Here’s a new powerful information tool

illustration: Wolfram Research
To call WolframAlpha a "search engine" doesn’t do it justice. Its creator describes it as a "computational knowledge engine".
It was just placed on-line a few days ago, and already it’s pretty darned impressive. Unlike Google, its knowledge base is built upon structured data. When you query it, it adds organization, interpretation, and calculation to return answers — not links to websites. I’m impressed — but:
  1. it’s not a replacement for Google or other traditional search engines.
  2. its knowledge base is incomplete. It has huge gaps now. Maybe in a year or two those gaps will be filled.
Do you remember 2001: A Space OdysseyDo you remember how HAL would obediently answer all questions posed by Dave and Frank? WolframAlpha attempts to do HAL’s job — before HAL turned to the dark side. Have a look; the FAQ page is worth reading. Here’s its URL:   <-The word "alpha" indicates that it’s under test.
Stephen Wolfram in 2002
WolframAlpha is the brainchild of respected British scientist / physicist / mathematician Stephen Wolfram, who created the program Mathematica, which is beloved by today’s mathematicians. Listen to his A New Kind of Science talk on how to model complex systems:
WolframAlpha uses Dr. Wolfram’s idea that complex systems such as human language can be broken down into simple programs. I hope that WolframAlpha grows up to become WolframOmega.
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