Stephen Wolfram, developer of Mathematica, has designed a new Web tool called Wolfram│Alpha. Although its interface looks like a search engine, Wolfram│Alpha is actually a computational knowledge engine. Search engines, like Google, search the Web and list links as results. Wolfram│Alpha produces results by making computations from its own knowledge base.
Clicking on the sample topics links will give you ideas of how to use this tool in areas like mathematics, engineering, dates & times, money & finance, and unit & measures. You can enter math problems, ask for conversions, compare stocks, produce a world map with life expectancies, assess the per capita income of Brooking County, etc. Wolfram│Alpha has a blog, a community site, and a quick video overview to help users get started.
The producers of Wolfram│Alpha plan to expand its capacities in the future. Their ambitious “long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to anyone.” They also see opportunities to develop other forms of their product—to provide professional and corporate applications, to work with an organization’s internal data, and to work with mobile platforms.
Information Services Librarian