Actually, just 24 pounds, but it still stings.
I tried a lot of queries without success on WolframAlpha, the new "computational knowledge engine," ranging from rates of homelessness and AIDS in various regions to salaries for college graduates. None of the first 20 or so queries gave me back meaningful results. Then I decided to hold myself under Wolfram's unflinching light by putting in some of my vitals. After all, Googling oneself is a time-honored tradition, so why shouldn't Wolfram'ing oneself become the same? Here's why: While I know I could afford to drop a few pounds, 186 lbs for a 6'3" male sounds pretty downright unhealthy, and is about 20 pounds south of what my doctor recommended with his weight chart. Obviously, WolframAlpha's databases could still use expansion (that or I really am a lot worse off than I thought). But while these results weren't exactly pretty for anyone involved, I still see some strong potential for the service (which is NOT, as has been reported again and again, a "search engine," at least not as the term is commonly used today). Mr. Wolfram's introductory screen cast alone was enough to get me excited, even if, as a friend remarked, playing around with it for a few minutes shows just exactly how close you have to stay to its databases to get meaningful results. That said, the empty handed results on AIDS, homelessness, global warming ("Functionality for this topic is under development..."), post-graduate pay, etc. etc. shows not the engine's weaknesses, but how much potential it has as more databases, licensed or under public domain, become available. Having an engine that calculates and beautifully displays previously impenetrable data sets could be a huge asset to journalists, researchers, and everyone else with an inquiring mind. In the meantime, there are plenty of cool things WolframAlpha can do. I suggest:
- Searching your birthday
- Compare cities you've lived in
- Your life expectancy
- See how closely related Sharks and Octopii</li> are before watching the movie</li>
I really disagree with Silicon Alley Insider founder Henry Blodget's thoughts, that WolframAlpha's just another search engine destined to fade:
Our prediction: Wolfram Alpha (terrible name) will see a nice spike in traffic for a few days, then it will disappear unnoticed along with all the other "next-generation" search engines. Why? Because search isn't broken. It can be improved, yes, and companies like Wolfram Alpha will show Google how to improve it. But no search engine we've seen, including this one, comes close to making the quantum leap in performance required to get real volumes of Internet users to switch.Specialized data base search engines have actually done quite well. Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline are some prime examples (and ones with great business models to boot), but Zillow's also a fan favorite, despite supposedly terribly inaccurate house price estimates that realtor's routinely gripe about. Is Google broken? No, but neither was Yahoo or Lycos, really, when Google burst onto the scene, and to be honest, calling WolframAlpha a "Google-killer" mostly misses the service's point, which is not to search but to calculate specific results based on verified data. Further Reading: