I cannot remember seeing so much pre launch hype for a new search engine then there was for Wolfram Alpha. There were a number of references to being a Google killer’ however having had a look at Wolfram it is a completely different animal.

Wolfram Alpha is really something different from Google and when searching you should treat it more like a long distance race than a sprint. Wolfram Alpha describes itself as a ‘computational search engine’. In the words of Dr Stephen Wolfram, who developed it, the objectve is to to make all of the world’s knowledge “computable and accessible to everyone”. With such a lofty goal you can understand why it is a‘long term’ project.

Wolfram Alpha claims it has more than 10 trillion pieces of data, more than 50,000 types of algorithms and computing models, and a computing cluster of 10,000 x86 processors, with which to operate. The centre peice of the search engine is called, Mathematica, a computational modelling system that Wolfram Research has been developing on for 20 years. This is the part that does the clever stuff, through smart organisation of the data and application of the algorithms.

There is also the natural language interpreter that takes human enquiries and turns them into something that Wolfram Alpha can understand – the bit that is displayed as the ‘input interpretation’ box after you search.

I did some searching on Wolfram and generally I found it frustrating with most queries returning ‘Wolfram Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input’. After persevering I did find what I was looking for plus additional information that was related to the search.

Wolfram Alpha is a powerful tool but will need time to get to know how to use it properly.

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