Wolfram's search engine will give just the facts
9th Mar 2009 | 10:44
Wolfram Alpha arriving in May, fact.
Pioneering computer scientist Stephen Wolfram is ready to unleash a search engine on the world that will give you factual answers to your queries.
Wolfram Alpha – launching in May – purports to offer only the facts when asked direct questions.
Wolfram research is best known for its Mathmatica programs, as well as acting as the mathematical consultant for US series Numb3rs.
But their search engine concept is an attempt to cut out all that surfing and offer a direct answer to the user's question – as long as it's got a scientific answer of course
A blog post on the topic from Stephen Wolfram explains more about the project.
"Of course, getting computers to deal with natural language has turned out to be incredibly difficult. And for example we're still very far away from having computers systematically understand large volumes of natural language text on the web.
"But if one's already made knowledge computable, one doesn't need to do that kind of natural language understanding.
"All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do.
"Of course, even that has never been done in any generality. And it's made more difficult by the fact that one doesn't just want to handle a language like English: one also wants to be able to handle all the shorthand notations that people in every possible field use," adds Wolfram
"I wasn't at all sure it was going to work. But I'm happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we're actually managing to make it work."
It certainly sounds intriguing, although you could suggest that sometimes it is the web's randomness that makes it such a fun place to visit.