"...everyone is bored,and devotes himself to cultivating habits..these habits are not peculiar to our town.." Albert Camus "The Plague"

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wolfram Alpha: Great Leap Forward for Web Research

Stephen Wolfram is will be unveiling this month a completely new system
of internet search. It is called Wolfram Alpha and goes way beyond
Google in that it does more than just search by keyword and list pages
where information can be found. WA is a computational search engine
that..(The Independent U.K. May 3, 2009)

...takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's
Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and
responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.Although
the system is still new, it has already produced massive interest and
excitement among technology pundits and internet watchers. Computer
experts believe the new search engine will be an evolutionary leap in
the development of the internet. Nova Spivack, an internet and computer
expert, said that Wolfram Alpha could prove just as important as
Google. "It is really impressive and significant," he wrote. "In fact
it may be as important for the web (and the world) as Google, but for a
different purpose. Tom Simpson, of the blog
Convergenceofeverything.com, said: "What are the wider implications
exactly? A new paradigm for using computers and the web? Probably.
Emerging artificial intelligence and a step towards a self-organising
internet? Possibly... I think this could be big."

From an article by Nova Spivack at TechCrunch we learn:

In a nutshell, Wolfram and his team have built what he calls a
“computational knowledge engine” for the Web. OK, so what does that
really mean? Basically it means that you can ask it factual questions
and it computes answers for you.
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 country is Timbuktu in?” or “How many protons are in a
hydrogen atom?” or “What is the average rainfall in Seattle?”
Think about that for a minute. It computes the answers. Wolfram
Alpha doesn’t simply contain huge amounts of manually entered pairs of
questions and answers, nor does it search for answers in a database of
facts. Instead, it understands and then computes answers to certain
kinds of questions.

Here is a link to a video demonstration by Stephen Wolfram demonstrating his system.
Stephen Wolfram announces the coming of the project on his website:

It’s going to be a website: www.wolframalpha.com.
With one simple input field that gives access to a huge system, with
trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms.We’re all working very hard right now to get Wolfram|Alpha ready to go live.I think it’s going to be pretty exciting. A new paradigm for using computers and the web.

Much more information here. About Stephen Wolfram.


Tags: wolfram alpha,stephen wolfram,web research,computational search engine,computational knowledge engine,google,web search

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