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Meet Wolfram Alpha

Discussion in 'BlackHat Lounge' started by aмillionaírе, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. aмillionaírе

    aмillionaírе Power Member

    Apr 20, 2008
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    Stephen Wolfram is building something new ? and it is really impressive and significant. In fact it may be as important for the Web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose.

    Stephen was kind enough to spend two hours with me last week to demo his new online service ? Wolfram Alpha (scheduled to open in May). In the course of our conversation we took a close look at Wolfram Alpha?s capabilities, discussed where it might go, and what it means for the Web, and even the Semantic Web.

    Stephen has not released many details of his project publicly yet, so I will respect that and not give a visual description of exactly what I saw. However, he has revealed it a bit in a recent article, and so below I will give my reactions to what I saw and what I think it means. And from that you should be able to get at least some idea of the power of this new system.

    A Computational Knowledge Engine for the Web

    In a nutshell, Wolfram and his team have built what he calls a ?computational knowledge engine? for the Web. OK, so what does that really mean? Basically it means that you can ask it factual questions and it computes answers for you.

    It doesn?t simply return documents that (might) contain the answers, like Google does, and it isn?t just a giant database of knowledge, like the Wikipedia. It doesn?t simply parse natural language and then use that to retrieve documents, like Powerset, for example. Instead, Wolfram Alpha actually computes the answers to a wide range of questions ? like questions that have factual answers such as ?What country is Timbuktu in?? or ?How many protons are in a hydrogen atom?? or ?What is the average rainfall in Seattle??

    Think about that for a minute. It computes the answers. Wolfram Alpha doesn?t simply contain huge amounts of manually entered pairs of questions and answers, nor does it search for answers in a database of facts. Instead, it understands and then computes answers to certain kinds of questions.

    How Does it Work?

    Wolfram Alpha is a system for computing the answers to questions. To accomplish this it uses built-in models of fields of knowledge, complete with data and algorithms, that represent real-world knowledge.

    For example, it contains formal models of much of what we know about science ? massive amounts of data about various physical laws and properties, as well as data about the physical world.

    Based on this you can ask it scientific questions and it can compute the answers for you. Even if it has not been programmed explicity to answer each question you might ask it.

    But science is just one of the domains it knows about ? it also knows about technology, geography, weather, cooking, business, travel, people, music, and more.

    It also has a natural language interface for asking it questions. This interface allows you to ask questions in plain language, or even in various forms of abbreviated notation, and then provides detailed answers.

    The vision seems to be to create a system wich can do for formal knowledge (all the formally definable systems, heuristics, algorithms, rules, methods, theorems, and facts in the world) what search engines have done for informal knowledge (all the text and documents in various forms of media).

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  2. abhi1

    abhi1 Power Member

    Feb 12, 2009
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    Student, Webmaster
    Planet Earth
    okey!..so u ask it n its answers u back...but wht unique is that it computes answers unlike google giving u a list of possible answers...right?