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Author Topic: Wolfram|alpha
littlefish
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 00:02      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's the buzz on the net, but has anyone asked alpha a question?

It did rather well for the one question I asked it, and I was impressed with the depth of associated information provided that I did not ask for.

I'll be playing with it in the future, and it could be very useful - what do others think?

Oh, and for putting this in the comics section - I thought the last panel was going to be a skynet joke.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 02:59      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It failed the Napoleon's phone number test.

But when I asked it for "geostationary orbit" it came back with the radius and velocity required, while google returned a link to wikipedia, which required reading a few paragraphs to get that information.

Likewise when asked for "earth radius"

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 03:11      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
____________________ TheMoMan --

I tried to look up "grass to pellets"

No answer

I tried to look up "pellets from grass"

No answer

I tried to look up "biofuel"

No answer

So I was able to strike out. I may try again however I am at this point not impressed.

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Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

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Snaggy

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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 09:12      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
yes, I'd have to say I'm a little disappointed with Wolfram|Alpha so far, but HAL had to start somewhere.

Although I did like the answer to this one...
How many roads must a man walk down... [Applause]

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 09:55      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
_____________________ This has happened at Wolfram/alpha and at dogpile, plus Excite when I use them to search, as the page of hits is building, I will get a message that "the connection failed" this does not happen when using Google.

"Connection Interrupted

The document contains no data.

The network link was interrupted while negotiating a connection. Please try again."



Or am I being paranoid?

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Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 10:55      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I used it again for a quick reference earlier, and I think it is wonderful, but it may be that it is a "computational knowledge engine" rather than a search engine.

Searching for chemicals gives fabulous results, but it may just be that my subset of interest intersects that of Wolfram.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 12:38      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was quite caught by surprise yesterday to see that it had launched. I guess I missed the incredible fact that Friday was launch day. Oh well - such is the price to pay for having a nice weekend. [Razz]

I'm pretty impressed by its results for certain things, but it is certainly not a replacement for Google. However, it's already a million times more magnificent than Cuil, which is just full of fail. [Wink]

OTOH, I just tried Snaggy's link, and was reminded again of a chief gripe of mine: It requires Javascript to return results. :/ WWSGD?


Net result: Win. [Smile]

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 12:54      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I tried it, but most of my results were "Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input." The few that weren't were generally either a repetition of what I entered (the result for "fourier transformation" is "Fourier exp transform" and nothing more... so that was really helpful) or dictionary definitions of the word I entered. The only semi-useful result that I got was a list of the nutritional values for marjoram.

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spungo
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 13:30      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's quite good for equationy things, and to be quite frank, that's all that really matters. So, I for one, welcome our new isn't sure what to do with your input overlords. Or something.

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Shameless plug. (Please forgive me.)

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zorgon
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Icon 2 posted May 18, 2009 14:59      Profile for zorgon     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yeah, got some problems.

I typed in "irradiance" and it said that the units were watts per square meter (true) but that the basic dimensions were mass per time cubed. Now that was amusing.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2009 15:28      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Snaggy:
yes, I'd have to say I'm a little disappointed with Wolfram|Alpha so far, but HAL had to start somewhere.

Although I did like the answer to this one...
How many roads must a man walk down... [Applause]

It failed the first HAL test, but passed another

--------------------
If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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DoctorWho

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Icon 14 posted May 18, 2009 20:20      Profile for DoctorWho     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It obviously knows what it's talking about. [thumbsup]
link

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fs

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 00:06      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Every time I see the name, I think of Wolfram & Hart. One of the failings, I think, is going to be that it uses Wikipedia as source information. And you're only as good as your sources.

But it's still pretty cool.

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I'm in ur database, makin' moar recordz.

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 18:14      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
It failed the first HAL test, but passed another

Um, it failed the second one, too. [Confused] [ohwell]
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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 18:31      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Rhonwyyn:
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
It failed the first HAL test, but passed another

Um, it failed the second one, too. [Confused] [ohwell]
I thought its response to the second test was near enough to "What do you think you're doing Dave?"

--------------------
If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 18:36      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh....! Since I've never seen the movie (or was it a book?), that would explain why I didn't get the joke. [Razz]

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garlicguy

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 19:23      Profile for garlicguy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by fs:
Every time I see the name, I think of Wolfram & Hart.

I miss Angel...

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I don't know what I was thinking... it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 21:13      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by garlicguy:
quote:
Originally posted by fs:
Every time I see the name, I think of Wolfram & Hart.

I miss Angel...
Ha...rock on! I /thought/ that sounded familiar, but I thought fs was making some literary reference that I was missing. [Razz]

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2009 21:27      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
And now that I'm catching up on /., I see something kind of creepy about W|A:

Terms of Use: A Real Difference Between Wolfram|Alpha and Google
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090518204959409

via /.: http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/05/19/1846258

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2009 11:31      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That brings up an interesting question... can you assert copyright ownership on your program's output when that output is based on input from a user? It's a bit like Microsoft claiming copyright on every pie chart created in Excel since it's their program creating the output based on the user's input.

The closest applicable copyright law I can think of is that which applies to dictionaries. The presentation and formatting is copyrighted, but the actual entries cannot be. Transcribing the entries and presented them in a different format is completely legal.

I suspect this would apply to WA's output as well. You may not be able to print screen captures of the results page, but general information transcribed from the results would not be protected by copyright nor would any attribution be required.

...at least until they bribe enough of congress to get something even worse than the DMCA passed.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2009 13:10      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by GrumpySteen:

The closest applicable copyright law I can think of is that which applies to dictionaries. The presentation and formatting is copyrighted, but the actual entries cannot be. Transcribing the entries and presented them in a different format is completely legal.

Actually...not quite - most common dictionaries /are/ copyrighted. I realize that common sense assertion you're shooting for, but I'm pretty sure the choice of words used to define a word is the work of the editors, who were commissioned by the dictionary.

I'm not sure if this link will work for non-subscribers:
http://dictionary.oed.com/general/privacy.html#legal

...but that's OED's take. This is why e2 is full of Webster1913 entries, and presumably Wictionary is based off the same public domain definitions.


w.r.t. WA - it's really hairy that they're taking a lot of 'open' resources (public domain, CC, GFDL, or otherwise) and repurposing it into a proprietary result. If the content is derived, and not directly sourced, it might not be possible to directly copy it. If it's a direct source, it should be trivial to use that portion and cite the original source. However, to avoid such ugliness, I would recommend against using this for anything other than personal curiosity.

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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LoneWolf
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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2009 14:01      Profile for LoneWolf     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Couldn't answer "how much water can 55 elephants drink?"
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Moe Monkey
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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2009 15:09      Profile for Moe Monkey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
And it makes junior HS mistakes on simple chem calculations:

What is the pH of 10^-8 M hydrochloric acid?

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2009 17:42      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
dragonman97 wrote:
Actually...not quite - most common dictionaries /are/ copyrighted. I realize that common sense assertion you're shooting for, but I'm pretty sure the choice of words used to define a word is the work of the editors, who were commissioned by the dictionary.

What I was "shooting for" is based on actual copyright law which is fairly clear (as legalese goes) on this issue.

Title 17, section 103, subsection b:
The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material.

You -might- be able to make a case if your dictionary used particularly creative definitions for words which are significantly different from every definition that had ever been published and released into public domain. Writing definitions that way would make them complicated and difficult to understand, however, which would make the dictionary difficult to use at best.

Next time you decide to explain copyright to me, perhaps you will consider referring to actual copyright law. I tend to dislike companies that claim copyright on things which are in the public domain and the people who mindlessly parrot those claims.

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Metasquares
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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2009 20:39      Profile for Metasquares   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's pretty neat when it has an answer. I asked it when the next solar eclipse was, for instance, and was pleasantly surprised with the information it returned related to my query. Similarly, I asked what an A flat major chord looked like in root position and it not only knew the answer, but plotted it on a keyboard (though it fell down when I asked it for the chord in first inversion).

As the knowledgebase grows, I think this can become something very useful.

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