Wolfram Alpha

Maybe I’m missing something.  

I’m afraid I’m completely underwhelmed by the new search site, Wolfram Alpha.  A number of blogs have mentioned the site and have been fairly positive about the site and what it can do.  I’ve tried a few things, and the results have been spotty at best.

I tried Henry VIII as a search (I’ve been watching The Tudors) and it came up with very basic information: full name, date and place of birth, dateand place of death.  

Nothing else?  Protestant reformation and the birth of the Church of England?  Six wives? Daddy of Elizabeth I? Nothing?   

I added “wives” to the search, and it told me that “Wolfram\Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.”   Tried “wives of Henry VIII.”  Nothing.  “Six wives of Henry VIII.”  Nothing.

For a site that’s supposed to have a wealth of knowledge, it’s not very knowledgable.  

They have an area of searches to try, and those are kind of handy; for instance, you can enter two different companies and the site will put up a comparative chart of their financials.  

Perhaps this will be more inclusive in the future.  Maybe it’s just for financial and mathematical stuff and not social science stuff.  In any case, I’m not sure that it’s particularly helpful…or, any more so than other tools.  

I guess you can put me in the “we’ll see” camp for now.

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2 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous, Techie stuff

2 responses to “Wolfram Alpha

  1. People are approaching Wolfram as a ‘search engine.’ It is not.The system is not intended to, nor will it ever, replace search tools like Google, Instead, it is a ‘computational engine.’ It doesn’t index web pages but utilizes data in the Mathematica database. The content is therefore *very* science and technology oriented and indeed very light on social sciences.

    Ask it how many people have H1N1 today, and will tell you 12,520. Type in x^2 sin(x). Streptomycin provides a chemical structure and chemical identifiers. What to know DNA sequences? It will tell you.

    While it tries to map natural language, many times it can’t. It provides a generic don’t know what to do response. However, there are different syntax to learn depending on your query. This is not much different than the days of having to learn and remember 3,2,2,1 to search a title in OCLC.

    It isn’t perfect, but neither was Google when it started.

  2. You have a valid point, Eric. I can see this as a valuable tool when searching for science and math data. It will be interesting to see how this develops as a database.

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