WolframAlpha: A Knowledge Engine

by Gary on May 18, 2009 · 9 comments

in General,News,Search Engines

I spend my weekend playing around with one of the most awesome things to come out in the internet ever – WolframAlpha. If you haven’t heard of it’s the fruit of Stephen Wolfram’s vision and it is real live working computational knowledge engine. Forget search engines for the moment because the geek in me is so excited about this that even if SEOs have no way to benefit from this thing (at least none that I can think of right now) it’s revolutionary enough to be posted on ANY blog or site that considers itself a follower of what’s new in IT.

So what is it about WolframAlpha that’s got me all excited? As I mentioned earlier they do not call it a search engine but a knowledge engine because that’s exactly what it is. Initially when you look at the search box it looks every bit like a search engine but once you get the results you will see why it is a knowledge engine. Instead of returning relevant links what WolframAlpha returns is a summary of information that it has garnered from all over the net. This makes me think about Star Trek, Andromeda, and all the once far fetched sci-fi computers that can answer your questions by doing the data analysis on its own.

The thing about WolframAlpha though is that since it is a computational knowledge engine it won’t return the latest movie show times or restaurant addresses, which is good news to Google and the other search engines because they are still needed for those kind of searches. What WolframAlpha will return though are all the information that I needed way back in college to make my life easier. It will compute any mathematical formula and plot functions, compute relativistic momentum, give you the financial background of a company and extrapolate the data to predict future trend, allow comparison between performance of companies, give you information about any date, and so much more. In short it is what it claims to be a KNOWLEDGE ENGINE.

Right now it’s still pretty mind boggling and I still find myself playfully entering everyone’s birthday so I can see who was born during a full moon and tease them endlessly about it (so far it’s only my father-in-law that answers to the description so I still haven’t got anyone to tease mercilessly!). And in case you plan on asking it also gives the right answer to the only question that matters:

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  • Goran

    This is definitely a step in the right direction. Loads of people are very dissatisfied with the returned results their queries generate, and do not know about playing around with the keywords and keyword phrases relevant to their search query. A totally different approach has been delivered by Wolfram Alpha, and I do foresee good things for them. What prevents Google from integrating their own similar knowledge search engine in their search offerings though?

  • dape

    I agree its refreshing to have this service, its a shame that Wolfram Alpha was not available in Uni days it would have made my life much easier even though I enjoyed and still enjoy spending a considerable amount of time in the library. Will it replace my books and research, partly, maybe, time will tell. Hannah, live long and prosper, watch the new movie, the mission escapism. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Dape

    • Hannah

      You’re welcome dape. Have actually seen the new Star Trek movie. My husband was grateful I was there to explain all the background. As for WolframAlpha it sure still has a long way to go and still can’t replace textbooks especially when it comes to genetics research. Can’t find the stuff I need there. It’s a step in the right direction though. Yay for the future!

  • Eric Bouler

    Like adding chapters to a book. You read the chapters that interest you. Then you go to the site that helps the most. Much like atrificial knowledge. Wonder if it will have a memory.

  • Karl Foxley

    I take it from reading this post I am not the only one who lost a chunk of time playing around with Wolfram Alpha… I did the same thing Hannah, I went straight in to check what day I was born.

    I like the look of the site and it is very quick on returning those queries… I see great uses for this for the geek in all of us :)

    Thanks for sharing,

    Karl

  • Cherilynn Stone

    Thanks for sharing this. Great article and very interesting information!

  • Jeremy

    Yes everyone is talking about WolframAlpha lately. It definitely is a great tool. It is the scientist’s answer to wikipedia. It is essentially an untainted wikipedia that only relies on actual facts.

  • Vaillant Poznan

    Very nice idea, but isn’t Wolfram just search engine mixed with Wikipedia? I mean that this idea could be very successful and handful as a tool, but I think that Wikipedia is doing the same role and there is also option search inside. Everything lies here in the search mechanisms because if Wolfram will find some interesting articles across the web huge amount of them will be not entirely truth or not truth at all. If will use it’s own library – it’s just another Wikipedia, but without handy interface.

  • CoolestGeek

    WolframAlpha is a great tool. It is much more competetive with the Wikipedia than with Google.