WolframAlpha is a computer search engine launched last week by Mathematica software creator British physicist Stephen Wolfram. Commentators are applauding Wolfram for creating a search engine with a sense of humour, but on a practical level, Alpha has generated a great deal of criticism. Mashable has a list of the most amusing, and extraordinarily nerdy, answers that Alpha gives, the clear favourite is this:

The Guardian’s Bobbie Johnson suggests there isn’t anything WolframAlpha does that is especially unique or revolutionary, aside from jokes. Cnet‘s Chris Matyszczyk thinks WolframAlpha needs therapy.

The Register‘s Ted Dziuba says “Alpha is ground breaking in a new kind of useless”, citing the lack of a coherent business plan, plagarism from Wikipedia (not the most reliable source of information) and narcissism as it’s main detractions. Dziuba says while Alpha is good for publicly available numerical data, it is not useful for anyone outside college professors and engineers.

Zdnet ‘s Dana Blankenhorn says Wolfram does not trust the internets — particularly Wikipedia, complicating Dziuba’s claims about wiki-plagarism. Blankenhorn’s main criticism is the lack of flexibility in Alpha’s answers:

On the internet there is no unitary authority, no final answer. Questions on the internet lead mainly to other questions, or to data, or to opinions, usually all three.

Peter Fray

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