Alpha Google: When Mathematicians Collide

April 28, 2009

Google has quite a few folks who are good at math. Dr. Stephen Wolfram is good at math, and he wrote a program that some of the Googlers used when they were but wee lads learning Algebraic Combinatorics. On April 28, 2009, Wolfram Alpha was previewed before a crowd of math lovers at Harvard. Almost at the moment the Wolfram Alpha crowd was gasping at a system that provided answers, not results lists, the Google showed that it was not turning into a bunny hiding from the Wolfram.

What did the Google do?

The company rolled out a nifty search, public data, visualization, analyst cookie jar. You can read about Google Public Data in the breathless prose of the Washington Post, whose editors may be thinking about using the system to generate graphs without the graphics department. The Post’s article was “Google Unveils New Tool To Dig for Public Data” here. Google’s own description is typical Google prose – understated and entitlement tinged. You can read that official statement here.

Wolfram Alpha, according to TechCrunch, released a digital salvo after the Google disrupted the Wolfram dog and pony show. You can read about that counter attack here.

What does the addled goose think of these computational confrontations? Three things:

  1. You can take the kids out of the math club but you can’t get the math club behavior out of the kids. Snark, snark.
  2. Google made it clear that the Wolfram crowd required more direct action than any other search challenger in recent memory. As an addled goose, my memory is not too good, but I saw the counter offensive as an indication that Google sniffed napalm in the morning.
  3. Search is complicated. When you wheel out the math guns and they fire at one another, those azure chip consultants who played youth soccer and ate sushi after have a tough time explaining the systems and methods used by both companies to deliver ready to recycle data analysis for free. Yep, search is easy.

Stephen Arnold, April 29, 2009


2 Responses to “Alpha Google: When Mathematicians Collide”

  1. Wolfram/Alpha vs Google: 0-1 « Petervan’s Blog on April 29th, 2009 3:17 am

    […] and Wolfram fires back a couple of minutes/hours later. Some other coverage about this here and here and on […]

  2. Wolfram Alpha and this week’s search engine news (May 2) | Wiadomo?ci seo on May 2nd, 2009 9:34 am

    […] Alpha Google: When Mathematicians Collide […]

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