Has Stephen Wolfram Designed a Better Search Engine?
Stephen Wolfram, the computer genius who authored the computational software Mathematica in 1998 and wrote A New Kind of Science in 2002, has built a new search engine. It's called Wolfram Alpha and it could knock Google from its lofty perch.
As Chris Thompson writes in his Big Money blog, "when his [Wolfram's] search engine launches in May, people can use his simple programs to interact with computers intuitively, using ordinary language to find what they're looking for." Are you ready for this?
As you know, Google has never been very good at getting a computer to answer a simple question, asked in natural language. For example, if you type in, "When did Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address," the company's algorithms use the keywords in your search, scan the universe of data, and analyze links to rank results, offering you more than 15,000 sites that are relevant to the words you typed, Thompson writes. But Wolfram claims that if you type the same prompt into his new search engine, one thing will appear: The answer, or in this case, "Nov. 19, 1863."
Here's how Wolfram claims to have done it: All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do. ... I'm happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we're actually managing to make it work."
Well there you have it. And the Wolfram Alpha website mirrors Google's simplicity: all white space, with one search field for you to ask a simple question. It has Google's format and supposedly will do the one thing not even Google can do: talk to you like a human being.
Will Wolfram Alpha sink Google's ship? That's a question of genius and marketing, notes Thompson. But we are in the middle of an economic crisis and we all know what that means...everything is changing!
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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