Burning the Midnight Oil

May 17, 2009
117 Comments

Thanks for your hard working!

Posted by jimogsh May 17, 2009 at 12:02 am

Keep up the hard work ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by Hector Alejandro May 17, 2009 at 12:11 am

Would’ve loved to be a part of that hardworking team. ^o^

Posted by Mark Wendall May 17, 2009 at 12:23 am

Awesome site/concept!! Great work guys!

Posted by Vikki May 17, 2009 at 12:26 am

Great site …great team…keep it up guys!! :))

Posted by mohamed May 17, 2009 at 12:36 am

Absolutely awesome concept well done guys and gals … I look fwd to making a lot of use of this resource .. Thnx

Posted by Stuboy May 17, 2009 at 12:36 am

I like the guy with his hand on his head. Wonder what she was pointing out that made him distressed?

Posted by @gomery May 17, 2009 at 12:52 am

i want one of the paper weights on the tables.

Posted by @gomery May 17, 2009 at 12:54 am

I am a refugee from Belgium.

I entered “Belgium”.

Here’s part of what I got:
languages | Dutch (40%) | French (35%) | Walloon (9.7%) | Vlaams (9.2%) | Limburgisch (5.2%)

Yes, it’s been nine years that I had to flee from there,
but the latter three languages simply do NOT exist.
Yes, some (most?) people who speak Dutch say they speak Vlaams.
Some others (French speakers) may say they speak Walloon.
But you will be very hard pressed to meet somebody, except a student perhaps, who says she speaks Limburgisch.
But my information is nine years old, of course.

This is not curating data.
This is creating data.

The engine does not even mention that the official (not just spoken like Vlaams, Walloon and … Limburgisch) language of six villages in Belgium is German.

Posted by Ivo Cerckel May 17, 2009 at 12:58 am

The idea and algorithms are great , but I still think that the amount of data is not enough.

For example , I searched the word ” Huawei ” which is a major telecom vendor and instead of giving me data on the company , the WolframAlpha gave me data about a city called “htawei” . This Huawei is so big that I got about 13,500,000 search results for it on google.

Also , a small suggestion , can you add a link or something that can lead to regular search results instead of computational results? I think this may add a lot of power to this great effort.

Omar
http://www.idomainreseller.com

Posted by Omar May 17, 2009 at 1:00 am

I think WA is greaaatttt. all my work is based on quant and qual research.
unfortunately i need infos about industries, ecommerce, consumption goods etc…
and for the moment i was not able to fid any answer…
so i’ll be following the evoltion…
i really beleive with your work, schools will have to re-invent completely the way they teach thinks to our children.

Posted by mag May 17, 2009 at 1:12 am

1. In your User Profile in which you currently store the name and email address, ask the User by what name he wishes to be addressed:-
- First Name,
- Title,Surname,
- Title,first name,surname.
….then use it to address him in messages such as “Sorry Dave….”

2. When overloaded, instead of saying “Sorry”, save the question and respond by email. The email to contain the answer or a link to the answer.

3. Accept questions by email and respond as above.

4. WA answers come from the whole of Wolfram Alpha past and present. I suggest they be signed WHAL. Wolfram Hal,(with acknowledgements to Arthur C.Clarke.

Posted by Brian Gilbert May 17, 2009 at 1:24 am

To the Wolframalpha Team:

You guys are making history! The contribution of your efforts to the users of this site is immeasurable!!

Posted by A J Rashid May 17, 2009 at 1:25 am

this is going to be huge. good job.

Posted by kevin beavers May 17, 2009 at 1:31 am

This reminds me the control hall for the Apollo XI launch to the moon! we are all excited with you! (above all, Mr. Steve Wolfram doesn’t exactly look like Ed Harris so you can be confident is not going to end up like Apolo XIII…) :-D

Gilbert Martinez (Barcelona, Spain)

Posted by Gilbebo May 17, 2009 at 1:31 am

Wow, just saw this a few minutes ago and its awesome. I cant wait until I start using this daily.

Posted by Alvin May 17, 2009 at 1:37 am

This is an awesome tool!

Posted by Yale May 17, 2009 at 2:04 am

Congratulations for everybody! Wolfram Alpha is superb!

Posted by akoskm May 17, 2009 at 2:13 am

wish i was part of that historic moment? i would have something to tell my grand children if i live old :)

Posted by Damodar Bashyal May 17, 2009 at 2:22 am

great work keep it up guys

Posted by Waleed May 17, 2009 at 2:56 am

Congrats to all! This is really changing the game. Love what I’ve seen so far…looking forward to using stats to start or stop a few sport discussions.

Posted by junejazz May 17, 2009 at 3:17 am

Can we call up at least a screen shot of those monitors in the control room?

Posted by Brian Gilbert May 17, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Exactly i want to see that statistics of wolfram by entering wolfram statistics in search

    Posted by Whizadree May 17, 2009 at 10:44 am

Amazing site, it really shows the hard work behind it. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Walid May 17, 2009 at 3:33 am

Great work! This will revolutionize knowledge as we know it! Bravo! All the best.

Posted by Nico Zahn May 17, 2009 at 3:48 am

Fascinating website. But I hope all that “midnight oil” you’re burning is eco-friendly.

Posted by Jim Purdy May 17, 2009 at 4:13 am

Wonderful pix.

Looking forward to the launch

Posted by Fan from Dublin May 17, 2009 at 4:15 am

Keep it up, guys and girls! All the best!

Posted by Waqar Aziz May 17, 2009 at 4:37 am

This is great idea, absolutely amazing! … BUT, how long before Google buys you out?

Posted by Mohammed May 17, 2009 at 4:44 am

Unbelievable project………. It’s even addictive, I have been using it for two days non-stop!! lol

Posted by Javier May 17, 2009 at 4:52 am

U ppl r geniuses… hats off to u guys!!
Great work and all the best!

Posted by Sankaranarayanan May 17, 2009 at 4:54 am

I like the combination of colors Red and orange…

Posted by mani May 17, 2009 at 5:01 am

In terms of quick knowledge availability, this is probably the greatest revolution since Google and Wikipedia. I am excited to be alive to witness this.

Posted by André Branco May 17, 2009 at 5:15 am

Great work! I see you support iPhone with optimized version. Why don’t you add Android browser user agent for that version as well? Works great, it’s just hassle for Android users to fake the UA string every time.

Posted by um May 17, 2009 at 5:21 am

nice job guys

Posted by harry_508 May 17, 2009 at 5:46 am

I am from China.

Posted by gotall May 17, 2009 at 6:08 am

NIce pictures Megan! And a big

Posted by Cheryl Bowman May 17, 2009 at 6:22 am

Excellent! Outstanding work, outstanding team!

Posted by Andrei May 17, 2009 at 6:22 am

Great work you did till today. I hope you move forward and wolframalpha will become successfull.

Posted by Nick May 17, 2009 at 6:25 am

As a certifiable Geezer who has read a lot of Sci-Fi I feel I’m living in a story using this. Thanks for the wonderful work – all of you!

Posted by Dick B. May 17, 2009 at 6:59 am

What kind of laptops are most of you using? Got any advice on buying a good machine, hehehehe.

I love the product guys, seriously. I’ve got my math exam in 3 weeks and sometimes I am stuck with differentiating certain goniometric formulas, the steps method REALLY helps.

Posted by Arik May 17, 2009 at 7:39 am

This is a researcher’s dream come true.

Posted by Jim Vaughan May 17, 2009 at 7:40 am

Great minds at the ground-working-point. Nice.

Posted by Adrian Pop May 17, 2009 at 8:05 am

I like this kind of search engine and thanks for your hard work.

Posted by Xiaoying May 17, 2009 at 8:15 am

I like this “webanswer” very much.
Thank you.
Wish more approaching to the hyper level.

Posted by HoLiHua May 17, 2009 at 8:32 am

This website does not display very well. Lots of missing blocks / overlapping boxs. Whats wrong?

Posted by Cliff May 17, 2009 at 8:33 am

Great photos! It’s entertaining watching this “go live” process… hopefully everyone is keeping their sanity over there.

Posted by Daniel Bigham May 17, 2009 at 8:39 am

No results for “Lyme Disease”?? No results page has a script that causes Firefox to stop responding and then the page CSS doesn’t render as a result. Seems kind of weird that even something so simple is not working.

Posted by rc May 17, 2009 at 9:02 am

Thank you for working hard to make one of the 21st century’s greatest achievements. I feel that I am privileged to have tried it in its first days, and cannot wait to see in what ways Wolfram|Alpha is going to evolve. Keep up the amazing work!

Posted by Evangelos May 17, 2009 at 9:52 am

superb!!! that is all I can say!!! …

Posted by abhishek May 17, 2009 at 10:06 am

Been using this engine for a few days now and I am highly impressed and cannot
even imagine the future possibilties of it. or can I? Isn’t there a Terminator movie coming out next week?

hahaha
Thanks All

Posted by Don Reese May 17, 2009 at 10:24 am

I love it ! I will be “wofram-ing” all day long,everyday from now !!!

Posted by Ionut Danet May 17, 2009 at 10:25 am

    i think this has big future,i was testing litter bit and for now on i’ve satisfied what i i seen,the only thing for now what i wanna know and i can’t find is.when can i buy Wolfram stock’s :)) give me some info,will ya :)

    Posted by Goran May 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm

      I think we’ll all just hold our breaths and wait for google squared to come out. Then we might actually be able to find some useful information.

      Posted by lys May 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Where are the Wolfram Women?

    Posted by Sue Serle May 18, 2009 at 12:40 am

    So many cool features that other search engines don’t do! The bunch of people above remind me of CERN scientists before the LHC release :)

    Posted by DejanSEO May 18, 2009 at 12:46 am

would like to see a delayed photo / webcam of operations control and if
W|A could do ar least daily video to keep us informed . and possibly things we maybe able to test / help with

Posted by Whizadree May 17, 2009 at 10:48 am

Thank you for your hard work!
Wolfram|Alpha is a fantastic project!
This project is a great opportunity to show the world, that Mathematica 7
has great computing power and support parallel computing and integrated data.

Best Regards,
Gabor,
Physics student
from Hungary

Posted by Gabor Angler May 17, 2009 at 10:55 am

Very cool knowledge engine!

But i could not figure how to perform math operations on data that constitutes graphic data. I.e.
i can figure the history for euro price in dollars:

eur in $

But i cannot get a graph for rate of euro/dollar ration because the following query returns single ratio and value, not a graphic:

( eur in $ )/$

How can i perform operations on functions defined using economic/statistics queries (without abscissa variables)? Could not find the answer in Help topics.

Posted by Andrey May 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Just try “EUR $”

    Posted by Chris May 18, 2009 at 1:10 am

I just wanna thank you for your team’s hard work. Thank you very much. This engine is the most amazing one I have ever seen and used.

Posted by Felix May 17, 2009 at 11:12 am

Pages not displaying properly in Windows XP using IE6 and latest Sun java. Boxes overlap and full contents doesn’t always appear. Output is still useable however. In spite of this very impressive.

Posted by John Snyder May 17, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I suggest you check with someone else’s PC as it is possible that it is your combination of IE6, its settings, and updates.

    Posted by Brian Gilbert May 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Get a better browser. IE6 sucks. If you don’t upgrade to one of many better browsers, you’ll find yourself hated by every web developer ever (if you’re not already). IE8, Firefox, Opera, Safari or Google Chrome. The choice is yours.

    Posted by RabidZombie May 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm

WA is an amazing search engine, which understands what you need, like a personal assistant…

Posted by Mark Finder May 17, 2009 at 11:44 am

Excelente trabalho, agora só falta lançar na versão portuguesa!
Parabéns a equipe!

Leonardo – Brasil

Posted by Leonardo May 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

Desde Argentina, muy bueno lo que vi hasta ahora, felicitaciones y mucha suerte para mañana

Posted by Alejandro Fernández May 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

this is only the beginning! get those servers up! get them dialed in! position more clusters in the right geo-locations. i believe once it is up and running in full force this tool will be more than something we learn from, we will be able to teach with it was well… thank you again!

Posted by jasonspalace May 17, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Too slow

    Posted by Ruth May 17, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Great job. Thanks a lot! In Firefox it works properly/

Posted by Justsoblogger May 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

ListPlot functionality isn’t working. Is this due to technical difficulties, or is it a limit of W|A? For example, “ListPlot[{1,2,3,4}]” or “plot 1, 2, 3, 4″ seem to show the correct input interpretation, but there’s no output. Is that particular “pod” having problems? Thanks.

Posted by David Eisner May 17, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Obviously it will, and should, only utilize objective facts. It will not, and should not, include answers to subjective concepts like “Best hairstyle.” You call it a “wet” question, but in reality it is simply a subjective one that has no objectively factual answer. No academic resource should give a subjective opinion as fact.

    Would you seriously prefer that you enter a query like “Best Hairstyle,” and have it return you the definitive answer, “mullet?”

    Posted by Gaxtin May 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm

WolframAlpha is very promising, but maddeningly incomplete. It is useful on its own, but the real power of such a thing is to be found in its ability to make sense of the entire world of information. For anyone who spends much time using Google, many searches are not a single query, but rather a series of queries that form a whole fabric to get a set of answers that to some extent require one another.

WolframAlpha suffers from something I call “The dictionary problem”. The dictionary problem is a problem in developing data sets. For a dictionary to be useful, it needs to contain *ALL* words, not just a fraction, even if that fraction is quite large. There are two reasons for this: the first is that for a dictionary to fail to answer a question renders it useless for that question. When, say, you are writing a paper and you are a poor speller (a good client for a dictionary, no?), you might need to consult the dictionary a couple of dozen times to complete your paper. If the dictionary answers correctly 80% of the time, you will have errors in your paper. Worse, the dictionary turns Pareto’s law on its head, for a certain subset of users. This is true in my case, for instance. I am a very good speller. When I turn to a dictionary, it is to spell obscure words or to look for the derivation of unusual words or to cross-check from another dictionary. I have an entire shelf of dictionaries, but still come up empty on things that are either new enough not to make it into a dictionary or too specialized. For a user like me, it is not possible to tell in advance which entry I will be looking for. However, you *can* tell in advance that it is likely to be towards the edges of the set and hence to ensure that a user like me can use the thing at all, you need very exhaustive coverage.

There must be literally tens of billions of pages of content out there and at least a billion of them are likely ‘core’ in the sense that unless you have them you will likely start to run into the dictionary problem.

WolframAlpha provides some excellent extensions to a search engine and for some queries is already better (it seems) than Google. It is better in the sense that when it ‘wins’ it presents an exhaustive answer, complete with calculations if appropriate and without all the noise found on Google. However, for most queries it comes up empty.

I am impressed by the fact that it at least can distinguish (sometimes) between when it has a reasonable answer and when it does not. However, when it does not, it should at least give you the option of returning *something*.

Here is an example of a real question someone might ask:

who is fred?

Google comes up directly with the answer I have in mind — an adolescent boy with a wacky synthesized voice who does little skits on YouTube. I have a feeling that they know that even though this ‘Fred’ is hardly the most important ‘Fred’ in the world, he is quite probably, at least in the past few months, to be the ‘Fred’ about whom one is asking that question.

WolframAlpha gives an answer to that question that is beautiful in its semantic understanding and yet completely wrong. It tells you how many people are named ‘Fred’ and calculates its popularity over time, fraction of the population, etc. All true, all technically correct and reasonable answers to the question. However, it is still empirically the incorrect answer.

I feel as though WolframAlpha suffers from two near-fatal flaws:

It only covers a limited domain and though deep in some places, it appears shallow generally. It does not have enough substrate facts upon which to predicate answers. It needs more data not only as raw pages but as a linked fabric of pages. It suffers from the dictionary problem so badly that it cannot be used to answer a large enough percentage of real questions to become a common destination. Without seeing enough real questions, the system will not have the information it requires to judge what users mean when they ask something. There will not be enough information to determine the ‘morphology’ of a question for a given subject. It is best with ‘dry’ and specific questions such as ‘tallest man’, rather than ‘wet’ and general questions such as ‘best hairstyle’. However, from my own server logs for several dozen sites of varying kinds over a period of ten years, I see that most queries are ‘wet’ rather than dry. Even with ‘Tallest Man’ it gives a much less satisfying answer than Google. Google gives you images, video, a link to the Guinness entry for the tallest man ever (Wadlow), the tallest man alive, etc. WolframAlpha gives you a few figures about Wadlow. These days, filtering is much more important than volume of content. However, WolframAlpha goes much too far.

This is a killer: WolframAlpha needs someone to ask the right question in the right way. I think many would agree that knowing exactly the right questions to ask is practically the same as having the answers already. A great ‘answering machine’ will help you to form your questions, not just blindly give you an answer only to the specific questions you ask. One of the beauties of Google is that it allows you to form ever more specific questions to get where you wish to go by providing intermediate answers of ever greater precision.

In the ‘who is fred’ example above, one likely wants to ‘know’ ‘Fred’ by experiencing the phenomenon, seeing what others have to say and gain an idea of just what the whole thing means. That is, you want to know what your kids are talking about.

Google will often (like WolframAlpha) just give you an answer already. An example is

Brockville weather

The above will give the current weather and the forecast for the next few days, right on the results page. There is no reason to look further if that is what you wanted. However, below that are a number of sources, including the City’s own website.

WolframAlpha gives a better answer than Google for the above query, but only if that narrow set of data is what you were actually trying to find.

There is much that could be done to improve upon Google. Specificity, and some intelligence in deriving an answer, is good. Google still often loses the battle to what I call ‘portal spam’ and similar annoyances.

To survive as a mainstream entity, I think that WolframAlpha will have to mature into something that can handle general queries better. It is something of an idiot savant. It appears that it is that way by design. Ironically, just like much of its output, WolframAlpha is the correct answer to a flawed question.

Posted by Bob Trower May 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    crawl, walk, run. Like a child this baby still cannot distinguish what you are asking, in time it will understand.

    Posted by adam golden May 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

      i hope so otherwise this could be short lived , I tend to agree with BobT , However i hope the AI functionality of W|A will grow , understand and become useful, currently unless you require a math solution , weather , or a GDP for a country , W|A is becoming that bit of a lower use utility ,

      Posted by Whizadree May 17, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    You may have missed Stehen Wolfram saying that he expected it to take at least ten years to achieve what you expect.
    Meanwhile WA is a giant step forward in solving problems amenable to a scientific solution. That alone is a great achievement.
    I also think it may lead to systematic counselling by computer. That could solve the problems arising from people acting irrationally because they are influenced by all the ‘subconcious’ memories that they cannot at present recall and sort out. With a computer counsellor I think it may be possible. The computer never tires. The computer can stick to the rules without getting bored.

    Posted by Brian Gilbert May 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    I was attempting to place similar expectations on WolframAlpha, but then I let go. Both engines are different. Placing the expectations derived from the benefits of one onto the other is not the ultimate objective.

    Google use has enabled many to feel comfortable with the search results. We all like the benefits. WA provides something different and therefore, attempting to “googlize” it with your expectation level is sort of google-promorphic.

    Otherwise, both are great and different. I am excited for WA to develop its own unique properties.

    Posted by Rosemary May 17, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Success and prosperity in the launch of their project. We are ready to represent your company in Costa Rica
Dennis Diaz Atencio, superpages.co.cr Costa Rica

Posted by Dennis Diaz Atencio May 17, 2009 at 1:29 pm

o.k

Posted by jari kyotikki May 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Absolutely fantastic, unbelievable web application. I love it.

I have come across an issue that causes Firefox 3 to hang, however. If I input “Africa”, it freezes Firefox up completely and I have to force quit (I’m on OS X 10.5).

Feel free to contact me using the email I entered if you wish to get more information from me. I’m going to paste my problem details (just the first part) and my system config, in the hopes it may be useful.

Problem details:

Date/Time: 2009-05-17 14:42:19 -0400
OS Version: 10.5.6 (Build 9G55)
Architecture: i386
Report Version: 4

Command: Firefox
Path: /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox-bin
Version: 3.0.10 (3.0.10)
Parent: launchd [89]

PID: 565
Event: hang
Time: 7.19s
Steps: 46

Process: firefox-bin [565]
Path: /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox-bin

System config:

Model: MacBookPro3,1, BootROM MBP31.0070.B07, 2 processors, Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.4 GHz, 2 GB
Graphics: GeForce 8600M GT, GeForce 8600M GT, spdisplays_pcie_device, 256 MB
Memory Module: BANK 0/DIMM0, 1 GB, DDR2 SDRAM, 667 MHz
Memory Module: BANK 1/DIMM1, 1 GB, DDR2 SDRAM, 667 MHz
AirPort: spairport_wireless_card_type_airport_extreme (0x168C, 0×87), 1.4.8.3
Bluetooth: Version 2.1.3f8, 2 service, 1 devices, 1 incoming serial ports
Network Service: AirPort, AirPort, en1
PCI Card: pci168c,24, sppci_othernetwork, PCI Slot 5
Serial ATA Device: Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00, 149.05 GB
Parallel ATA Device: MATSHITADVD-R UJ-85J
USB Device: Built-in iSight, (null) mA
USB Device: Bluetooth USB Host Controller, (null) mA
USB Device: Apple Internal Keyboard / Trackpad, (null) mA
USB Device: IR Receiver, (null) mA

Posted by Ade May 17, 2009 at 1:47 pm

May i recommend mod_backhand for your load selection problems?

“Simply put, mod_backhand, can attempt to remedy the incorrect assignment of requests. In a grossly oversimplified scenario of two machines: if an incoming request is directed at machine B, and mod_backhand finds the available resources for machine A greater than the cost of forwarding from B->A plus the available resources on machine B, then it will be redirected to A.”

http://www.backhand.org/mod_backhand/

Cheers, and good luck!

Posted by Mark F May 17, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Amazing… keep going guys…..

Posted by Carson Hampton May 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

@John: Well, see, your problem is that you’re still using IE6. IE8 was released weeks ago- and you should be using Firefox anyway. Still, I recommend upgrading from 6 to 8 and see if that helps your issues.

Posted by poisonberry17 May 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Wolfram is how search should be done. It’s logical and very informative. Finally a search tool for intellectuals. Great Job! I love it.

Posted by Sally Strebel May 17, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I like your site!

Posted by Jorge May 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Great work dudes and dudettes at Wolfram RC…
This will be the future…

Posted by Sonic May 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I keep trying to play sounds in the music area. I am running Fire Fox, the latest version. I keeps giving the message that I need a plugin, suggesting Quicktime. I have that installed on my computer.
Can someone tell me what’s causing this or point me to the solution?
Thank you.

Posted by Frank B May 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I was a little disappointed that it couldn’t tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? It also didn’t know where Waldo was, and it couldn’t tell me what is the most abundant mineral on Earth. I was about to give up and then I asked it the meaning of life, which happily, it knew was 42. Good job guys.

Posted by Tom W. May 17, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I read about this in the current edition of New Scientist. I think it is a significant new use of the vast amount of information now in digital form. I think it may result in significant new developments we cannot yet imagine, or wouldn’t associate with a web-based process. As far as my personal use is concerned, it is a solution for which I don’t yet have a problem. But I am sure that will change. Bravo to all involved.

Posted by Max Davies May 17, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Great job ! Something new and promising.
Anyway, I personaly think – many answers not computable at all.
W/A fail at many simple questions. Maybe need more time to grow?

Posted by droid777 May 17, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Do you remember on Star Trek the officers would dialogue with the ship’s computer to discern factual information? and how occasional wrong or superficial answers could be probed further or questions rephrased… This is what I expect Wolfram Alpha will one day become. I would also like to see it link to ‘linked data’ – a protocol like html but instead of addresses/directories it networks tables and arrays and of data (so linked data is to internet as wolfram alpha is to google)

Eventually empirical academic papers could become required to submit results in linked data format and computational knowledge engines like wolfram alpha could learn new data source and utilize them for relevant queries (i. in this respect the number of cites/peer reviews become a statistic denoting reliability of ‘knowledge’, ii. in this respect I think Wolfram Alpha requires a less dogmatic view of ‘knowledge’ as it is falleable). Such a system could then easily be used to identify novel correlations and relationships between existent data sets as fast as you can have ideas and enter queries. Moreover, it will only be a matter of time before the query entry/result interface could become audio based – such that you can ask your phone a question and it will give you an answer which you can then dissect with further questioning/sourcing if necessary.

I’m excited but I expect it will be sometime before I use Wolfram Alpha for anything other than curiosity.

Posted by Charles May 17, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Thanks for Wolfram/Alpha.

It is quite amazing.

Posted by john long May 17, 2009 at 6:59 pm

This query returns an incorrect answer “escape velocity of ceres”; it says the escape velocity is .01152 millimeters/second…

Posted by T. Miller May 17, 2009 at 7:34 pm

First time trying Wolfram Alpha.. it’s pretty cool and useful. especially for scientists or people who like to see statistics :D

Gonna write a post on my blog telling people about Wolfram Alpha launch

Posted by Michael Aulia May 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm

HA!
“What is the meaning of life?” generates “42″ as an answer.
I wonder if there are Easter Eggs in all this data.

Posted by J Marsh May 17, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Fairly lame, just copying google.

    Posted by lys May 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I’m very impressed. You wouldn’t want to keep this wolf from your door!

Posted by Colin Abbott, Jarrahdale, Western Australia May 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Being a theoretical physicist by training, just like Dr. Wolfram, I do have high expectations for Alpha. I am quite pleased with what I see already and I am sure the real power is yet to come. I have witnessed how tremendously Mathematica evolved since version 1. I can easily imagine how powerful Alpha is going to be years from now.

Thanks for all your hard work and trying this ambitious thing. And all the best as well!

Posted by Wally May 17, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Wolfram can never introduce anything without the accompanying superlatives, hyperbole, and sycophancy, but I suspect that we are dealing with the next cuill.com, here. Just as in my engineering office Mathematica has never posed a serious threat to MATLAB, and just as NKS after seven years has never really amounted to much of anything on an objective scale (besides a very interesting book), so it is that this latest quixotic venture by Wolfram poses little threat to Google. Surely former Wolfram intern Sergey Brin is smiling from atop his Google empire. Yea verily, it could well be that in due course Alpha will carve some measure of a niche for itself. More likely will it go the route of WolframTones, which hasn’t quite made the music industry forget U2 or Lenny Kravitz or Beethoven or any of the other music to which the Wolfram prime mover claims he never listens. And then I see that Wolfram’s “killer app” wants folk to enter URLs of online data sets of which they have knowledge. That’s rich. Wikipedia (a useful resource, warts and all) has become known for not directing traffic back to original sites datawise. I fully expect the Killer App to do Wikipedia one better in that regard. Here’s to a sharp barrister focusing his sites on Wolfram; sooner or later, that ego of his will bring him what for.

Posted by Vermillion Popp May 17, 2009 at 8:31 pm

If I enter a date in English format, the responses come out in American format.

This is an excruciatingly irritating facet of a potentially useful resource.

Posted by Nigel Morris-Cotterill May 17, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Hopefully WA will incorporate ”User Profiles” so that when you sign in it takes your ‘preferences’ into account.

    Posted by Brian Gilbert May 18, 2009 at 1:08 am

Quite possibly the only wolf I can hug and not face getting bitten.

Already showing this to my math teacher.

Posted by Raymie May 17, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Bon chance.

Posted by arthurbarbato twitter May 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm

It makes sense (to me) that WAlpha should be able to display algorithms for any type of math problems which it it is able to solve.

But try

algorithm for long division

or long division algorithm

and you get nothing.

Try inputting a boolean equation, which should be right down WAlpha’s alley. It will return an Input Interpretation which makes it clear that it ‘understood’ your question, but no result. It will, however, convert and simplify boolean forms, and give the corresponding cellular automata for the given form – which is pretty cool.

How about

Prove 1 + 2 = 3
?

Nothing.

Ok, it’s understandable if it can’t answer

Why are mother-in-laws annoying?

, but it should be able to respond to simple math questions or requests for proof, which are well-known and actually have an answer.

How about

minimum unit of time
?

Nothing.

Nothing on

peano axioms

, either.

It almost seems as if maybe we are working with a subset of the production version. Some of the news articles say that it is delayed until Monday, and some say that it came out over the weekend. Some still say it came out on Friday.

Anyway, I like it and understand that this is its first time out at bat. I look forward to watching it grow; learning its idiosyncrasies; and being a part of what is clearly the next step toward the merging of humans and computers.

Posted by FactExplorer May 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm

How do they give empirical results regarding disputed borders?

Posted by lys May 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I don’t know if this is handled at all yet. I assume that currently WA ‘curates’ facts and only uses those that it considers scientifically proven.

    If so I suggest that when there is more than one widely accepted version of a fact it gives the questioner a choice in a dropdown box just as it does to see if you want an answer in metric or imperial.
    In the case you quote it might ask whether you want borders according to Russia or the USA or…….
    I see questions to WA taking the form of a conversation rather than a single question and a single answer.

    Posted by Brian Gilbert May 18, 2009 at 1:16 am

Thank you for Wolfram Alpha! It already saved me some time; imagine in ten years from now. Exciting!

Posted by Marian May 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm

The temperature is not accurate. it says it is 90 deg feh in huntsville, AL. and it is not 90 it is about 55. check out your weather and make sure it is accurate

Posted by rick May 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm

So far, the most amazing website ever launched. A knowledge base like this will lead to greater knowledge, and access to greater knowledge, that is more updated than any book could ever be.

Keep up the good work. This could possibly open doors that would have otherwise remained locked.

Posted by Jonah May 17, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Thanks for all of your hard work in putting Wolfram|Alpha together. It definitely does some fascinating things. I think that it really needs some more data though, and the current method of submitting data is not simple enough. I really expected it to already have access to all of the books in amazon, project gutenberg, etc. and it didn’t. I didn’t expect it to be able to tell the the age of a famous person in 1984 like it could, so I also think maybe time is being spent on things that are less important at this stage? I think if you could concentrate on making it into Vox from the Time Machine (2002) then you’ll be set. That I think is what you are aiming for. That will take a lot more data and a lot more AI and computing power.

Posted by WA fan May 17, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Before there was no electricity.
Now we can not live without it.
A new baby has been born. W|A
In 10 years time, that baby will be a child.
In 20 years time it will be an adult.
Congratulations Wolfram!

Posted by Aberingi May 17, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Congratulations to all and the seeds of a fabulous tool. Sadly though (in Australia at least) it’s running hopelessly slow but no doubt this will be addressed over time. BTW if you are after representation here in AU/NZ then happy to have a chat, that said lots to do first at home no doubt. Cheers, Simon

Posted by Simon Jones May 17, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Wonderful!! Great project!! But … Not support complex number? Not support Chinese?

Posted by tangjijun May 17, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Great stuff. Keep up the fantastic work. Beware of the monsters that fear your competition. You shall rule supreme.

Posted by frizzle May 17, 2009 at 11:55 pm

The future potential of Wolfram Alpha is amazing!

Posted by Mario Donoso May 18, 2009 at 12:31 am