Google’s recent launch of Ngram – a service that shows the frequencies of phrases appearing in indexed books – opened up new possibilities for data exploration fun.  A game that data geeks can now play involves comparing the popularity of phrases in books vs. the frequency of their appearance as search terms. Google Insight provides one decent way to trace search term popularity for recent years.

So: what have people deemed worthy of mentioning in books – and what do we search for on the web?

Check out the Ngram & Insight answers for truth vs. beauty, science vs. nature, pen vs. sword, man vs. machine, geeks vs. nerds, Nietzsche vs. God and desire vs. necessity.

Note that there’s a time difference in addition to the difference in medium. The indexed books go from 1500 to 2008; the web search queries – from 2004 to 2010.

[Click on any image to see the full-size version]

Truth and Beauty

Truth wins in books, even as people search the Web for beauty:

Science vs. Nature

Nature has taken the lead in books – science in Web searches:

Pen vs. Sword

Mightier, no?

Man vs. Machine

And a convincing victory awarded to man over machine:

Geeks vs. Nerds

Y2K: The year when the geeks took over.

Nietzsche vs. God

In fairness to Friedrich Wilhelm, he’s only been around since the mid-19th century…

Want to vs. Have to