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.

The House That Inspired Wuthering Heights Is on the Market

By | Literary Places, News | No Comments
Fans of Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights will be interested to learn that the house that helped inspire the story is now on the market. The 17th century property is called Ponden Hall and is found a stone’s throw from Stabury, West Yorkshire. The Brontë sisters regularly visited the house during the 19th century and it has been a popular guest house in recent years.

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If Lord of the Rings characters were Zodiac Signs…

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The Zodiac consists of 12 signs, each with particular characteristics assigned for people born at specific times of the year. For centuries now, each month-long period has had its own constellation but for Jonah Malamud it just wasn’t enough.

The Instagram blogger decided to collate the main characters from his favourite fictional world and with an obviously astute and scientific mind (!) went about assigning each Middle-Earth resident with their star sign according to their characteristics.

Check out the twelve below and let us know in the comments or on FB if it is correct!

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Florida Looks to Pass Bill That Would Make Banning Books Easier

By | Children's Literature, News | One Comment
Some lawmakers in Florida are working to pass a bill that would make banning certain books in Florida public schools easier. Florida representative Mark Hill filed HB55 back in February, a motion for a bill that would make censorship and book banning in schools easier and put the careers of those who make those books readily available in jeopardy.

Rep Hill says he believes the bill is essential for protecting children from inappropriate content in the school environment. “To remove pornography out of our public schools. It doesn’t need to be there,” said Rep. Hill.
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Amy Adams to adapt ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ for HBO

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Amy Adams (Vice, Sharp Objects) teamed up with her manager Stacy O’Neil to form a production company ‘Bond Group Entertainment’ with a view to produce quality televisual content. One of their recent projects for HBO is an adaptation of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poinsonwood Bible. 

The 1998 novel is narrated by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, “a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.” Along with Anya Epstein, Barbara Kingsolver will be adapting her own novel for the screen- a boon for literary purists who are wary of screen adaptations which lose their essence in translation.

The novel was a Pulitzer prize finalist, and has been called ‘breathtaking’, full of ‘humour and love’, with Kingsolver named as one of the finest writers of her generation.

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Amazon’s Kindle Storyteller Award Returns for Third Year

By | Literary Awards, News | No Comments
Last week Amazon announced that the Kindle Storyteller Award, designed to recognise outstanding work by independent authors will be back for its third year in 2019. The award, that comes with a £20,000 cash prize is open to all authors of books published via Kindle Direct Publishing on from 1st May 2019 to 31st August 2019.

The prize will be awarded to the work that receives praise not just from the judging panel and industry experts but also from readers too. The shortlist, to come later this year, will be compiled on the basis of a number of factors including sales, reader reviews and pages read in Kindle Unlimited.
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