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Wolfram Alpha vs. Google — Results Vary

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the and-so-might-your-mileage dept.

Google 255

wjousts writes "Technology Review has an article comparing various search results from Wolfram Alpha and Google. Results vary. For example, searching 'Microsoft Apple' in Alpha returns data comparing both companies stock prices, whereas Google top results are news stories mentioning both companies. However, when searching for '10 pounds kilograms,' Alpha rather unhelpfully assumes you want to multiply 10 pounds by 1 kilogram, whereas Google directs you to sites for metric conversions. Change the query to '10 pounds in kilograms' and both give you the result you'd expect (i.e. 4.536 kg)."

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255 comments

this just in (5, Insightful)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830495)

Karma be damned, but..

No one cares about a new search engine. Really, Google suits all my needs.

Re:this just in (5, Insightful)

gailrob (937536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830539)

It is not a search engine but rather a factual answer database. It is quite impressive actually and I look forward to it's release as it will provide an awesome new resource for everyone. Especially students! Google - search for websites. Wolfram - search for answers.

Re:this just in (5, Interesting)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830613)

I RTFA and, even when searching for answers, Google moped the floor with Wolfram Alpha. I know Alpha is still on its nest but, both sites evolving in the same rate they are evolving now, I don't see Google's dominance being challenged just yet.

Re:this just in (5, Funny)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830829)

"I RTFA and, even when searching for answers, Google moped the floor with Wolfram Alpha."

Sure, Google mopeds. But Alpha scooters.

Re:this just in (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830909)

I RTFA and, even when searching for answers, Google mopped the floor with Wolfram Alpha

That's funny, I RTFA too, and I came to a completely different conclusion. I think perhaps we have different definitions of "answers".

The conclusion I drew is that if you're looking for technical/scientific data Alpha does a much better job. In particular, it brings together lots of relevant bits and pieces which may not exist on any single web site. Google will probably find it all for you, but you'll have to do more digging. On the other hand, if you're looking for news, commentary or opinion, Google is the much better choice.

I more frequently find myself looking for data, so I wouldn't be surprised if my usage tends to favor Alpha. Heck, as it is 95% of my usage of Google is to search for a Wikipedia article -- and often I'm looking for that to find links to tables of data. Your goals and search patterns may be different, so your usage may favor Google.

I suspect that Alpha is going to be a very useful tool within its domain, but I don't expect it to displace Google to any significant degree.

Re:this just in (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831337)

I've got to say I've RTFAed as well and Wolfram seems damn interesting. More useful than pulling up hundreds of seemingly random links.

Re: RTFA (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831571)

I'll reply to you.

I want a search engine for people who *DO* RTFA's.

Standard engines give you SEO'd junk.

Exactly! Re:this just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831885)

I can easily see about 80% of my "search engine" traffic going to Wolfram Alpha during the semester or during work hours. What about personal time? I can still see Wolfram Alpha replacing Google over half the time.
As the above post points out: a lot of the time I'm looking for specific data. I know what I want, just not where, when or how. Wolfram is best for this. If I don't know what I'm looking for, I'll still use Google because it automatically figures this stuff out for me when it turns out to be simple.

Re:this just in (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831523)

Google mopped the floor with Wolfram Alpha

Yeah, well duh! Wolfram is in alpha, but Google is in beta.

Re:this just in (-1, Flamebait)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830645)

That's like calling the idea that God created all the creatures on Earth, "Intelligent Design". SSDN. Whenever I have a question, I google it. It may not give me answers directly on the results most of the time, but I'm one short click away from the website that holds the information I seek.

Re:this just in (2, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831305)

Google - search for websites.
Wolfram - search for answers.

I'd put it slightly differently:
Google - search for information
Alpha - search for data

However you state it, though, there's definitely a different niche for each. Alpha won't 'kill' Google on everything, but for some forms of research it will be ideal.

Re:this just in (1)

Ceiynt (993620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831513)

Does Wolfram know the "answer to life, the universe and everything" like Google does?

Directions? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831863)

I'm disappointed that Google Maps can't get me directions from New York to Paris anymore. I kind of doubt WolframAlpha would ever have that sense of humour.

Re:this just in (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831661)

It is not a search engine but rather a factual answer database.

Feh. Who needs a factual answer database when all you need is the giant Infosphere [theinfosphere.org] . You can even learn that yes, postage-stamp glue is made from toad mucus!

Re:this just in (1)

Haiyadragon (770036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830579)

That's a bit shortsighted don't you think? Google is not infallible, I like to be prepared.

Re:this just in (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830625)

It doesn't suit mine. I still prefer scirus [scirus.com] to Google Scholar. For general needs yeah Google is good but why not want something even better?

Re:this just in (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830663)

Karma be damned, but..

No one cares about a new search engine. Really, Google suits all my needs.

I would claim that's a dangerous mentality. I was using Metacrawler until Google came along. Even though Google is included in Metacrawler, its simplicity and speed won me over. Is that to say no one can compete with Google? Not at all.

I used to dig holes with my hands which was painful and time consuming. When it became clear this wouldn't work, I discovered a spade [wikipedia.org] did the job much better. And I used it for everything. Though one day I was putting up fences and lamented the width of my spade's blade ... the posts weren't sitting firmly. A man offered to lend me his post hole digger [about.com] which did that specific task better. No, I wasn't using the post hole digger to dig a trench for a sewage line but adding it to my collection of tools made me more effective at my tasks--so long as I used it for what it was best at.

The hype machine has worked, I will try out Wolfram Alpha and see if it is better than Google or can replace some of the capabilities I use Google to accomplish.

Re:this just in (5, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830667)

Google be damned, Library index cards suit all my needs!

Also, get off my lawn. Damn kids. And if you ball lands in my yard again, you're not getting it back.

Re:this just in (1, Offtopic)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831215)

Also, get off my lawn. Damn kids. And if you ball lands in my yard again, you're not getting it back.

Real men use [imdb.com] a M1 Garand [wikipedia.org] to keep the kids off their lawn ;)

Re:this just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830819)

They said the same about, yahoo and deja. Google needs a lot of improvement. Most google results are useless these days. Nothing but placeholders to other search engines and pseudo review sites like cnet. So please grow up. Dweebs like you are hardly omniscient and you obviously need a reality check if you believe your pathetic life and preferences should dictate what the rest of the world thinks and does.

Re:this just in (2, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830821)

Well, I wouldn't switch away from Google no matter what, but if you see this more as "basic" research, eventually if it eventually turns out to be superior then you can be sure that Google will buy it and integrate it to its search service.

So while concurrencing Google directly is futile, such research can participate to ultimately improve it, and put a few millions in the creator's pocket.

Re:this just in (5, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830987)

Well, I wouldn't switch away from Google no matter what.

Really? No matter what? What if Google announced that they killed a kitten for every search done on Google? Would you still use it? What if every Google search came with a free virus and key logger? Would you still use it?

Saying "no matter what" is always silly, no matter what.

Re:this just in (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831397)

Saying "no matter what" is always silly, no matter what.

What if someone points a gun at you and tells you to say "no matter what" or he will shoot you? :-)

Re:this just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831479)

what if google spayed and neutered pets for every search done on google? at least bob barker would be happy then.

Re:this just in (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831647)

looks like a whole lot of kittens are gonna die :(

Re:this just in (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831767)

lol, I know you're taking the piss, but I think that to anyone, unconditionality implies an expectation of continuity and consistency with what is known and what can be expected. If you look at things this way then nothing's strictly unconditional, the conditions are limited to an implicit limited reasonable set of expectations.

Re:this just in (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831007)

Well, I wouldn't switch away from Google no matter what...

You sound like a fanboy. That's not a sign of intelligent or rational thought.

Me, I'd switch from google the moment something better comes along. I might switch even sooner if something came along that was very nearly as good and wasn't hell bent on profiling me .

Why wouldn't you? Are they holding your family hostage?

Re:this just in (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831631)

Oh noes, Pigeonhole Man has struck again!

Right, I'm a fanboy, it has nothing to do that no serious superior alternative is going to pop up within the foreseeable future.

Re:this just in (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831787)

They told him that every time you use the competition they kill dumbledore with kittens.

Re:this just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831147)

I wouldn't switch away from Google no matter what...

Why? If Wolfram, or any other search engine, does the job better I'll switch to it. Google hasn't done anything worthy of unconditional support.

Re:this just in (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831645)

Right, you realise that being better at searching than Google takes a little more than just a good search algorithm, right?

Re:this just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831505)

why does everyone assume that google, microsoft, apple or any other mega corp can just buy whatever they want? not everything is for sale. look, a month ago we could have added IBM to that list, they could buy a friggin PLANET if they wanted. NO. they got turned down by Sun Microsystems and now they're desperately trying to act aggressively to defend themselves. sure Oracle was the highest bidder. so perhaps thats a bad example, but there are plenty of things that just ARENT FOR SALE. i'm pretty sure that the culmination of Steven Wolframs life work is one of them.

Re:this just in (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831669)

lol... How naive.

Re:this just in (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831771)

Have you actually used any of the other engines lately? There is nothing special about Google at this point, when I switched over to Google years ago it did make a difference, but that was years ago and at this point there isn't any advantage to it.

Plus if you use Google you're encouraging the same sort of bad behavior that got MS into all that trouble.

Re:this just in (3, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831243)

No one cares about a new search engine. Really, Google suits all my needs.

I use Google. I will likely continue to use Google for some time. However...

Competition is essential. It's good for us, good for Google too. Google, and every other search engine past and present, has failed to meet my needs. It's still to hard to find relevant articles without commerce-based noise and link-farm sites.

Image search, for example -- near worthless.

It's also annoying to find a wikipedia entry at the top of the page rank for almost everything on Google. This is skewed, and bears no relation to the individual rank (and thus merit) of the wikipedia page. I want facts, not what some guy thinks. I know where wikipedia is, if I wanted to search it, I would. I don't.

Google has much room for improvement. After 12 years of Google there's been little to no improvement in Search (in fact the opposite, Google-gaming has increased). Competition is the only solution to that. Bring it on, Wolfram. Bring it on anyone with new ideas in Search. We all need you (even Google).

Re:this just in (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831867)

Karma be damned, but..

No one cares about a new search engine. Really, Google suits all my needs.

I thought that when I saw a TV commercial for Searchers.co.uk [searchers.co.uk] last night at prime time (I've never heard of it before). I'd completely forgotten about it until I saw this article.

I have now gone to the home page and seen that it's a UK specific search engine (fair enough) and claims to do natural language processing. I wasn't expecting my first search, tube map [searchers.co.uk] , to give me a porn site as number 1 match.

Any new search engine will need to be at least as good as Google [google.co.uk] for at least some kinds of query for me to use it. Wolfram might be interesting, but I'll decide that when it emerges from beta.

but whose better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830509)

what if i type in "fastest search engine"?

Conversions (1)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830541)

I'm still unhappy with Google's conversion engine..

I still can't get it to convert FMDs to Libraries of Congress.

Re:Conversions (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830593)

Funny, but it could be improved. I tried to get Google to convert decimal to hex the other day, no luck. It also doesn't convert radioactive decays per minute (dpm) to microcuries. These would be useful. Not that I can't do it myself.

Re:Conversions (2, Informative)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830957)

Google: 16 in hex
result: 0x01

Gotta ask the right question!

Re:Conversions (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831053)

Wow, is it really that wrong?

Re:Conversions (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831111)

OIC. I was doing "16 decimal in hex". Well now I know!

Re:Conversions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831093)

type "10 in hex" into google and you get 10 = 0xA.

type "255 in hex" into google and you get 255 = 0xFF.

As for dpm to microcuries, I can't help you there.

Re:Conversions (2, Informative)

swilver (617741) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831267)

Try: 255 in base 16
Result: 0xFF

Re:Conversions (0)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831605)

But 255 in base 16 is FF, not 0xFF!
And 54 in base 13 doesn't give me an (or rather, the) answer (granted, the answer can be found in the links found).
Google doesn't even know 54 in base 10 :-)

Re:Conversions (2, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830993)

Me too, I mean I should TOTALLY be able to write almost non-human readable "10 kilograms pounds" instead of google's "10 kilograms in pounds". That's so much more difficult!

Alpha Should Be Renamed: +1, True (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830547)

Vaporware.

Yours In Communism,
Kilgore Trout [youtube.com] .

Re:Alpha Should Be Renamed: +1, True (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830833)

What does this Kilgore Trout AC always link to on Youtube? I'm always too scared to click the link, since I'm at work.

Pounds kilograms... (1)

IgnorantSavage (530289) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830557)

This specific example is not useful, but for other units it would make tons of sense and be more useful than the Google results if it produces an answer to a unit multiplication question rather than giving a link to a site that will do it. Often with extra features come extra ways to get silly answers, this is one I would be willing to live with.

Re:Pounds kilograms... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830825)

I like my search engines to search, thankyouverymuch. "'New York Times' Philly" Should turn up results with Philly and the NY Times newspaper, not modulo the populations of NYC by Philly. Do one thing and do it well.

Well, of course (4, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830617)

Alpha is meant to interpret natural language to figure out an answer. "Microsoft Apple" and "10 pounds kilograms" aren't natural language questions or common phrases. Those would be keyword searches, which is what you'd type into Google. Try "Compare Microsoft to Apple" or "How many kilograms are in 10 pounds" and you'd be using Alpha more appropriately.

Each system is a tool. If you don't use the tool as described you won't get the results you're looking for.

Re:Well, of course (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830809)

That though did occur to me when I first read the article. From what I've read elsewhere about Alpha, it's supposed to be asked questions rather than given keywords.

Re:Well, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830823)

i agree wholeheartedly, but i'm concerned with the possibility of malicious intent. if (for lack of a better immediate example) "where is the secret rebel base?" would it tell me Dantooine or would it rat them out? having facts is important but if somebody is looking to blow up your planet... id rather it lie.

Re:Well, of course (5, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830835)

Each system is a tool.

So is the average user.

Re:Well, of course (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831257)

I'm always annoyed by these stories talking about search engine returns where the author doesn't make even the most rudimentary effort to differentiate results. Why exactly would you type "microsoft apple" into a search engine, anyway? If you want stock prices, type "microsoft apple stock prices." If you want product reviews, type "microsoft and apple reviews," etc. And if you want to know how to convert pounds to kilograms, type "convert pounds to kilograms." It's like these authors get upset when the search engines can't magically read their thoughts to figure out what results they were hoping for.

Re:Well, of course (4, Interesting)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831685)

Even worse, "10 pounds kilograms" is not nonsense. It is the standard way (except for the s on "pounds") to mean that you have some funny unit that is mass squared. Alpha gets it right, Google gets it wrong.

Alpha does not tell you when you don't understand your own question, though, I guess. ("You have asked a question that only makes sense if you know basic physics. Are you sure you know basic physics? (Y/N)")

Re:Well, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831783)

Each system is a tool. If you don't use the tool as described you won't get the results you're looking for.

E.g. never use paint as lube. Even if it says waterbased. Never.

Wolfram stuff? (5, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830643)

I've never heard of Wolfram Alpha, so I googled it. Then I thought: If this new search engine becomes popular, will I still use google as a verb? I'd hate to wolfram stuff.

Re:Wolfram stuff? (3, Funny)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830949)

The real question is when Wolfram Alpha will go beta.

Re:Wolfram stuff? (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830979)

obSeinfeld

What is Tungsten, or Wolfram?

I'm guessing we're going to see a lot of the number 74 and W in various iterations if this catches on...

Re:Wolfram stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831047)

You can just say you're going to WALPHA something (Wolfram + ALPHA).

Re:Wolfram stuff? (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831851)

You can just say you're going to WALPHA something (Wolfram + ALPHA).

Yeah or search for it. Apparently that verb has been around for centuries.

Wat. Wolfram Alpha is not even a search engine. (4, Informative)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830655)

Stupid "face off" story.

WA doesn't compete with Google.

WA works with structured data sets and natural language queries to come up with replies, Google searches the web. WA won't do shit with a query like "digital camera reviews", but Google will. Google won't do shit if asked to calculate answers based on statistics, WA will.

Re:Wat. Wolfram Alpha is not even a search engine. (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830897)

So "What's the best camera for about $200" will work in Wolfram Alpha?

Re:Wat. Wolfram Alpha is not even a search engine. (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831051)

No, becasue that is based upon personal opinion. Someone may want a high zoom, some a better CCD, some multi-point auto-focusing.

It will, however, give you an answer to "How many more people died in World War 1 than World War 2?" as that is based on fact.

N.B. I don't care how many died in either war; It's an example of a question with a definite answer.

Re:Wat. Wolfram Alpha is not even a search engine. (4, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831573)

You need to stick to factual, well-defined questions; such as, "what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"

Re:Wat. Wolfram Alpha is not even a search engine. (2, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831107)

Ok, they take different approaches, work in different ways, and each perform well in areas where the other does not. That doesn't mean they don't compete with one another.

An airplane and a train have very little in common WRT how they work. A train can't get you frmo St. Louis to London. Taking a plane from Munich to Vienna is lunacy. Yet, planes and trains do compete with one another.

Competition = good (2, Insightful)

DomNF15 (1529309) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830693)

Some argued that Wolfram is not exactly like Google, but regardless, I think competition in this space and elsewhere is a good thing. I know a lot of people like Google, I am one of them. But, to quote a relevant cliche, "absolute power corrupts absolutely". There has to be something or someone keeping profit driven enterprises honest, whether we're talking about search engines or operating systems...

Bramleys to Granny Smiths? (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830699)

Isn't this like comparing vi to MS Word? They're similar tools that can be used for similar tasks but really they're for very different purposes.

What about something really useful (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830717)

Does Wolfram do any better than google when you type "hot free porn videos". Will you be able to type "teenage pussy" without being bothered by some old deary who wants to tell you about the longevity of her pet cat?

Re:What about something really useful (1)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831361)

Will you be able to type "teenage pussy" without being bothered by some old deary who wants to tell you about the longevity of her pet cat?

I think this problem will more likely be solved by economic recovery, since SEO consultants are now forced to accept payment in the form of Werther's originals.

Missing the point? (3, Insightful)

iamflimflam1 (1369141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830831)

Surely the whole point of how WA works is to use natural language for the queries.

Typing in "Cancer New York" could mean anything.

If you gave that question to a human they'd have no idea what your were looking for.

Why didn't he try asking the question he was trying to ask which was "What are the rates of cancer in new york?" or even just "Cancer rate in new york"

All his other searches are equally stupid.

Re:Missing the point? (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831503)

All his other searches are equally stupid.

Even so, I was still impressed by some of the info turned up by WA, particularly the "Sydney New York" info and all the comparisons (GM/Ford, Asprin/Tylenol, etc). So his queries may have been unsuited for WA, but (assuming WA does what it is supposed to and handles natural language decently), this article at least sets a lower bound for what we can expect of it, and I found it quite impressive.

10 pounds kilograms (4, Insightful)

Trevin (570491) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830881)

Reminds me of when I was in France, and still having trouble understanding the spoken French language. I was talking to a guy who asked me, in translation, "Brothers, sisters, one, two, three?" It took me a while to figure out he wanted to know how many siblings I had. Dumbing down the question like that didn't help me understand him any better, it made it worse. Using correct French grammar and simply slowing it down would have been much more helpful.

I imagine Wolfram Alpha is like that.

Re:10 pounds kilograms (5, Funny)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831487)

I was talking to a guy who asked me, in translation, "Brothers, sisters, one, two, three?" It took me a while to figure out he wanted to know how many siblings I had.

Surely the possible semantic meanings for those set of words is fairly limited?! Either he was asking you how many siblings you had, or he was attempting to start a jazz band, spontaneously.

Re:10 pounds kilograms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831599)

which reminds me of a textadventure game i wrote for a lab assignment. I spent so many hours making it parse real english instructions, sent it in, and got the reply back that he didn't manage to do anything. He had tried "look" "west" and some other very incomplete instructions. *sigh*

Why are most examples side to side comparisons? (4, Insightful)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830903)

Is Wolfram Alpha especially good in doing side to side comparisons (ex. from the article: "Microsoft Apple", "Stanford Harvard", "Utah Florida", "Utah Florida population")? Or why did the article test both engines with those queries?

I would have rather expected, complete questions that are nevertheless hard to answer (unless you know a source), such as:

1) "How many bull terriers are in the UK?"
Google: link to Bullterriers on Wikipedia and some dog clubs in the UK.
Wolfram: ???

2) "How many blind people live in the US?"
Google: first link to WikiAnsers (about 1 million, but without any references). Next links seem to be more serious, but difficult to get a real answer to that question (it depends on how you interprete "blind").
Wolfram: ???

3) "What is the color of a strawberry?"
Google: This confuses me, apparently it has many colors...
Wolfram: ???

4) Apparently we need to use a comparison question: "strawberry blackberry"
Google: I am getting hungry when I am following all those recipe links ...

 

A comment from Stephen Wolfram (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830923)

(due up tomorrow [today.com] )

Some might say that Mathematica, the source of my fortune, and A New Kind Of Science: A Brief History Of My Stupendous Intellect were ambitious projects. But in recent years I've been hard at work on a still more ambitious project: Wolfram Alpha.

Fifty years ago, people assumed that computers would quickly be able to handle all kinds of question. It didnâ(TM)t work out that way. But a few years ago, I realized that I was finally in a position to do it myself. As I'd always expected I'd have to, of course.

I had the crucial ingredients: Mathematica and A New Kind Of Science. And my truly massive intellect. With these, I had a language to compute anything and a paradigm for complexity from simple rules. And my spectacular brain, which is much more spectacular than anyone else's, as proven by me being rich as well as smart. Which is smarter: to be a professor, or to have all the professors pay you tribute? I think my net worth makes the answer clear.

But what about all the actual knowledge that we as humans have accumulated? I realized we needed to make all data computable as knowledge. Of course, natural language is incredibly difficult for computers. So we added the secret ingredient: my jaw-droppingly spectacular brain, undoubtedly the largest on Earth.

I'm happy to say that with a mixture of clever algorithms and heuristics, linguistic discovery and curation, and some casual Nobel-worthy theoretical breakthroughs in my spare moments, we've made it work. Itâ(TM)s going to be a website with one simple input field that gives direct access to my superlative brain, in its planet-sized glory.

Our pre-launch testers have been at work as well, and I'm dealing with all manner of queries in spare thought cycles while I jetset around the world, wowing the pitiful minds of gorgeous international supermodels before impregnating them with my superior genetic material. Let's just have a look at the query stream: "tits" "goatse" "mary whitehouse naked" "4chan" "tubgirl" "2girls1cup" "ITS OVER 9000 LOL" "desu desu desu desu"
ERROR ERROR ERROR
####(^^(856*##&##
NO CARRIER

still awaiting Nobel prize for inventing physics (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831239)

If you read his claim in a "New Kind of Physics" that cellular automata would completely change and improve physics. The volume was an exhaustive exploration of all possible rules for the basic 8-neighbor, rectangular planar automata. Some interesting, but not revolutionary results.

Re:A comment from Stephen Wolfram (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831407)

I always said porn was a no-brainer.

Re:A comment from Stephen Wolfram (1)

Anonymatt (1272506) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831833)

Maybe Wolfram sits in a room answering everyone's questions.

10 pounds kilograms? (1)

iteyoidar (972700) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830939)

The way units are generally written out "10 pounds kilograms" sounds like you are stating 10 lbs*kg which doesn't make any sense. The problem with these search engine comparisons is that the people reviewing htem usually have extremely narrow ideas of the results they want while these search engines are built for a very wide audience. I remember when there was an article about Cuil and the reviewer was pissed because the first result was about the United States mint and not the leaf.

Re:10 pounds kilograms? (1)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831813)

10 lbs*kg does make sense if you have a unit of mass squared. A unit of self-gravitation would have that.

AI (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831021)

In my AI class, "expert systems" were mentioned. There was an example of a system for diagnosing blood-borne pathogens. Basically, they programmed some computer to ask every question of the patient that a doctor would ask, and programmed the doctors' decision-making process into the app. It was exactly as accurate as the doctors were. This was in the seventies.

The book said that expert systems were largely abandoned, however, because the software was less efficient--it asked males if they were pregnant, for example.

Software has come a long way since the seventies. I think it's time we take another swing at expert systems. I applaud Wolfram for making an attempt. There is no question in my mind that expert systems which are limited in scope could be very successful.

Re:AI (1)

LiXiang (1501599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831727)

Well expert systems weren't completely abandoned. You should look around for conversational agents, which are greatly derived from expert systems. Heck, take a look at what is currently done in natural language processing, you'll find your expert systems.

Blogger Learn English (3, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831055)

How about a test involving actual English-language questions and not just keywords? You know, like all those old tests from school that said "please use complete sentences". There is a reason languages have things like prepositions, adjectives and other parts of speech. They actually help put your communication into context.

Nobody knows what the hell you mean with "Cancer New York" because there is no context. How about "cancer statistics for new york" or "cancer treatment in new york"?

Damn British Units (5, Funny)

sakonofie (979872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831129)

For the Americans in the audience, 1 £ kg = 3.33 $ lb.


I recommend not saying this aloud for it sounds very silly.

explicit phrasing (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831153)

Alpha rather unhelpfully assumes you want to multiply 10 pounds by 1 kilogram

Actually, while I agree that is unhelpful, I also don't like the other assumption. Maybe I'm already growing old, but I don't mind if people actually say what they mean instead of speaking or writing in some kind of shortcut-verbs-are-too-expensive-so-I-leave-them-out abbreviated style and leave it to the listener/reader to decypher whatever it could possibly be they mean.

So if you want 10 pounds in kilograms, what exactly is the trouble with actually writing those three (counting the space) additional characters?

Re:explicit phrasing (3, Informative)

lxs (131946) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831341)

"So if you want 10 pounds in kilograms, what exactly is the trouble with actually writing those three (counting the space) additional characters?"

Pavlovian conditioning.
Search engines have for the past decade consistently ignored grammar and thrown out those small additional words, often with a stern admonishment to the user that half their query is being ignored.

wolframnet (1)

thelonious (233200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831213)

But when does it become self aware?

The answer is in the anagram... (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831251)

Wolfram = MOR FLAW

Expectations (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831299)

Somehow I have different expectations than the author about what some search terms should provide:

SEARCH TERM: Microsoft Apple

WA gives a comparison of stock prices. From TFA I conclude that's also what the author expected. I wouldn't expect that. If I were looking for stock prices, I'd add "stock" to the search term. With "Microsoft Apple" I'd expect to get some relations between Microsoft and Apple (where they compete, what the main differences are, maybe a comparison of market shares).

SEARCH TERM: 10 pounds kilograms

WA's interpretation is the most reasonable. After all, it's the standard way to denote multiplications (as in newton meters, ampere seconds or kilowatt hours). It would never have occured to me to omit the "in" even in Google.

Direct answers (3, Interesting)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831443)

I expect something from Wolfram like the answer Google gives to this question:

How old is Demi Moore?

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=how+old+is+demi+moore&btnG=Search [google.com]

At the top, you'll see text that says:

Demi Moore -- Age: 46 years (born November 11, 1962)
According to: (some source) [more sources]

This is the proper way of answering a question like that. I don't want just the answer. I want to know where the answer came from.

How many french died at the Battle of Agincourt?

I expect a number from Wolfram Alpha, as well as a cited source. There could also be, like Google, the option to choose other sources.

Eventually, this will all boil down to me driving in my car and saying, "Computer. Tell me: At what speed did Marty McFly need to drive to travel in time?"

I guess "you'd" aint me (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831461)

"the result you'd expect"
I'd expect a kilo for 10 pounds.

natural searchstring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831491)

search google for: "10 pounds in kilograms"
or "10 meter in inches"

this is the way i would formulate such questions.

And google knows me well ;-)

Those queries are stupid (1)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | more than 5 years ago | (#27831613)

The results you receive querying any database will be as good as the input data. We are doing web page searches here correct? So if I just search "microsoft apple" those two words will appear billions if not trillions of times I'm sure. Is the web engine supposed to figure out intent from that? Give me a break. The page returns that Google is giving out are probably related to user behavior after a similar search and Alpha hasn't had enough time to build up that kind of data. The second one was stupid as well. Again, we are searching web pages. I doubt many pages exist converting 10 pounds to kilograms. If I want to convert something how about a more useful query like "converting pounds to kilograms" I found myself more annoyed by this story than I have been in a long while.

10 pounds == 4.536 kg? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831689)

Here on Mars, 10 pounds is about 12 kg. Why do Wolfram and Google both assume 9.81 m/s/s acceleration due to gravity? It's a thinly-veiled Earth-centric, xenophobic agenda...

But did it guess the Kentucky Derby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831739)

I want it for one thing, horse racing!

88 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27831753)

88th post! Heil Hitler, by the way! 8 8 = H H = Heil Hitler! Woot, kill them jew fag niggers
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