Wolfram Alpha, the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram (who allegedly put its company to work on this project for several years before its official launch in May this year), has been out for a while now and is probably no more making the headlines. The long list of examples on the frontpage, organised visually or by topic, proudly shows off what Alpha is capable of. The natural language interface may still be a bit sloppy and some data may be flagrantly missing (how about a dump of the world’s scientific literature, Stephen?), but all in all it manages to live up to the promise of a universal tool to compute an impressive amount of factual knowledge. Alpha allows you, among other things, to:
- plot the sky above your head tonight at 3am
- look up your genome for occurrences of a specific sequence
- compare current unemployment rates for countries you would like to move to
- display the taxonomic tree of your favourite bug
- spell boredom in Morse
- disclose the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything
- you can even check your body mass! (am I really 3kg away from my ideal weight?)
Depending on your field of expertise, Alpha is likely to provide a powerful combination of computational tools and relevant data sources to calculate virtually anything you might want to know about the universe.
Apart from technical use, though, I am curious to understand whether and how people will start using Alpha as a productivity tool and integrate it in their daily workflow.