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Friday, May 15, 2009

WolframAlpha Query Example

I had the chance to use Wolfram Alpha for a simple query today. I needed to know the number of cellphones in use in a number of European countries. So I posed the query:

And I got these results:

These look reasonable, likely 2007 or 2008 data. Also the total, max and min of the set are shown. I could have seen other data compared here, say GDP as well. The result gives you the chance to find the source of data, which are 'WolframAlpha curated'. They give you a number of possible answers, not the exact source in this case. Not completely satisfying.

Note that my question is database-like. No attempt to be English. So if I change the query to: 'Cellphones in use in ....' or any other attempts to make this a full English sentence, WolframAlpha does not understand. It also does not understand when I substitute 'laptops' for 'cellphones'. The latter appears to be a data problem.

So the experience that many people will get if they try to use some form of natural language, as claimed, may be less that satisfying.

I did get my answer.

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