Wolfram Alpha - a Brand New Search Engine

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by Kas, May 3, 2009.

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  1. Kas

    Kas Registered Member

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    The release of a brand new search engine that "will revolutionise the Internet" is to be released soon - as reported in British papers on 3rd May 2009.
    Below is a transcript of a press release. OK fellers - WHAT DO YOU THINK ?
    ---- News release below ;-

    An invention that could change the Internet for ever

    Revolutionary new web software could put giants such as Google in the shade when it comes out later this month. Andrew Johnson reports

    Sunday, 3 May 2009
    --------------------
    The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.

    Related articles
    More Gadgets & Tech Articles
    The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the Internet`s Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.

    Although the system is still new, it has already produced massive interest and excitement among technology pundits and internet watchers.

    Computer experts believe the new search engine will be an evolutionary leap in the development of the internet. Nova Spivack, an internet and computer expert, said that Wolfram Alpha could prove just as important as Google. "It is really impressive and significant," he wrote. "In fact it may be as important for the web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose.

    Tom Simpson, of the blog Convergenceofeverything.com, said: "What are the wider implications exactly? A new paradigm for using computers and the web? Probably. Emerging artificial intelligence and a step towards a self-organising Internet ? Possibly... I think this could be big."

    Wolfram Alpha will not only give a straight answer to questions such as "how high is Mount Everest?", but it will also produce a neat page of related information – all properly sourced – such as geographical location and nearby towns, and other mountains, complete with graphs and charts.

    The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out "on the fly", according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale. Type in "10 flips for four heads" and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out.

    Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is "curated", meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out. It is based on his best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths.

    "I've wanted to make the knowledge we've accumulated in our civilisation computable," he said last week. "I was not sure it was possible. I'm a little surprised it worked out so well."

    Dr Wolfram, 49, who was educated at Eton and had completed his PhD in particle physics by the time he was 20, added that the launch of Wolfram Alpha later this month would be just the beginning of the project.

    "It will understand what you are talking about," he said. "We are just at the beginning. I think we've got a reasonable start on 90 per cent of the shelves in a typical reference library."

    The engine, which will be free to use, works by drawing on the knowledge on the Internet, as well as private databases. Dr Wolfram said he expected that about 1,000 people would be needed to keep its databases updated with the latest discoveries and information.

    He also added that he would not go down the road of storing information on ordinary people, although he was aware that others might use the technology to do so.

    Wolfram Alpha has been designed with professionals and academics in mind, so its grasp of popular culture is, at the moment, comparatively poor. The term "50 Cent" caused "absolute horror" in tests, for example, because it confused a discussion on currency with the American rap artist. For this reason alone it is unlikely to provide an immediate threat to Google, which is working on a similar type of search engine, a version of which it launched last week.

    "We have a certain amount of popular culture information," Dr Wolfram said. "In some senses popular culture information is much more shallowly computable, so we can find out who's related to who and how tall people are. I fully expect we will have lots of popular culture information. There are linguistic horrors because if you put in books and music a lot of the names clash with other concepts."

    He added that to help with that Wolfram Alpha would be using Wikipedia's popularity index to decide what users were likely to be interested in.

    With Google now one of the world's top brands, worth $100 bn, Wolfram Alpha has the potential to become one of the biggest names on the planet.

    Dr Wolfram, however, did not rule out working with Google in the future, as well as Wikipedia. "We're working to partner with all possible organisations that make sense," he said. "Search, narrative, news are complementary to what we have. Hopefully there will be some great synergies."

    What the experts say

    "For those of us tired of hundreds of pages of results that do not really have a lot to do with what we are trying to find out, Wolfram Alpha may be what we have been waiting for."

    Michael W Jones, Tech.blorge.com

    "If it is not gobbled up by one of the industry superpowers, his company may well grow to become one of them in a small number of years, with most of us setting our default browser to be Wolfram Alpha."

    Doug Lenat, Semanticuniverse.com

    "It's like plugging into an electric brain."

    Matt Marshall, Venturebeat.com

    "This is like a Holy Grail... the ability to look inside data sources that can't easily be crawled and provide answers from them."

    Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of searchengineland.com

    Worldwide network: A brief history of the internet

    1969 The internet is created by the US Department of Defense with the networking of computers at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute.

    1979 The British Post Office uses the technology to create the first international computer networks.

    1980 Bill Gates's deal to put a Microsoft Operating System on IBM's computers paves the way for almost universal computer ownership.

    1984 Apple launches the first successful 'modern' computer interface using graphics to represent files and folders, drop-down menus and, crucially, mouse control.

    1989 Tim Berners-Lee creates the world wide web – using browsers, pages and links to make communication on the internet simple.

    1996 Google begins as a research project at Stanford University. The company is formally founded two years later by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

    2009 Dr Stephen Wolfram launches Wolfram Alpha.
    =============

    OK guys - let`s have the truth on this cybernetic Messiah - WOW, I can`t wait.
    KAS
     
  2. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    It's taken years for Google to become part of everyday language. "I will just Google it"...."Look it up on Google".

    So even if you have a search engine that's 10 times better, will people care or change their ways? You only have to look at how long firefox, which had many more features - and for awhile there - was the browser with tabs, has taken to gain a small share of the market.

    Google is here to stay. And if another company makes vast improvements on their search engine, Google has the funds to implement any changes to theirs.
     
  3. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    Last edited: May 3, 2009
  4. BlueZannetti

    BlueZannetti Administrator

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    Actually, the concept is rather forward thinking, the question is whether it will generally work as desired and stick.

    Google reveals sources of content, but manipulation of that content occurs outside of Google once obtained. It seems as though Alpha tries to build in some of the contextual manipulation capabilities. Naturally, this generally presumes numeric based information that's somehow acted upon. For the science/quantitative geek, this could be a really nice capability.

    Blue
     
  5. TonyW

    TonyW Registered Member

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    Q&A search isn't new. Only the methodology might be different.

    The START Project also offers such a service, although limited in some areas. Powerset provides Q&A with links to Wikipedia articles and it also uses Freebase. Brainboost also provides a Q&A format. (They were aquired by Answers Corp.)
     
  6. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    Blue, true it is forward thinking.

    But as I watched the video, and although there is much more to come, most were as you said, based on quantitative/numeric data.

    I like how the data/information generated was presented in a clear format. Could this be more competing with say Wikipedia, where users seem to prefer their information condensed into one clean format/layout?
     
  7. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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  8. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    Tried one more (while knowing the answer was 2.20)

    How many pounds are in a kilogram?

    powerset.jpg

    start 1.jpg
     

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  9. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    If START has been delivering information based on questions since 1993, 16 years ago, that's food for thought! :)

    Wolfram's idea (although might be more advanced) isn't the pioneer.

    What will happen though, Wolfram will be so attached to his name, he'll want the search engine to stay 'Wolfram', and no-one will care to remember this name/URL. The one with the most memorable name, and efficient service, will be the most widely used.
     
  10. BlueZannetti

    BlueZannetti Administrator

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    But this is where the action really is in many areas since the correct numerics often control the appropriate interpretation.

    As a specific example, consider a security product failing to flag a piece of malware. There seems to be lots of gnashing of teeth here and elsewhere whenever that happens. People start looking at other products. Major issue, right? Well, let's back up for a second. First, not all misses are equal. Some are nasty, but some are relatively benign, so all misses are not equal. However, if you look at the start of the art in detection, with the current population of malware, something of the order of 2500 samples are missed by the best in class (using the Feb 2009 AV-comparative.org results). So..., how much hand-wringing should one miss engender? One can quibble a lot of details regarding this test and so on, but numbers in isolation lose their real meaning. Being able to manipulate quantitative information on-the-fly based on additional contextual information can be a powerful tool.

    A second example is provided by the current economic situation (please - no politically based follow-ups). Almost all of the discussion (in the US) revolves around deficit spending in raw amounts and imply that there's never been a fiscal hole dug so deep. However, one really needs to normalize everything to the total size of the economy since the ability to retire the debt scales with the size of the economy. Putting this on a personal level, if I owe $100,000, that's a lot easier to deal with if I make $1,000,000/year than if I make $10,000/year. While this might seem patently obvious, almost none of the public discussion takes the step to normalize the data in a proper fashion. In isolation, that $100,000 debt number really is rather meaningless. That's true of lots of readily available quantitative data out there. Facilitating interpretive context, and doing it well, could be a powerful development.

    There's a lot of "maybe's" around the implementation. We'll have to see how it behaves in the field.

    Blue
     
  11. Kas

    Kas Registered Member

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    All replies on this thread are to be valued and digested, because they come from experienced users of the Internet who are both extremely conversant with the computer technology involved and the various systems available.

    The object of this thread is to promote intellectual comments in advance of the WA release. Such comments benefit us all.

    I would however stress to our enthusiastic responders, that it is absolutely irrelevant who is actually the Father of a concept, innovation or idea.

    It is the subsequent development of the initial concept that is important and this is done by others. Practically ALL modern technology is the result of development and NOT due to the original artist or inventor.

    Have any of you come across Leonardo Da Vinci - a brilliant inventor of the 15-16th Century or perhaps Vernher Von Braun - a more recent example of brilliant innovation. Without these two men, much of the modern technology we have today would be sadly lacking. Likewise with everything around us.

    So do not ridicule Stephen Wolfram for not being the initial conceiver of the idea, he is only doing what millions of other designers, scientists and engineers have done before him. It is called DEVELOPMENT and PROGRESS.
    KAS
     
  12. LockBox

    LockBox Registered Member

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    I agree, Blue. This project is at a whole different level than some of the other examples above.
     
  13. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    Kas, not ridiculing the guy, just been using the 'net' for awhile - back in early 90s paying my $5 an hour dialup. ;)

    Just seen a lot of ideas and claims. I like to see the goods first-hand before I get too excited. Just like before I put down a deposit for a new 'electric car', I want to drive it first, see if it lives up to its claims.

    That being said, I hope he brings the very best interpretive search engine around, as many of us can go around in circles looking for info. :thumb:
     
  14. LockBox

    LockBox Registered Member

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    Ah yes....how far we've come. Compuserve, America Online, Prodigy - all before most of us had ever heard the term "Internet." I remember when Prodigy made a huge deal out of being the first "mainstream provider" to provide access to the "World Wide Web" at a reasonable cost. Of course those "reasonable costs" were downright expensive. And we all had to experiment and have a "Home Page" at something like http://pages.prodigy.net/CA/0078923

    Hard to believe that's only been 15 years ago. What will the next 15 bring?
     
  15. Kas

    Kas Registered Member

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    Here we are with 246 views on a thread which covers a radically new search concept and only 14 posts have been made, three of which are my own.

    It is incredible the lack of interest shown in this subject by a Forum which is supposed to be dedicated to new developments and radical ideas.

    Well, whatever lights your candle. Have a nice day.
    KAS
     
  16. Less

    Less Registered Member

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    this is the 15 post............

    "Not interested" o_O :isay: :doubt:
     
  17. BlueZannetti

    BlueZannetti Administrator

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    Not unexpected given that the general field use release is still a few days off. Even then, it will take some time for the good/bad points to be revealed.

    As for Wolfram..., on his major efforts, I'd say he's batting .500 - Mathematica = a real winner (now let's get that pricing model right with Home edition); "A New Kind of Science" = misguided physicist ego swinging and missing for a theory of everything (which still has a lot of utility - it's just way oversold). Given the targets, .500 is a phenomenal result

    Blue
     
  18. TonyW

    TonyW Registered Member

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    The trouble is most of us can't test its claims yet. The web page is there, but we can't do anything with it until the launch sometime this month.

    We can only read press info and reviews given by journalists who have been given a sneak preview of the technology. It's hard to judge until you try it out for yourself, and then come to some conclusion as to whether it'll change your way of searching.

    Some people will not be that interested because old habits die hard.

    Although not a Q&A search engine, much fanfare was given to Cuil when it was launched last July as a serious competitor to Google; the interest soon tailed off though, and today you don't hear much about it.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  19. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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  20. Searching_ _ _

    Searching_ _ _ Registered Member

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    Will be interesting to see it in action first hand, learn what its value is.

    I do think it should be depersonalized. If it fails he will be remebered as a failure.
    Putting his name on it could be self-agrandizing, but I don't know the guy.

    If he chose to depersonalize it I'm fond of Douglas Adams.

    UQIT (you-cue-it)
    Ultimate Question Information Tool
     
  21. Kas

    Kas Registered Member

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    Fair enough, all we can do at present is give a professional opinion on what we feel the benefits of Wolfram Alpha will be. Of course a substantial amount of information has already been released in the press, on the net and in public demo`s etc. so we should have some idea what it is all about.

    When WA is released as promised this month and we have had a play with it, then it would be really appreciated if you would all come back to this thread and give your expert opinions. Please do, it should make interesting reading.

    My opinion ? Well, I have used Google ever since I`ve had a PC and find it absolutely awesome in providing just about everything I need and can ever wish to need at my fingertips.

    Google is not just a SEARCH engine - it is an entire cybernetic planet containing the most comprehensive collection of facilities and technological requirements one can ever imagine is possible - and it is all FREE.

    Competing in the market place with a saleable product equivalent to many others is easy. If it has some advantage, people will buy it and you "may" be successful in grabbing market share. If not you fail and go bust.

    But with a freebie ? In order to take customers away from a dominant market leader, you REALLY have got to be VERY good indeed and display some outstanding advantage which that giant does not have.

    I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams that WA has the necessary ingredients to even make Google aware it exists. It will just become ANOTHER search engine consigned to the scrap heap of existing defunct search engines lost in the depths of the Internet.

    If this likely event does happen, then poor Stephen Wolfram will follow and become renowned for his failure. I certainly do not wish this, but the odds are against him.
    Would the star jockey riding the favorite in the Kentucky Derby stand any chance at all if he suddenly switched to ride a donkey ?
    KAS
     
  22. Saraceno

    Saraceno Registered Member

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    One of the strongest aspects of Google, is not its ability to search the web, but its ability to search locally in your country and through news services.

    So you not only find out about something reported on website, you get an idea of how relevant this topic is in the local/international news. :thumb:
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  23. Searching_ _ _

    Searching_ _ _ Registered Member

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    Depends if you believe in collusion where money is involved.
    Of course he will stand a chance; If the other jockeys set the pace of their horses slower than the donkey!
     
  24. Kas

    Kas Registered Member

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    Just discovered, there is an old thread on Wolfram Alpha ;-

    "Wolfram Alpha: Next major search breakthrough ?"
    ======================================
    Raised by MrBrian on 10 March 2009.
    There have been 9 posts, last one by Defcon on 27 April 2009.
    KAS
     
  25. MrBrian

    MrBrian Registered Member

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    Wolfram Alpha: Next major search breakthrough?
     
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