WolframAlpha: a new type of search engine

By REBECCA LATTANZIO

If you watch the video on WolframAlpha’s “About” page you will instantly learn that the site is not a search engine, but what they call a “computational knowledge engine.”

I stumbled across WolframAlpha this week and found it extremely intriguing and useful. When you type a search into Google or Bing, you get websites that relate to that content and then you navigate through it all yourself. If you type a search into WolframAlpha you get something totally different. You get stats, numbers, and computations about that topic, laid out simply for you to scroll thorough.

For example, type in a city like “Miami” and you get the current temperature, the total rate in violent crime, the population density, and the unemployment rate about the city, among many other facts. Type in a food like “french fries” and you get a complete nutrition label of that food and its nutritional value in comparison to other foods. Type in your birthday and you get a calculation of how long ago that was in weeks, days, months and years, a list of other holidays observed on that day, and even the phase the moon was in on that exact date.

So is it reliable? Yes. WolframAlpha doesn’t redirect you to other websites, but rather gets its information from its own team of experts and researchers. And if you are skeptical, the bottom of every one of your searches has a “source information” link that will tell you exactly where those answers originated. The information database is constantly expanding and best of all, it’s free to use.

Google, Bing and Yahoo are traditional search engines that will always have their place in the World Wide Web, but an alternative engine like WolframAlpha is great for quick facts and starting points for journalists in particular.

Let’s face it, most of us don’t even read the articles that come up with our Google searches. We skim the article preview under the link to get an idea of what it is we are talking about and move on. This new site is a great resource for doing just that more accurately and more interestingly. WolframAlpha is the perfect spot for all the sleep-deprived and attention lacking college students out there that have severely overused Wikipedia.

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