I've got a TED talk for you today, conducted by Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel in Boston. This talk revolves around a question: what if you were to read all the books?
All of them. Like... all of them.
Aiden and Michel didn't quite hit that point, but they did make a program that could read 5 million of them dating back to 1800, which we can pretty much agree works as a representative sample. Now, obviously, you're not going to comprehend the context of all those books. If I know my cartoons, what always happens if you do that is your head gets really large and veiny and people run around screaming 'oh my God he's going to burst'. Also you start uncontrollably spouting mathematical equations. But what you can do is write a program to scan the words in the books, and graph each word's usage by year.
Of course these guys work for Google. Why do you ask?
(NOTE: When the guy on the right, Aiden, quotes xkcd, he's kind of not. He may be thinking of this shirt, but the phrase never actually appeared in a comic.)