“The” Google has competition coming

Have you heard about Wolfram Alpha?

The company goes public on May 18th and offers a very different way of surfing the web.  It could have as great an impact as any company ever has. It is a free Web site that is the result of years of secret work by a British mathematician—Stephen Wolfram—and his team of 250 colleagues. The project set the tech world on fire last week after a sneak preview at Harvard Law School, and may present the most powerful challenge yet to the Google behemoth.

According to Nicholas Ciarelli who wrote “The Google Killer” after he participated in the testing:

Instead of giving you a long list of Web pages, it simply computes the answer to whatever question you throw at it.

  • What was the average temperature in Chicago last year?
  • What is the life expectancy of a male, age 40, in New Zealand?
  • If you flip a coin 10 times, what is the probability that four of the flips will come up heads?
  • What nutrients are in two Snickers bars?
  • How many people are alive today with the name “Nicholas”?
  • How do oil exports in Iraq compare to those of Kuwait?

Wolfram Alpha is a frighteningly powerful calculator that is chock full of facts about the world. Type in a question in plain English: “What was the weather in Rancho Mirage when Gerald Ford died?” Wolfram Alpha instantly spits back the temperature, weather conditions, relative humidity, and wind speed, followed by a set of neatly formatted tables and charts.



Filed under New Technology, Web Search Engines

26 responses to ““The” Google has competition coming

  1. Scary.
    Open the pod bay door HAL.

    The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee to author/scientist/futurist Ray Kurzweil:
    “So,…. how long till we have fuckable robots?”

  2. I want one of these toys

    • jammer5

      Reminds me of McGee’s trick big screen on NCIS. Now THAT would be a trip. I wonder if this one does any app, such as blue prints, etc.

  3. wicked


    Do you know how the name HAL was chosen for the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

  4. wicked

    Hmmm, now that I’ve had a second to think, 2001 really was “out there” as far as years go. A real space odyssey with a space cadet running the show.

    Am I the only one hearing strains of The Twilight Zone?

  5. 6176746f6c6c65

    Hint: think.

  6. wicked

    LOL 6! It’s an old Trivial Pursuit question. 😉

    My brain is too full of worthless trivia to give much thought to anything with substance.

  7. 6176746f6c6c65

    Think was the corporate “motto” of IBM. Thus, the obtuse hint.

  8. jammer5

    How many days, months, years before I’m completely broke?

    H(I) A(B) L(M)

  9. wicked

    Good one, 6! I’d forgotten the angle with the old motto.

    I see jammer got it. H A L are the letters before the I B M.

    The movie put me to sleep.

  10. Thunderchild

    I shall have to read about this development in depth a little later. It seems cutting edge and I am still struggling to catch up.

    This seems as good a place as any for this. An opportunity to learn and share it with others?

    My monster IBM Boeing surplus workstation is alive! I even managed to cannibalize the CD R/W (read /write) DVD ROM (read only memory) drive from my emachine and transplant it to the workstation.

    6 I hope you are recovering. I have mixed feelings about asking for your help. On the one hand, I don’t want to task you when you are recovering. But on the other and if you feel like it, it could be a mental and fine motor workout for you when you feel up to it.

    I have successfully downloaded the Mint6 distro (distribution) of the linux operating system. But I have found that simply downloading it to the drive eludes me. It SEEMS it is easier to burn a CD and run that at boot. BUT I am not able so far to burn the iso (I don’t know what that is myself) images to the CD writer. I get a message saying the burn could not be confirmed.

    The big difficulty here is that I am running with the Puppy distribution of Linux just from the CD and RAM. SO, when I shut down the computer, the download of Mint6, which takes more than an hour to do, goes goodbye along with anything else.

    I COULD partition the hard drive so that I could save the Puppy sessions and so the download. But that seems an extra step.


    I hope just my question serves to inform and interest others.

  11. Thunderchild

    By the way, I hope also that my posts here as to linux inspire others to learn about this user generated, free operating system. For instance, I understand the full blown version of Microsoft based Photoshop with all the attachment runs about 900 dollars.

    The linux based GIMP, just as capable and in some ways more so than Photoshop, is free. Another advantage to linux is that the hierarchy of the filing system makes the need to defrag your disk a memory.

  12. Bad Biker

    TC, if it is okay with you, I’ll have my computer nerd kid take a look and possibly answer your concerns.

    As for me, all that is miles over my head.

  13. 6176746f6c6c65


    As you are having an issue w/CD burning, if you have access to a flash drive (2 gb is a good size), you could create a bootable USB drive from the iso file. Google unetbootin or take a look at the menu IIRC that comes up when right-clicking on the file icon.

  14. 6176746f6c6c65

    The d/l mint file, that is.

  15. Thunderchild

    Any help is appreciated biker.


    I DO have a 1 gig zip drive around here somewhere. It’s USB I think.

    My problem, and I hope others can learn from it, is my tech savvy has about a 12 year hole in it. I used to be pretty good with pkunzip and other 486 type stuff.

    Then I was in Webtv wasteland for 10 years. I never really learned much in the way about Windows.

    The icon for my CD drive, when clicked, says “unable to mount drive”. So that may have something to do with my burn issues .

    This is all easier AND more difficult than I had ever thought.

    I’m guessing here. If I find that zip drive and plug it in, I’m guessing I will get an icon? Then I can drag the linuxmint-6 icon I created to it?

  16. Thunderchild

    Yup, there’s the little icon for the portable drive.

    But when I drag the mint6 icon to it, it asks me to mount the drive.

    We haven’t even been properly introduced!

    Then, the drive won’t mount and still shows 955 M free.

  17. Thunderchild

    linux is a lot more colorful.

    The CRIMSON error message “could not mount fdo drive” is rather discouraging.

  18. Thunderchild

    I am using a cd only version of Puppy Linux.

    (Thank you 6!)

    That linux help is probably helpful but it looks like command line stuff which is still a bit beyond me.

    If I can’t figure it out through the day, the default position is to create a partition of the drive in order to save the session and so not lose the download.

    That or just leave the computer on.

  19. 6176746f6c6c65


    To mount a drive in Linux does, in many cases, require some “command line” work when the drive doesn’t automount which is clearly the case here. I’m guessing that Puppy likely has limited automount capability, so as to reduce its overhead.

  20. Thunderchild

    hmm, learning curve here.

    I DID manage to save the session with the mint 6 download to the zip drive. SO the download is still there. Just have to figure out how to unpack it.

    Both the zip drive and optical drive icons have green dots on them, for whatever that means.

  21. 6176746f6c6c65

    You don’t unpack it, TC. You would run it from the zip drive after mounting the drive. The green dot likely means not mounted.

  22. Thunderchild


    I DID manage to save the puppy session (with mint6 download) to the 1G portable drive.

    I HAVE figured out how to mount and unmount the drives.

    I guess the difficulty is not knowing what to do with the files. I can make the mint6 an icon. But I can’t find anything like “run” or execute.

  23. 6176746f6c6c65

    Did I mention mounting the iso?

  24. Thunderchild

    mount iso to ico I got.

    In fact it gives a little congratulatory message.

    ….successfully mounted!

    But clicking it again UN mounts it.

    This is probably gonna be like getting on the internet was. It drove me nuts for two days until I finally tried something that didn’t make any sense. Then I’ll feel like an idiot.