“Computer…”

Wolfram|Alpha was unveiled today. I’d heard about this a few weeks back — a search engine of computational knowledge. No banner ads, no “supported links,” no… capitalism. Ask it a question and it will do its best to answer.

Google, for all its power and reach, is great. But you usually have to sift through a lot of crap to find what you’re looking for. To me, the two best things on the web are Wikipedia and Youtube. The former is, of course, a communal encyclopedia of just about everything. The latter is a treasure trove of media, letting you see and hear just about any kind of content, from obscure songs to drum lessons. The nice thing about both is you can go in there and find what you’re looking for very easily.

Wolfram|Alpha appears to be trying to take the next step, not beyond Google or Youtube, but beyond Wikipedia. It compensates for Wikipedia’s weakness, in that it can extrapolate what information you’re attempting to seek. Wikipedia’s good when you enter a specific subject. Wolfram|Alpha handles questions, comparative data, events, computations, etc. It’s more like the computer in Star Trek. Ask a question and it will compute from its knowledge database and provide an answer. What’s creepy cool is that it makes assumptions based on what you’re trying to ask.

So it sounds great. Unfortunately, my first attempts didn’t lead to much success. I tried “Korean language outside Korea” and various other combinations, trying to find out how much Korean is spoken outside Korea. It sort of gave me an answer. Ninety-three percent of Korean speakers are in Korea. So that means 7% are outside Korea, but it didn’t tell me where. I also tried “sample rate” and it just gave me an equation without any additional information. “All major scales” returned no results. “D# major scale” did, complete with sound, but I already knew it could do that.

Its creators admit this is a work in progress. I’m excited about it more for its potential that what it is now. Check out the excellent video introduction, and you’ll get a sense of what they’re trying to do.

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One Response to ““Computer…””

  1. I like it, but like wikipedia you should be very specific at lest for now…

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