Following on from last night’s live launch, Wolfram Alpha is now live. I’ve had a quick play and it seems very good at what it does. Wolfram Alpha is mainly a “fact engine” and the usage examples on the home page reinforce this with questions such as “population France/Germany” and prompts to enter dates such as my birthday. Entering a date brings back a lot of facts for that date. In my example it says that I was born on a Monday, exactly how many days have passed between then and now and any notable events such as births, deaths and historical events such as D-Day. It even tells you the phase of the moon on that day! The most impressive part is the ability to download the data as either a PDF or a NB file for Wolfram’s Live Mathematica.
Wolfram Alpha seems to be running at maximum load, probably due to all us search engine geeks hammering their servers! Amusingly if Alpha can’t perform a task it returns “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that…”, a reference to HAL in 2001:A Space Odyssey of course.
While Alpha is obviously of use to students and academics it remains to be seen whether the general public will embrace it in great numbers.