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The new Wolfram Alpha search engine

Alex Christie

11 March 2009

The new Wolfram Alpha search engine – due to be launched in May of this year apparently has the ability to compute answers to factual questions more powerfully than Google.

The brainchild of Stephen Wolfram (famous as the inventor of Mathematica) Wolfram Alpha uses semantics as its approach (the meaning of words rather just the words themselves) and it is able to able to compute the answers to a wide range of questions that have factual answers. For example – How many provinces are there in South Africa? This semantic approach has been the goal of researchers for some time. See Start as an example – research done by MIT.

Unlike Google Wolfram Alpha it isn’t a giant database though and it doesn’t return documents that might contain the answer. Wolfram uses built-in models of fields of knowledge, complete with data and algorithms, that represent real-world knowledge. In order to do this Wolfram Research has employed dozens of brainiacs who've translated specialised databases into machine-computable form.

This all sounds very impressive, I guess we'll have to wait for its launch in May to find out whether this 'new' type of search is as impressive as it claims.



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