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WolframAlpha: a Search Engine Worth Trying

by brandonminiman | November 3, 2009November 3, 2009 4:43 am PDT

Search engines like Google and Bing, when used properly, can unearth limitless amounts of information and data. The trouble is that these search engines require you to dig through several links before finding the right bit of information.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about WolframAlpha at some point. It’s that “other” search engine that bills itself as the Computational Knowledge Engine. What’s that mean? It means that using natural language, it can dynamically produce answers to questions or queries by piecing together numerous bits of info derived from facts, historical data, formulas and algorithms. The aim of the engine is to “bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest range of people.” It bills itself as a long term endeavor that is just in its infancy, covering areas of finance, biology, physics, history, geography, and many others.

What’s this mean for you? This video demonstrates some of the ways you can use WolframAlpha to help, for example, determine how many calories are in your breakfast. Or, you can use it to find the weather conditions in a particular city 25 years ago. You can use it to research any economy in the world, or to determine the atomic and nuclear properties of any element from the periodic table. The list of queries that WolframAlpha can understand is massive , and if you’re truly interested in understand the capabilities of the engine, be sure to visit their Visual Gallery of Examples.

For those that do indeed find huge value in using WolframAlpha, there’s an iPhone app available, but the price is steep at $50. You can access a “light” version of the engine from your iPhone for free by visiting