Find O’ The Day: WordNet

If you're a linguistic geek, or just like stoning out on how words work, check out WordNet. I was told of this site in an email discussion with a reader, it's an ongoing academic research project based out of Princeton. This site (it's also available as downloadable software) is basically…

If you’re a linguistic geek, or just like stoning out on how words work, check out WordNet. I was told of this site in an email discussion with a reader, it’s an ongoing academic research project based out of Princeton.

This site (it’s also available as downloadable software) is basically a database of interconnected word meanings. The site says: “WordNet® is an online lexical reference system whose design is inspired by current psycholinguistic theories of human lexical memory .” Er, in other words, it’s a neat way to see the various “senses” a particular word might have. The online site has a Word Search function. Type in any word, say….”search“…and you’ll see it has five senses as a noun, and four as a verb. You can then explore various aspects of the word’s senses, including synonyms, derivations, and – really cool – hypernyms: “Search is a kind of…” and hyponyms “..is a kind of search.”

I’ll admit, this was my first time stumbling across the terms hypernym and hyponym and actually understanding why they matter. So why does this matter to Search writ large? Because one way to think about improving Search is for an engine to drill down on a particular query based on what sense of the word the searcher intended. In other words, when you type “jaguar” into the query box, which sense did you mean – the cat, the car, the team, the software? If a search engine can create “senses” of words on the fly, it might be able to create smart responses to difficult and high-results queries (AltaVista and others do something similar with clustering, but this technology has not been blessed by everyone as relevant enough..including Google). Think of Google’s spell checker, but with “senses” of words, instead of spellings of words. “Did you mean the cat?….” etc. Now, I have no idea if this particular implementation would be useful to a search engine, it probably has all sorts of problems. But it’s interesting to think about nevertheless.

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The Mayo Database

Wired News reports on a massive database project from Mayo which has interesting, scary, and rather exciting implications for diagnosis and treatment. Genetic information will eventually be included. Excerpts: During an office visit, a medic will be able to do enough quick data mining to ensure the most accurate diagnoses…

Wired News reports on a massive database project from Mayo which has interesting, scary, and rather exciting implications for diagnosis and treatment. Genetic information will eventually be included. Excerpts:

During an office visit, a medic will be able to do enough quick data mining to ensure the most accurate diagnoses and most effective treatments while the patient waits, de Groen said. “Ideally the computer would query both our own database of patients (and) the complete medical literature.” ….

Health-care professionals look forward to the eventual addition of patients’ genetic information to databases like the MCLSS — a field known as clinical genomics — as a major advance in medicine. Among other things, such access would allow doctors to divine with great speed and accuracy what drugs have worked best on a certain type of person with a certain illness. …

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