Wolfram Alpha: the answer to all your questions

Wolfram|Alpha: The best thing since... well, anything.

This might just be the most fantastic thing since Google.

Remember “Ask Jeeves,” the search engine that turned questions into search pages (Its now known as Ask.com… they did away with Jeeves)? Yesterday marked the public release of a new search engine, that goes off this principal, but takes it leaps and bounds further. WolframAlpha.com is a brand new site that will answer pretty much anything you ask it.  Its not a search engine as much as it is a knowledge engine; it doesnt search web pages, but rather it searches through a database of “Mathemaitca,” their own brand of digital facts and data.

What is it?

From their website:

Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.

Wolfram|Alpha is an ambitious, long-term intellectual endeavor that we intend will deliver increasing capabilities over the years and decades to come. With a world-class team and participation from top outside experts in countless fields, our goal is to create something that will stand as a major milestone of 21st century intellectual achievement.

Fantastic, huh?

  • This being said, try out their examples. Type in something like x+y=10, x–y=4. It gives you all possible answers.
  • Type in some musical notes, like E E B B C# C# B. It plays twinkle twinkle little star, lists the steps between each note, and shows you the notation and keyboard to go along with it. Flat notes are designated with a lower case ‘b,’ for those of you who are concerned.
  • Ask it for Michael Jordan’s age. Seriously. It has it.
  • I found out that Colin Powell and I share birthdays. Go figure.

Frankly, the examples are endless. Take a look at their Examples page to see everything they have, or look at their Visual Gallery for previews of the examples. Every search result can be saved as a PDF for future reference.

They also have tons of pluggins for the Windows Vista sidebar, the Mac dashboard, iGoogle, and various other web pages and browsers. You can find them all here.

Right now, the website is slow, but I guess this can be expected, seeing as it went public yesterday, and is probably under a massive load right now. But seriously, play with it for a little bit. It’ll load (albeit a little slowly,) and you’ll really be impressed when it does.