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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Abusing Search Engines

Today I discovered a new search engine: Wolfram|Alpha. It's supposed to have a more computational slant than other search engines. So if you enter "distance from Earth to Uranus", it won't give you a list of web pages, it'll just give you the answer: "about three feet".

No, wait-- that's not right. Search engines have as much of a sense of humor as feminists and state troopers. Even so, I decided to put Wolfram|Alpha to the test. (And what kind of a geek came up with that name? This kind, apparently. He named it after his own self-important self.)

Anyways, I went looking for the answers to some of life's important questions. Here's what I found:

What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? (from Monty Python)
It advised me to "Use estimated average cruising airspeed of an unladen European swallow instead." It didn't automatically make the swap, so I had to make up for its laziness.
Answer: 25 mph

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? (from The Learning Company)
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

When will I be loved? (from the Everly Brothers)
Answer: It gave me facts about a movie of the same name, including the release date, run time, and box office total. No mention of the song.

Why is there air? (from Bill Cosby)
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

As you can see, not much help here. It was time to try some easier questions.

Who won the English Football Cup in 1949? (Monty Python again)
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

What is the speed of greased lightning?
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

What is the duration of an orgasm?
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

How High the Moon?
Answer: It gave me facts about two movies: How High and Moon. The release date for Moon is September 3, 2009. Wolfram|Alpha says that's 0.29 years ago. I don't think that's right at all. It didn't mention either the song How High the Moon or give a distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Verdict: Lame. Even when it had the chance to make sense of my nonsense, it generally failed. It knows a few movies, but I'd still use IMDB.

No comments:

Reading List

  • Man Is Wolf to Man, by Janusz Bardach
  • Don't Swallow Your Gum! by Aaron Carroll & Rachel Vreeman
  • Instant Replay, by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap
  • New York, by Edward Rutherford
  • The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson

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