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3.09.2009

Wolfram Alpha: Learn this name now, you'll thank me later

We've all heard it before: Product X is a 'Google Killer'. The idea, of course, is that whatever flavor-of-the-month website will somehow supplant Google as the king of search. We heard it when Micro$oft released Live search, and we heard it again when Cuil came out (anyone even remember that?!). But I'm giving you fair warning now—learn the name Wolfram Alpha.

If you're a total nerd, you may have heard about a program called Mathematica. If you're a scientist, engineer or mathematician, then you view Mathematica the same way priests view the bible. Simply put, Mathematica is the end-all, be-all of math software, and it has changed the way the scientific community interacts with computers. Seriously, if you can understand half the crap mentioned in the software's list of features, I'll buy you a beer.

Anyway, Mathematica was created by Stephen Wolfram, and as you might have guessed, the guy's a genius. Well, in May, he's releasing Wolfram Alpha - A search engine that computes your answer.

Here's what makes it different: When you search Google (or any search engine, for that matter) you get a bunch of pages that may or may not answer your question, based solely on the text you entered. For example, when you go to Google and search for "What was the price of oil on February 3, 2007" you'll get 19 million answers. Ask Wolfram Alpha that same question, and you get one answer—$65.37.

Think about how this could change the way we search the web for information.

Of course, Wolfram Alpha is not perfect - it only answers questions with a factual answer, but if the software's big brother is any indication, Google is, at the very least, going to need to play catch-up.

Check out more details at Twine and ArsTechnica.


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3 Comments:

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