Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

ENCORE!

Haute Couture: the hand-stitched clothing made in Paris that sells for the price of small yachts

Read more

  • Putin revives old Cuban flame and eyes Latin American minerals

    Read more

  • Kerry holds all-night talks with Afghan presidential rivals

    Read more

  • Last of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, dies aged 62

    Read more

  • The third-place playoff: the World Cup game no one wants to play

    Read more

  • Netanyahu resists international pressure to stop air strikes on Gaza

    Read more

  • Ukraine promises retaliation after rebel assault

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • Cleveland's NBA fans hail 'return of king' LeBron James

    Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • Magnitude 6.8 quake, small tsunami hit east Japan

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

  • Kurdish forces take over two oilfields in northern Iraq

    Read more

  • Are French high school students getting smarter?

    Read more

  • Italy’s Trentin wins seventh stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • In pictures: Chanel, Dior and so much more at the Paris couture shows

    Read more

SCIENCE

'Wolfram Alpha', a search engine that understands

©

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2009-05-18

This weekend, English scientist Stephen Wolfram activates the first intelligent search engine capable of understanding the meaning of questions put to it. Is this the biggest thing since Google?

Can a search engine respond coherently to a complex question? Mathematician Stephen Wolfram believes it can, and will prove it by putting Wolfram Alpha, the first intelligent search engine, online this weekend. More than 5,000 Internet users hope their complex questions will be answered too. They’ve been following the site’s launch live since Friday evening on justin.tv and Twitter. This new type of competitor to Google should be fully operational on May 18.

 

It’s been a month since Wolfram Alpha buzz invaded the Web, via a YouTube video. In the video, Wolfram presents his new "baby" to an enraptured audience. To the question "What is the unemployment rate in France?", the engine responds in numbers, pie charts and other charts. Wolfram Alpha even understands the query: "How fast does hair grow?"

 

Nearly 100,000 viewings later, specialized and mainstream sites such as Twine and the BBC refer to the project as being “as important as Google”. Even Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin admits to following the experiment closely.

 
 
The Net’s Holy Grail
 

Semantic search - in which the search engine understands the meaning of words - is one of the Internet’s holy grails. All previous attempts in this direction had failed, till Wolfram’s new online tool rekindled the wildest dreams of all kinds of geeks. Regarded as a genius mathematician - he earned his doctorate in particle physics when he was 20 years old - he is an outstanding inventor. He’s been working on his search engine for more than five years, and claims to have developed the "most advanced algorithms at present."

While such an online tool does sound mouthwatering, a reporter's first few hits on Wolfram Alpha were a little disappointing. First of all, it's impossible to use a language other than English. Secondly, the engine currently concentrates solely on scientific and statistical issues. Finally, some of the data isn’t up to date.

Wolfram responds that a baby learns every day. Users can only hope that he and his staff are skilled enough to make his search engine a success.

Date created : 2009-05-17

Comments

COMMENT(S)