Wolfram Alpha Search Engine Is Revamped

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-06-09 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wolfram Alpha, a computational search engine that presents a definitive result to a query, is undergoing extensive updating some three weeks after it was originally launched. The search engine's structured results are suggestive of a way that search could evolve in the future, and other search companies such as Google have been rolling out similar products for presenting search results.

 

Three weeks after the launch of Wolfram Alpha, the search engine has undergone its "first broad updates" as part of an "ongoing, long-term development process," according to its official blog.

 

 

Originally launched on May 18, Wolfram Alpha offers a twist on traditional keyword-based search, operating as a computational engine that offers a definitive result to a question. Enter a mathematical equation into its search bar, and the site will offer input, the result, and even a spelled-out version of the number.

 

 

Enter a non-numerical term, such as "James Dean" or "New York," and numerical statistics will be the output. Enter a food, such as "pizza," to retrieve nutritional information such as total calories and carbohydrates.   

 

 

Given its broad range, the updates to Wolfram Alpha are also extensive.

 

 

Updates to the search engine include additional linguistic forms for many types of data and questions, more comparisons of composite properties (the example given by the Wolfram Alpha blog is, "U.S. military vs. U.K."), more complete handling of government positions, and updates to borders, naming for politically sensitive countries and regions, and additional sub-country regions ("Wales").

 

 

Wolfram Alpha has also updated time zones, certain European currencies, additional probability computations for cards and coins, additional output for partitions of integers, additional support for Mathematica 3-D graphics syntax, additional support for stock prices with explicit dates, and support for planet-to-planet distances.

 

 

If you've ever wanted complete data on the mountains of Australia, that information has now been added for your reading pleasure; as has support for many less-common given names, such as "Zebulon." More information has been added for any mathematically inclined procrastinators who want to compare incompatible units, such as ergs to newtons.

 

 

In sum, according to the blog, "there have been 1850 code commits, and 591 code files have been changed. About 1.1 million data values have also been touched in some way in this update."

 

 

Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, founder and CEO of Wolfram Research and creator of Mathematica, a computational platform whose symbolic code forms the core code base of Wolfram Alpha.

 

 

Other search engines have also been attempting to move into similar structured search space, most notably Yahoo and Google.

 

 

Google recently launched Google Squared, a search application available via Google Labs that structures information into customized tables for a granular view about a particular search term. Enter "airplanes" into its search bar, and the user receives a table of information listing makes and models.

 
 
 
 
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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