Answer Engine

Ken AshfordScience & TechnologyLeave a Comment

The web is full of fancy search engines, some of which claim to not only search, but to give answers.   For example, if you google "45 meters into yards", it will do that conversion.

But there's a new experiment out there called Wolfram/Alpha which is trying to "make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone".  In short, it is an answer engine, or, as they put it, "'a computational knowledge engine: it generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links."

What does that mean?  Well, click the link above and play around.  At first it seemed rather limited to me, but as I experimented more, I realized it had pretty strong capabilities.  For example, I wanted to know what the weather was on the day I was born (in Omaha, Nebraska).  I simply typed "weather in omaha on september 27 1962" and learned not only that I was born on a Thursday, but that it was 56 degrees and partly cloudy.  Google can't do that.

Find out the cast of obscure movies.  And yes, if you type "woodchuck chuck", it will tell you how much wood a woodchuck would chuck.

And even though it is billed as an ongoing project, and its knowledge base is expected to grwo, it already knows the answer to the "meaning of life".  Not bad.