Monthly Archives: August 2009

“Computational Knowledge Engine”

Wow. Added with the name of WolframAlpha you’re sure to understand what you’ve just unveiled.

However with a brief explanation there’s no reason to be running away with your tail between your legs. Simply, the creators of this website believe that it knows everything. They reckon that it can answer any question.  Any question that is given in the exact format that they need AND only requires limited knowledge of the subject you’re talking about – oh, and it generally has to be Mathematics based.

Or does it? I’m sat here playing around with this new toy and though I’m not getting any of the results I would like or expect, it is redirecting me through odd routes to find information I might like. I can’t find out how many legs an octopus has but I can find out when Henry VIII was born (even if typing Henry VIII born doesn’t return the result I can find it eventually).

It seems like a great idea but its scale hasn’t been fully explained. Do these developers believe they are looking to create a mass of knowledge – both known and computable – that will become such a powerful intellect above any other computer around? Or are they just making a scientific calculator that has bit more knowledge and social life than the one you’d carry in your pencil case?

The most dissapointing aspect of this website for myself as a Mathematician is the result it returns if you ask for the root of -1. This is known as ‘i’ (a complex number). All Wolfram has to offer is repeating the information you just entered (root[-1]).

However I am willing to give this construction the benefit of the doubt for future development as it has an answer to “What is the meaning of life?”:

Input interpreation:

answer to life, the universe, and everything


(according to Douglas Adams' humorous science fiction novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

The developers also wish to track who is copying and finding out any information through their website. When you get your results, any text on the page that you need will be presented as an image. To be able to copy it you will have to click on it and copy from a ‘plain text’ popup box. The owners of WolframAlpha are watching what you’re searching and copying. The question that this begs: Could they be recording data to turn it into a paid for service? We’ll find out as it spreads out across the internet.

Google introduce new forecast feature – added this week to Insights for Search

Google has developed a formula to predict hot online search topics. The formula attempts to characterize the predictability of a Trends series based on its historical performance.

Google Trends, a free online service that shows what search subjects are gaining or sinking in popularity, has been around for some time. But now engineers at Google’s lab in Israel have come up with a forecasting model while studying whether past and current search patterns hold reliable clues to what people will search for in future months.

These findings resulted in a new forecasting feature added this week to Google’s Insights for Search.

More than half of the most popular search queries at Google are predictable as far as 1 year ahead, with a margin of error of about 12%, according to the Israel lab engineers. With categories such as health, travel & food and drink being particularly predictable, this tool could prove extremely useful in these markets, and could help advertisers decide how to disperse their budgets most effectively in future online campaigns!