Tomato Soup, Star Trek, and Wolfram|Alpha

December 5, 2011
shadow
The Wolfram|Alpha Team
Posted by

In his classic sci-fi television series Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry dreamt of a computer that could help its user with pretty much anything. Ask it a question; it has an answer. Need some Earl Grey tea? It can materialize it for you. Need to create a self-aware, artificially intelligent program based on a Sherlock Holmes character in order to defeat Data? Easy. While we can’t materialize anything for you or create a self-aware, artificially intelligent program, we are on track to make all the world’s knowledge computable, with the hopes of someday answering all of your factual questions. In some cases, we are doing a bit better than the Star Trek computer:

The above clip from Star Trek: Voyager shows that the replicator knows 14 different types of tomato soup. Type “tomato soup” into Wolfram|Alpha and click the drop-down menu, and you can see that Wolfram|Alpha knows 15 types of tomato soup—14 from the drop-down menu plus the “tomato soup, low sodium, with water” suggestion. The nutrition facts initially shown are averages from the 15 different types.

tomato soup

While we may never be able to actually serve you soup, we are well on the way to becoming your own personal Star Trek-esque assistant.

3 Comments

As mentioned on the forum WA does not have computable definitions for scientific words. In fact it’s dictionary does not yet seem to be based on computable definitions for all words used. So when moving outside the usual range of Mathematica it soon meets words for which it has no computable definition and so cannot work.
Are there plans to check that all words in data presented for curation are computable. Are there plans to make the WA dictionary computable?

Posted by Brian Gilbert December 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm Reply

In the classic sci-fi movie “Forbidden Planet” the Krell dreamt of a computer that could help its user with pretty much anything. Ask it a question; it has an answer. Need some Earl Grey tea? It can materialize it for you. That didn’t work out too well for the Krell.

Posted by Mark December 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm Reply

As mentioned on the forum WA does not have computable definitions for scientific words.

Posted by mirc December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm Reply
Leave a Comment

(required)

(will not be published) (required)

(your comment will be held for moderation)