Wolfram Alpha to Surpass Google Search Functionality
Article by George Norman
On 09 Mar 2009
What do you do when you need to have quick access to information or news, or any other type of data? You fire up your browser, and type in a query into a search engine – most likely Google, since the Mountain View-based company holds the lion’s share when it comes to online search. Google search is indeed a powerful tool that will eventually get you the information you require, but the whole process depends on the manner in which you enter the query. But what if you could do away with all that trouble?

Stephen Wolfram, who got his Ph.D, in theoretical physics at just 20, launched Mathematica (computational software that became the standard in its field) and published “A New Kind of Science”, is going to do away with all this query entry nonsense. His latest creation, Wolfram Alpha, will take on the challenge of web search by putting together his two great achievements – Mathematica and A New Kid of Science.


“All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do. I'm happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we're actually managing to make it work. 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,” explained Stephen Wolfram on his blog.

To put it simply, Wolfram Alpha works like this: you enter a search query in natural language, as you speak in your day to day life; that query will then be computed, not simply looked up in a huge database as it happens with Google, and you will get a proper answer.

Here is what the CEO of Radar Networks, Nova Spivack had to say on the matter: “Wolfram Alpha is like plugging into a vast electronic brain. It provides extremely impressive and thorough answers to a wide range of questions asked in many different ways, and it computes answers, it doesn't merely look them up in a big database. In this respect it is vastly smarter than (and different from) Google. Google simply retrieves documents based on keyword searches. Google doesn't understand the question or the answer, and doesn't compute answers based on models of various fields of human knowledge.”

On a lighter side, here is an image that I’ve found online, depicting in a humorous manner the way in which one uses Google search. To tell you the truth, I have to agree with the spell-check part.

Tags: Google, Wolfram Alpha
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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