Atom Wave: Wolfram Alpha vs. Google

Atom Wave

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wolfram Alpha vs. Google

Hello old friend, we meet again. What I’m about to tell you could very well be the happiest moment of your life, assuming that you’re a geek. Since you are already reading this, it is almost a forgone conclusion.
Google is so last century. While still useful, I’d bet that you wouldn’t see anything like it aboard the Enterprise when she sets sail for the stars in a century or two. The future is now, and it’s Wolfram Alpha.
Wolfram was founded by the British physics and mathematics prodigy Stephen Wolfram, who at 20 made an important contribution to particle physics and strong interactions while teaching at Caltech University in Los Angeles.
Instead of the long mind-numbing search lists of Google, Wolfram Alpha embraces a more structured approach of merging data sets onto a single page, much like an encyclopedia. Say that you are interested in California. Instead of receiving a long list of sites relevant to California, you get all the statistics relevant to the state. Wolfram Alpha will even solve math problems, just plug in the formula. This great strength of Wolfram also its great weakness, it is useless for general searches. If Google is a machine gun of search engines, this is the guided missile. You still need to tell it where to go.
I sure don’t expect Google to disappear anytime soon, it still has its uses in basic search, gmail, and maps. Wolfram represents an important contribution to this, and in many ways complements Google. It only remains to be seen if Alpha will remain independent or be absorbed by Google.


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