British scientist Stephen Wolfram, inventor of Mathemetica, will unveil his latest creation Wolfram Alpha on May 15, 2009. Alpha is a computational knowledge engine, and it uses built-in models of different domains that represent real-world knowledge, for computing the answers to factual questions.

It understands and then computes answers for questions using the built-in domain knowledge models without searching for answers in a big database. It provides textual results along with graphs, charts and other graphical elements necessary for the search query. For instance, if the query is “current American economy”, Alpha will offer numeric details along with comparison graphs. This will help almost everyone understand finance better.

Dr. Wolfram gave a demonstration of Alpha at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. During the demonstration, Wolfram typed in the question ‘What is the GPD of France divided by Italy?’ Alpha gave the correct answer supported with graphs and other statistics.

Dr. Wolfram said at the demonstration, “Our goal is to make expert knowledge accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Like interacting with an expert, it will understand what you’re talking about, do the computation, and then present you with the results.”

Wolfram is different from Google. Two things can be compared only when they are comparable. Google is a search engine while Wolfram is a computational knowledge engine. However, Alpha will be rival for Wikipedia and other reference materials. Instead of searching tons of books and finding answers to any factual questions, users can just open Alpha and obtain answers.

Stephen describes Wolfram Alpha – “It will raise the level of scientific things that the average person can do. People will find that the world is more predictable than they might have expected. Just as running Google is like having a reference librarian to help you, running Wolfram Alpha will be like having a house scientist to consult for you.”