Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, March 09, 2009

The next Google? - Wolfram Alpha: Next major search breakthrough?

CNETNews - March 8, 2009, by Dan Farber

Stephen Wolfram has a track record of scientific breakthroughs and some controversy. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Caltech in 1979 when he was 20 and has focused most of his career on probing complex systems. In 1988 he launched Mathematica, powerful computational software that has become the gold standard in its field. In 2002, Wolfram produced a 1,280-page tome, A New Kind of Science, based on a decade of exploration in cellular automata and complex systems. The book stirred up a lot of debate in scientific circles. Legendary physicist Freeman Dyson described the tome as "a case of style over substance." (See Steven Levy's Wired profile of Wolfram).

In May, Wolfram will unveil his latest creation, now called Wolfram Alpha. It applies his work with Mathematica and NKS (A New Kind of Science) to Web search. "All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do," Wolfram said in a recent blog post. "I'm happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we're actually managing to make it work...It's going to be a website: 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," he added.

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