« | Home | »

Who Is This Guy Wolfram Alpha?

Topics: Technology | Add A CommentBy admin | January 8, 2013

And how did he get so smart? However he did it, I think I’ll be hanging out with him instead of Google more often.


That’s an actual search box. Give it a spin.

I remember when Google was new. It not only seemed magical in its ability to present me with what I was looking for, it was truly elegant in its simplicity. No wonder it decimated competing search engines so thoroughly that most of us barely remember names like “Lycos”, “Alta Vista”, and “Excite”. Like everything exceptional though, there’s always the possibility that the people involved will start “drinking their own bathwater”, as the old saying goes, and that exceptional thing eventually becomes remarkably unexceptional. More and more, that’s my experience with Google search. It’s still pretty utilitarian much of the time, but often the top results are utter junk, largely because of the pervasive and self-concerned goals of the SEO wizards that target those results. And turning to the other two of the big three – Yahoo and Bing – may give a little more diversity in results, but often the results are nearly identical, because in their heart of hearts, they would love to be Google. One alternative that I tried randomly for a while was Millionshort.com, which ironically helps you remove Google’s top results to get BETTER results. It can be surprisingly effective, but always feels like you ordered a piece of pie and scraped the whipped cream off the top. It’s an odd workaround. So in my endless search for better search recently, I rediscovered Wolfram Alpha . We first talked about this amazing search tool back in 2009, but the other day, while I gave it a spin to do something I know it’s good at – i.e. helping you explore and calculate the physical properties of a material (in this case it was Gold), I was rather stunned at how it had subtly evolved into a fantastic general search tool. Give it a spin yourself; that’s a functioning search box in the upper left. You may be surprised at how smart the results are. As their tagline says: “It’s not a search engine, it’s a computational knowledge engine”. We’ll be doing a followup soon; today I spent about an hour doing side-by-side searches on Google and Wolfram Alpha of common things like hotels, cities, entertainers, politics, science, and technology, and I’ll share screen grabs and links to the often exceptional results. You may find it especially cool if you have terminal Wikiphilia like me. For now though, I have to get back to obsessive searches about things I just learned about two seconds ago. Below is a video explaining what it’s really all about.