Wolfram Alpha

March 5th, 2009 | Categories: mathematica, The internet, Wolfram Alpha | Tags:

One of my informants told me to expect something big from Wolfram Research in the near future but didn’t tell me what it was. No matter how hard I tried, she wouldn’t give me any details apart from ‘Stephen is very excited about it‘ and ‘A surprise announcement will be coming soon.‘  She sure knows how to get me intrigued.

Well, now the secret is out…sort of.  Stephen Wolfram has just made a blog post about a project he has been working on for a few years called Wolfram Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha

I’ll be honest with you – I’ve read the blog post and I’m still not sure what this is all about but with phrases like:

…Fifty years ago, when computers were young, people assumed that they’d quickly be able to handle all these kinds of things. And that one would be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer.


It’s going to be a website: www.wolframalpha.com. With one simple input field that gives access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms.

I am even more intrigued. Nothing is live yet – this is just an appetizer announcement but I am really looking forward to finding out more about what this is all about.

Any thoughts?

Update (18th March 2009): Doug Lenat has also seen a demo of the system and has discussed it in depth at Semantic Universe including the sort of questions that Wolfram Alpha won’t be able to answer.

John Hawks wonders if Wolfram Alpha will make bioinformatics obsolete?  I don’t know enough about bioinformatics to comment but it’s an interesting article.

Update (9th March 2009): Someone with better connections than me has seen it in action.  Check out this report for more details.

  1. March 5th, 2009 at 23:45
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Do you suppose what we’re talking about here is a kind of mathematical artificial intelligence?

  2. March 6th, 2009 at 01:05
    Reply | Quote | #2

    I requested to be let into the test preview. We’ll see what happens.

  3. Mike Croucher
    March 6th, 2009 at 11:42
    Reply | Quote | #3

    @Maria – I think so. I’ll be fascinated to see what sort of questions it can answer.

    @Jason – Me too. I wonder if the preview will come with a Non Disclosure Agreement? Although I would be happy to sign one – it drives me crazy when I get to play with cool stuff that I can’t talk about.

  4. j edward ladenburger
    March 6th, 2009 at 14:53
    Reply | Quote | #4

    Having just scratched the surface of Mathematica 7.0, I am amazed at the data sets already available; Though not all my colleagues agree, I even love the ideas in “A New Kind of Science” — Put together, I am titillated with any new roll-out from Wolfram. For you guys with an inside track to the preview — I promise not to tell or spread any rumors if you share a bit ;)

  5. March 8th, 2009 at 01:09
    Reply | Quote | #5

    Count me in as highly skeptical but nonetheless curious.