Leadership

Wolfram Alpha will complement not replace Google

In a few weeks, Stephen Wolfram will launch his latest creation, the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine. The new system may not replace Google, but it's definitely an evolutionary step in Internet search.

In a few weeks, Stephen Wolfram will launch his latest creation, the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine. In March, Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, talked with Wolfram about the new system and described how it's difference from Google.

"It doesn't simply return documents that (might) contain the answers, like Google does, and it isn't just a giant database of knowledge, like the Wikipedia. It doesn't simply parse natural language and then use that to retrieve documents, like Powerset, for example.

Instead, Wolfram Alpha actually computes the answers to a wide range of questions -- like questions that have factual answers such as "What is the location of Timbuktu?" or "How many protons are in a hydrogen atom?," "What was the average rainfall in Boston last year?," "What is the 307th digit of Pi?," or "what would 80/20 vision look like?"

CNET's Rafe Needleman and Stephen Shankland have been testing a preview version of the Wolfram Research site. In this video, Needleman got a tour of the new search gets a look at the eagerly anticipated new computational search engine, Wolfram Alpha. Is it a Google killer? No, but it has the potential to change the way we view at data on the Web.

If you're looking for a great sushi restaurant or where to catch the latest summer blockbuster, Google is your best bet. But as Needleman and Shankland demonstrate, if you want to know when the next full moon will occur in Buenos Aires or when the GeoEye-1 satellite will pass over your house, Wolfram Alpha will provide the answer in stunning graphical detail.

If you'd like to see more of what Wolfram Alpha can do, check out Shankland's screenshot gallery and Needleman's video. You can also read the pair's CNET News article, "Wolfram Alpha shows data in a way Google can't," for a detailed description of their experiences and impressions.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

7 comments
dogknees
dogknees

I'm wondering if this will help with the problem of not being able to find deeper levels of information. If I'm learning about a new subject, I find that after the first dozen or so sites that have high-level information, I seem to just keep getting the same stuff over and over. It's very difficult to find the deeper stuff. To give you an idea. If I'm looking at CPU design as a topic, I'm not interested in how many registers a specific CPU has, I'm interested in the detailed operation of it's ALU, how the pipelining is managed, how the register windowing is implemented, ... What other ways there are of doing these things and where the trade-offs are. This is where Google and other search engines fail. Getting to the deep stuff. Hears Hoping

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In a few weeks, Stephen Wolfram will launch his latest creation, the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine, which is designed to answer your questions instead of returning a list of documents that may contain the answer. You can see the new system in action here: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=582 As an IT professional and technology editor, I'm interested in how Wolfram Alpha compares to existing search engines, and how IT departments will integrate Wolfram Alpha into their organization's databases. But as a professor and former research analyst, I'd love to see how Wolfram Alpha can be used to explore the problems my students are studying. What questions would you research using Wolfram Alpha that you haven't been able to find using Google?

PCW
PCW

This could lead to a great tool to research the dangers of spell checker dependency.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I would ask what Bill Detwiler has in mind with "compliment" versus "complement". If it can do that, maybe accompanied by eerie music, I would be impressed.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I was of course referring to my expectation that Wolfram Alpha would tell Google how colorful and interesting its new public data charts are. Doh! Thanks for catching my typo.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Leave the (typo) as is. Gives Aspergers something to do.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Yes, I'd read into Wolfram (Periodic Table alternate for "tungsten") on TechMeme and elsewhere. Baby step, don't you think? I only began to think of the elementary coding and algorithms when I threw my hands up. My, God.

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