Wolfram, the company that developed and sells Mathematica, released a product that permits Web users to explore data about diverse topics. Wolfram|Alpha, as it is called, permits one to interrogate human knowledge. It’s dead simple and terrifically powerful.
The accompanying image shows the results of one of my queries. Recently I issued a query to Google’s system about unemployment data in my neighborhood, and this provides a comparison. In this test, I entered a similar query. Wolfram|Alpha did not provide graphic representations of a comparison between Albemarle and Charlottesville, as did Google. It provided graphs for separate queries, though. And it provided a lot more depth and related results.
The scope of the database that one can query is enormous. If one’s interested in mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering, astronomy, or just about anything about which there are facts, Wolfram|Alpha has data about the topic, one can query those data. If humans actually know something about a topic (as opposed to what humans say about things), Wolfram|Alpha allows one to learn facts about about that topic.
Not only is the range of topics substantial, but the engine goes to great depth in the data. One can move sideways, too, going to related topics. There’s the opportunity to explore the sources used to generate responses. Lots of ways to waste time!
Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.
Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.
Wolfram|Alpha is an ambitious, long-term intellectual endeavor that we intend will deliver increasing capabilities over the years and decades to come. With a world-class team and participation from top outside experts in countless fields, our goal is to create something that will stand as a major milestone of 21st century intellectual achievement.