Friday, July 15, 2016

Word Clouds

I have always wondered about those funny-looking collections of different-sized, different-colored words: the word cloud. This week I learned how to create a word cloud from any text I choose using the free online software at Of course, I chose Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. Here is what I got:

The word cloud speaks for itself, but let me add a few comments. First, I deleted the preface, the table of contents, and the index from a pdf copy of IPMB before submitting it. The software was having trouble with such a large input file, and reducing the size seemed to help. After the list of words and their frequencies was created, I edited it. The software is smart enough to not include common words like "the" and "is", but I deleted others that seemed generic to me, like "consider" and "therefore." I kept words that appeared at least 250 times, which was about 65 words. The most common word was "Fig", as in "...spherical air sacs called alveoli (Fig. 1.1b)." The third most common was "Problem" as in "Problem 1. Estimate the number of....". I considered removing these, but illustrations and end-of-chapter exercises are an important part of the book, so they stayed. I was surprised by the second most common word: "energy". Russ Hobbie and I did not set out to make this a unifying theme in the book, but apparently it is.

I will let you decide if this word cloud is profound or silly. It was fun, and I like to share fun things with the readers of IPMB. Enjoy!


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