Wolfram AlphaThere has been a bit of hype recently about a new search engine called Wolfram Alpha. I know you are wondering why anyone cares about a new search engine by now we all have our standby favorites that we are used to and don’t want to take the time to learn another when the one you use suits you fine. Well, skeptical (or shall I say cynical) audience, this one is different.

As you undoubtedly know Google and it’s competing counterparts will give you a list of links as your results from a search. The Telegraph puts it nicely when they say : “Unlike Google, which searches the entire web for the keywords contained within a search query and then returns thousands of relevant web pages, Wolfram Alpha aims to understand the question and return the correct answer by mining its vast database of information and statistics”. Wolfram Alpha will return to you a single page result with all of the quantifiable data available. For example if I put in the name of the college I work for I will get: Basic Information (including the website address), the location on a map of North America, enrollment information, number and type of annual degrees awarded, as well as the fields that the degrees are awarded in. All quick quantifiable data and no more. Search your name and you will probably get nothing; search Steve Jobs name and you will get his birthday and place of birth (if you are well known enough you are somewhat quantifiable).

The upshot is that Wolfram alpha is not for those who are looking for general information but can be spot on when the searcher is looking for statistics or basic data on a noun (except maybe Disneyland, I put that in and got nothing). It is an interesting site to search you either get spot on great info, an epic fail or nothing at all. Granted it has Alpha in the name for a reason and it will be fun to see where they take it.

Picture Credit (and another good article)