Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

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Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

Postby Ben » Mon May 18, 2009 4:41 am

Hi all

Here's a website to bookmark and keep a close eye on:
http://www41.wolframalpha.com
Its a new search engine (computational knowledge engine) designed to give answers to complex questions.
Its going to be launched today/tonight.
For more information, read this article: http://www.theage.com.au/news/technolog ... 38305.html
Metta

Ben
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Re: Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 21, 2009 5:34 am

Greetings Ben,

Definitely needs more work... he's no HAL 9000!

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Re: Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

Postby Ben » Thu May 21, 2009 6:25 am

Not yet, but it is a very encouraging development.
There's been some chatter about the new 'searchology' among information management circles. There's another offering coming up and is still in development at Google, with a working title of Google squared (or cubed), which tries to do a similar thing.
Interestingly I was on a professional discussion forum earlier which cited the need for this type of functionality as early as the 1960s within Online Library Cataligue/cataloguing circles.
What Wolfram|Alpha does is suck in data into its own database which is then queried by the end-user. The as-yet Google offering classifies web-based information and then presents the data in a tabular form. WolframAlpha is still in its infancy and the data quality is questionable. However, I think it could be the beginning of the next wave of development that will make the web a lot more useful and navigable.
As for the Internet mimicking the machiavellan sentience of HAL9000, its a long way off.
Metta

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Re: Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

Postby Individual » Fri May 22, 2009 12:20 am

I think it's being overhyped as the "new google". It's a Q&A search engine which doesn't give very good search results. The software behind it is very good for business and scientific purposes, but so far, when applied to a search engine, it still looks like a lot of stuff is being filled in by hand and Answers.com still has more info.

What's really impressive about it, though, is its ability to answer advanced math questions which are written in regular words.
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Re: Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

Postby Ben » Fri May 22, 2009 5:49 am

'the new google' were my words. And, as I said, its still early days.
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Re: Introducing the 'new' google: Wolfram|alpha

Postby Individual » Sun May 24, 2009 1:45 pm

Ben wrote:'the new google' were my words. And, as I said, its still early days.

Ah, well you're not the only one calling it the new Google, that is, saying it's going to threaten Google.

Wolfram Alpha was designed as an answer-engine, like Ask.com. Rather than having it be filled in manually, it is designed to be able to create answers to questions by ripping data from websites... But this is still basically just manual work, especially for data that doesn't change. Can it automatically generate new entries? (That is, can it create answers to questions that weren't created by the programmer?) I doubt it.

So, say they create an entry for "What is the capital of Zimbabwe?" Stephen Wolfram or somebody at his company uses his software to basically rip the information from a certain part of Wikipedia (without attributing it, btw)... And then, there you have it: Somebody types "What is the capital of Zimbabwe?" and you get a bunch of scraped data from other sites. Answers.com already does this and Wolfram Alpha will, at best, make it look a bit neater by taking smaller slices rather than just the entire page, like Answers.com does.

So far, aside from being able to answer math and geography questions more quickly, Google and Wikipedia is still better.

An example...

Who was the first king of Germany?
Wolfram Alpha: No results found (because nobody has manually created an entry for the kings of Germany yet!)

Google: first king of Germany provides a link to Wikipedia's article to "List of German monarchs". The second hit is to Wikipedia's article on Conrad III of Germany, the first king of Germany.

Most questions of even a moderate level of specificity are like this. Questions which are very specific of course aren't there at all.

The tag-team of Google & Wikipedia contains answers to millions of potential questions... Stephen Wolfram would have to spend quite a bit of money to get the same amount of labor that has been put into Wikipedia. But the idea is to generate results through a new kind of automation? I don't really see what's new about Wolfram Alpha other than that it's better at understanding language logically.

Here's an article from the Register, making fun of it:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/19/dziuba_wolfram/
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