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May 16, 2009

Wolfram Alpha, the Answer Engine

Wolfram|Alpha launched yesterday and it's an useful complement to a general-purpose search engine like Google. Wolfram|Alpha doesn't search the web, it uses data from authoritative databases and an engine powered by Mathematica to obtain the results.

"Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity," explains the "about" page.

Even if the homepage's simplicity reminds you of Google, it's a good idea to check the examples page before entering a query. Alpha can't handle any kind of query, so it's important to know its strengths: advanced Math calculations (graphs, equations, prime numbers computations, matrix operations), conversions, facts about weather, population, food, minerals, people, places.

You can enter simple things like numbers, dates, words, HTML color codes, chemical formulas and you'll get a lot of interesting information. The service shows intuitive visualizations and comparisons to better understand the information.





Wolfram|Alpha could be a great way to expand Google Calculator and other Google OneBoxes.

21 comments:

  1. It's very difficult to understand mathematica concept of Wolfram alpha ,and also I think pc users have anything to do with wolpfram alpha like Gogole

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  2. "Wolfram|Alpha launched yesterday and it's an useful complement to a general-purpose search engine like Google."

    "Wolfram|Alpha could be a great way to expand Google Calculator and other Google OneBoxes."

    I totally agree with you (I basically have tried to express a similar opinion in the Blogoscoped forum: http://blogoscoped.com/forum/154574.html#id154808 ). The point is (from a Google point of view) that Google so far has tried to give a direct answer to some questions (as you've written, mainly through OneBoxes), but now they have to face a very tough competition. What will they do?

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  3. I forgot: nice screenshots, Ionut! :)

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  4. “it uses data from authoritative databases”

    What’s authoritative?

    Yes, logic is an arcane science.

    But censorship is not even a science, I think.

    Truth is ad-equation between the thing and the intellect (adaequatio rei et intellectus), said Thomas Aquinas.

    The various sources from which the search engine calculates the results and gives the answers have been filtered,
    that is,
    some sites have been blocked,like Google does, by Authority.

    The engine does thus not allow the intellect to be freely led to the conclusions to which its inferences lead the intellect.

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  5. lol @ including velocity of an unladen swallow :)
    It even has the answer to life, the universe, and everything and 1/0!

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  6. Fun thing. Nutritional values of recipe. Enter:
    15oz canned mackerel + 2Lbs jalapeños + 2Lbs onions + 14.5oz canned spinach + 1cup olive oil + etc... , and see the label you would see on a can of the stuff+

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  7. I'm not very convinced about it right now, it's rather slow, and some results are clearly inaccurate (for instance in a query, the place with most Arabic speakers is given as Saudi Arabia, this is no way correct).

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  8. Ivo Cerckel:

    > The various sources from which the search engine calculates the results and gives the answers have been filtered

    > The engine does thus not allow the intellect to be freely led to the conclusions to which its inferences lead the intellect.

    So would you accept any form of spam in your engine?

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  9. milivella

    Is my blog spam?
    http://bphouse.com/honest_money/

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  10. You can read how to use Wolfram Alpha for health here:
    http://bit.ly/VjTZ1

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  11. Ivo Cerckel:

    > Is my blog spam?

    No. But if you assert that "some sites have been blocked,like Google does, by Authority. The engine does thus not allow the intellect to be freely led to the conclusions" it seems that you are against *any* form of filtering, and so that you would accept any source, even the spammiest one (I'm not saying that it would be bad, though).

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  12. I am a refugee from Belgium.

    I entered "Belgium".

    Here's part of what I got:
    languages | Dutch (40%) | French (35%) | Walloon (9.7%) | Vlaams (9.2%) | Limburgisch (5.2%)

    Yes, it's been nine years that I had to flee from there,
    but the latter three languages simply do NOT exist.
    Yes, some (most?) people who speak Dutch say they speak Vlaams.
    Some others (French speakers) may say they speak Walloon.
    But you will be very hard pressed to meet somebody, except a student perhaps, who says she speaks Limburgisch.
    But my information is nine years old, of course.

    I don't accept Wolfram Alpha as a source.

    This is not filtering.
    This is creating.

    The engine does not even mention that the official (not just spoken like Vlaanms, Walloon and ... Limburgisch) language of six villages in Belgium is German.

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  13. Ivo, what you say is very important. Who is eventually creating information, anyway, is not Wolfram Alpha, but Ethnologue.com, a resource that many specialists apparently use:
    http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=be
    (or a similar source, anyway)

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  14. and it was open for XSS ;
    http://twitter.com/bipinu/status/1814298427

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  15. At Ivo Cerckel : You should have click on "more". German is mentioned.
    You should also check some facts with our encyclopedia :
    - Dutch + Vlaams + Limburgisch = 54.4
    - French + Walloon (somme kind of french dialect) = 44.7
    - German = 1.3
    That's the actual language statistics of Belgium.

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  16. Hehe some great examples of what the system can do there. When I was playing around with it, it threw up an error saying "I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that".


    *For those that don't know, it's a quote from HAL, the sentient supercomputer in 2001:A Space Odyssey.

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  17. is there any probability of joining alpha with google?

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  18. I think Wolfram Alpha's great. I've used it quite a lot over recent months for conversion calculations to metric (I still work in pounds, gallons and inches lol)

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  19. I like it when you type a city and state into the query, and how it gives you several options of what information you want. Clearly different from the big three search appliances.

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  20. My son used WA recently to do his Trigonometry homework. He said it was much easier than using his calculator.

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