Royal Mail had neglected to remember that fact when they chose this play over LITERALLY ANY OTHER.

Twitter became awash with snarky comments from ‘um actually’ types who couldn’t wait to let Royal Mail know their mistake.

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Teaser Trailer Released for HBO’s ‘Sharp Objects’ TV Adaptation

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First published in 2006, Sharp Objects is the first novel written by Gillian Flynn who has since shot to fame following the release of her most well known novel Gone Girl. Sharp Objects follows a newspaper journalist named Camille Preaker who returns to her hometown to cover a series of brutal murders. As the bodies begin to mount, Camille’s past comes back to haunt her and things get very creepy indeed. Read More

The Great American Read Coming to PBS

By | Culture, News, Reading Habits, Television | No Comments
If there’s one thing I’m sure we can all agree it’s that there aren’t enough books on the television, but all that is about to change with several bookish shows lined up this year. Just a few weeks ago we brought you the news that Zoe Ball is to front a television bookclub in the UK and now it’s announced that an eight part series ‘The Great American Read’ is to air on PBS. Read More

8 Books that Capture Caribbean Voices and the Spirit of the Windrush Generation

By | News, Polls and Discussion | No Comments
Dominating the news in the UK and around the world this week is the despicable treatment of the Windrush generation, a generation of Caribbean migrants who came to Britain after World War II to provide labour.

The name comes from HMT Windrush, a troopship that brought 492 migrant workers to Tilbury Docks, London on 22nd June 1948. These people were the first to land on our shores, and the name came to mean anyone that arrived in this movement, which lasted until 1971. Read More

UK Short Story Competition Open Now!

By | Literary Awards, News | No Comments

Calling all British Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) writers- this competition needs your talent!

This year heralds the third annual BAME short story competition run by The Guardian Newspaper and 4th Estate team. The prize celebrates the talents of British ethnic minority writers who are in need of representation and promotion.

The winner will receive a chance to win £1,000, an exclusive one‑day publishing workshop and a taste of online publication.

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