Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram is the new computational knowledge search engine that has become public alpha yesterday. This one was projected to be the Google killer next gen search engine and yesterday morning I tried it for some time. First thing, there is a difference between the way Wolfram searches its database from Google does. Everybody knows Google does a keyword search on all the web pages it has crawled, cached and kept in its servers. What wolfram does is answer natural language questions instead of keywords, computes it real time and produces the results. The results are not just website links but presented in text and graphical form including graphs and charts. Some of the queries that I ran include:
When did man land on moon? What is Wolfram? Who is the american president? sin 30 / cos 30, What is the value of pi? square root of 2, pottasium nitrate, what is laughing gas, etc…

It was amazing to see the way results are presented for mathematical values. For example, when you look for the value of pi, it gives the decimal approximation (with option of showing more and more digits), series and integral representation, etc…When you search for location (where is bangalore) it brings up Indian map and shows Bangalore (Google does too, and satellite image link takes to Google maps :)) and when i ask for stock comparison (Goog Yhoo) it shows a lot of information about the two companies (not in Google). So pretty neat for all these queries. But for natural language queries, which Wolfram is trying to address, I think it is not there quite yet. Queries like “When did man land on the moon”, “Who shot kennedy”, “What happened on September 11, 2001” it was not able to produce results. Or did i read Wolfram wrong? I am not sure. But if it is trying to address natural language queries I expect these questions to be answered.

In my opinion, I don’t think Wolfram can be a Google killer. Both would co-exist. But what Wolfram has started is a very big step in terms of answering questions in natural language and real time computing of the answers. There should be millions of lines of code and a wonderful algorithm behind Wolfram which actually does this. And the way the results are shown are also pretty good. One can interpret and arrive at conclusion easily. Keywords search is still very much required until we build systems that can understand all of human queries. And that day would be the beginning of the Judgement Day when computers understand us a whole lot better 🙂 (Yeah I am in the mood of watching Terminator: Salvation :))

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