Right now, armies of mar­keters, poll­sters and social sci­en­tists are trying to figure out what Amer­i­cans are thinking about — issues like global warming or Lady Gaga’s latest outfit. Sur­veys are only so good: It’s hard to get a big enough sample to be sure of the results. That’s par­tic­u­larly vexing for social sci­en­tists who want a high stan­dard of accuracy.

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