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An Ocean of Books

“Welcome to An Ocean of Books. What you see is the big map of a sea of literature, one where each island represents a single author, and each city represents a book. The map represents a selection of 113 008 authors and 145 162 books. This is a poetic experiment where we hope you will get lost for a while. You might wonder why some authors are next to each other, or why sometimes an author seems to be positioned at an unexpected spot, or why some authors seem to be lost by themselves. Each of the authors of the map are not positioned randomly, nor by hand. We calculated the distance between each of them, based on their complex relationship on the web. From these values, we generated two-dimensional positions for all the authors, thanks to a machine learning technique called Uniform Manifold Approximation and Projection (UMAP). Finally, an island was assigned to each author, matching the island size with the author’s presence on the web. An example is the surprising proximity of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the famous oceanographer, and Carl Sagan, the eminent astronomer. While at first glance their two fields of work couldn’t be more different, the amount of articles on the web mentioning both authors makes them connected in many ways. A simple Google search on both of their names will reveal that. Two great scientific communicators with intertwined destinies.”

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