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Wolfram Alpha - A New Kind Of Search Engine

Updated on September 17, 2009

Wolfram Alpha Home Page

What Is Wolfram Alpha?

Wolfram Alpha is a different type of search engine. It is an answer engine - which is just a term for a search tool that provides searchers with facts and figures based upon their input search term instead of a long list of websites which may, or may not, have information pertinent to the input search query.

For example, if I go to Google and type in the search term "Oban" I get a list of 2,120,000 websites which Google thinks may be relevant to my search. I get a map of Oban (a small town on the west coast of Scotland) and the first page shows me websites which vary from the local tourist board, a selection of hotels, the BBC weather for the town and some local businesses.

If I go to Wolfram Alpha and type in "Oban" I get a single webpage which tells me the following:

Input Interpretation is Oban, Argyll % bute.
In other words Wolfram Alpha is telling me that it has interpreted my search to be relevant to the town of Oban, in the county of Argyll & Bute in Scotland.

A Map of the UK showing Oban's location.

The population of Oban (8081 people)

The current time at the location.

The current weather conditions.

The elevation above sea level.

The nearest large cities.

It's basically a collection of facts about the search query. These facts are based upon data stored in a database rather than a "popularity poll" such as Google, Yahoo and Bing conduct. At the moment, the database is being developed, so how good the information you get back will possibly depend upon the current status of the available data - but it is being expanded on a daily basis.

Whether you prefer to continue using Google or not may well depend upon the type of information you're looking for - but for certain types of queries a least, you may find thwe wolfram Alpha results interesting. For example, if you were to type in "US V UK", Wolfram Alpha returns a series of statistics comparing the two countries.

Population, life expectancy, land mass, gross domestic productivity, are samples of the information provided.

So, if you're looking for factual data or statistical comparisons, you might want to give Wolfram Alpha a try. Try typing in the date of your birth and see what you get back.

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