17 May 2009Wolfram Alpha, most of it lavish praise. Today it seems to have gone live and I thought of testing a few queries which I also tested on Google.
I saw a reference to Nova Scotia and had some doubt whether it was in Canada or the USA. Google returned a few sites dealing with travel to Nova Scotia (Canada), a link to the Wikipedia entry on Nova Scotia etc.
Wolfram Alpha returned a detailed reference to Nova 1 (spacecraft) with its location at Scotia, New York, United States. It went on to give me detailed information about its altitude, instantaneous velocity, average velocity, average latitude, orbital period, inclination, orbit type etc which is of course not what I wanted.
It reminds me of the girl in the nursery rhyme. "When she was good she was very, very good. And when she was bad she was horrid."
That made me try out Mother Goose on Wolfram Alpha. Disappointingly it said: "Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input." It offered suggestions but again they were all far off the mark. Google got it right with the first entry. You don't even need to go to it. The excerpt says: "Mother Goose is a well-known figure in the literature of fairy tales and nursery rhymes."
Wolfram seems to be a bit like the I'm Feeling Lucky button on Google. If you know that what Google will return as the first entry is what you want you can click the I'm Feeling Lucky button but otherwise it's best to go the conventional way.