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WolframAlpha – a Computational Knowledge Engine


Hi there Everyone, my best wishes to you all, and many thanks to ComputeLogy for asking me to write a guest article.

My name is Roy and I am talking to you today from my cyber-location at , having travelled here using Starlight Dreamwalker’s Cosmic Surfbox a magical little thought transference device also known as a PC.

I expect there are many people, including my mother, father, brother and sister, who already know I am not a particularly clever person, however I do know that WolframAlpha is a “Computational Knowledge Engine“, otherwise also known as (a.k.a) a “Search Engine”.

Truthfully though WolframAlpha does not seem to be a very “clever” search engine in comparison to other more well known search engines like “Google”, but it is a search engine nonetheless and you use it by typing very simple questions into it’s search field.

However it is still quite a powerfull search engine; certainly powerfull enough to have been put online this week for everyone to use and play with to their heart’s content.

But, I do emphasize it is just another kind of search engine and sadly, in my humble opinion, not a very good one as far as I am able to tell so far.

It lacks what could be called “intuition” and can only “show” answers that are extracted from knowledge that is already known and NOT by extrapolating answers and working them out by its self with its own intelligence!

This is done by literally comparing thousands of databases until it finds an answer that basically says “what is written in the question field” is equal to this and this and this and this and this …oh and this ……………and this! ! !

Then it takes one equivalent answer that is given more times than any other answer and displays it for people to see.

“Pure hard fact – knowledge equivalence – comparison technique”

done very quickly I might add, but a basic “find an equivalent” by looking it up and then show that as the answer.

When I asked it some quite basic day to day life questions, in natural language, like:

“In the United Kingdom is it legal for a landlord to take away the tenant’s front door doormat on Health and Safety grounds?

It swept out this answer below:

Wolfram|Alpha does not yet know how to respond to your exact query.
The “closest interpretation” is based on lexical and semantic similarity in

Wolfram|Alpha’s computable knowledge space.

Tips for better results

Try the following:
Use different phrasing or notations
Enter whole words instead of abbreviations
Avoid mixing mathematical and other notations
Check your spelling
Give your input in English         (<<< This one I liked the best)

Other tips for using Wolfram|Alpha:
Wolfram|Alpha answers specific questions rather than explaining general topics
Enter “2 cups of sugar”, not “nutrition information”

You can only get answers about objective facts
Try “highest mountain”, not “most beautiful painting”

Only what is known , is known to Wolfram|Alpha
Ask “how many men in Mauritania”, not “how many monsters in Loch Ness”

Only public information is available
Request “GDP of France”, not “home phone of Michael Jordan

WolframAlpha requires an input of basic hard facts to give basic hard fact answers, whereas Google gives answers based on all the varying combinations of the words in the question that it can find “out there” in all the databases it has it’s spiders hooked into, which somehow makes Google “seem” more intelligent , more intuitive and even more friendly.

The subject of Computable Knowledge search engines is not something that I find particularly interesting, not as long as there is a whole wide world (www.) of hundreds of millions of web sites, web blogs, and web pages linked by spidered search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo!, etcetera, etcetera

And inside my living room there is a magical Cosmic Surfbox, Starlight Dreamwalker’s Cosmic Surfbox, that flies me around this universal cloud of creaativity and into any kind of wonderfull world I could ever possibly imagine.


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