Monday, August 2, 2010

Wolfram|Alpha - The Computational Knowledge Engine

So many innovations have sprung from the Internet and the World Wide Web. From email to social networking sites to blogs like this one, the web has significantly strengthened communications around the world while spreading information. Just over a year old, Wolfram|Alpha, another web innovation, has already revolutionized access to computational knowledge.

What is Wolfram|Alpha? W|A is not, as some call it, a search engine. Steven Wolfram, creator of W|A, calls it a computational knowledge engine, as it does not just puke back sites that may have answers, such as Google. Backed by twenty years of research, W|A utilizes a database of curated data from expert sources and trillions of algorithms to directly give you the answers. The main goal of W|A is "to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone" and "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."

The numerous categories that W|A separates its data is impressive as well. Categories include mathematics, statistics and data analysis, physics, chemistry, engineering, web and computer systems, units and measures, dates and times, socioeconomic data, health and medicine, culture and media, and people and history.

W|A's potential is perhaps the most exciting of all. Popular Science magazine identified W|A as the "Best of What's New" Grand Award winner of 2009, while W|A had only existed for eight months. In some schools around the world, W|A is being used by students and teachers alike to enhance academic learning. But W|A, as well as computational sciences in general, is still in its infancy. In 50 years, W|A will not only have much more data and algorithms. W|A could be a common tool of everyday life, used by schools, businesses, government, and perhaps even the majority of internet users. One way W|A has already begun to do that by enabling web developers to create widgets that only perform specific calculations and add them to their website.

All in all, W|A may play in the future an enormous role in not only computing answers to questions but also in educating and putting professional knowledge into the hands of people of every race, ethnicity, religion, class, and country.

Part 1: An Intro to Wolfram|Alpha by Stephen Wolfram

Part 2: An Intro to Wolfram|Alpha by Stephen Wolfram

1 comment:

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