Monday, May 18, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha Computation Knowledge Engine

I heard a hint about this potential "competitor" to Google in a 10-second spot about a program that was supposed to air last Friday on NPR.

I never heard the program, but was reminded to look up "Alpha" (or was it going to be "Alfa"?) and "search engine" on Google.

Sure enough: That's right: Wolfram|Alpha--or WolframAlpha!

I don't see why NPR wanted to correlate it with--or against--Google. It seems to have a very different purpose: it doesn't do searches; instead, it does amazing calculations and manipulations of data.

Check it out. And see what it does by trying some of the "few things to try" over on the right-hand side of the page.

I tried it with my birthday, my current hometown, and some of the other raw suggestions they suggest (including some on the "more" page--like "1 apple + 2 oranges" . . . and some alternatives, that didn't work).

It seems rather limited at the moment, and not everything seems to be working. (Their introductory video, for example, isn't working as I write this.)

I don't have any burning uses for this engine quite yet. But I can see how it might prove very valuable for a number of scholars!

For more information, check out their FAQ page.

The potential is great, but we'll have to see how things pan out in the future!
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