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Re: Mathematica syntax in W|A

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  • Subject: [mg102127] Re: Mathematica syntax in W|A
  • From: Erik Max Francis <max at>
  • Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 05:31:55 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <h4p3d7$imm$>

Filippo Miatto wrote:
> Dear all,
> I was wondering to what extent one can use Mathematica syntax for  
> WolframAlpha queries.
> I mean, is there a more complex way to write queries that could be  
> used for complex searches? To access the data in a more effective way?
> Stephen Wolfram in a webcast showed some hints (for example to add  
> ip=FR or something like that so that WA would interpret the query as  
> it was coming from a european country and use the metric system of  
> measures), I wonder if there is more.

Nope, from what I've seen the syntax is not at all Mathematica-like. 
Which kind of makes sense, since if it could understand Mathematica 
proper, there'd be little reason to buy a Mathematica license. 
Obviously that isn't the goal of Wolfram|Alpha, though it's still not 
clear to me what long-term business prospects it has or is supposed to have.

The natural language parser really leaves a lot to be desired.  I made a 
suggestion (submitted the usual way through the online form, undoubtedly 
lost in the noise) that they do something reasonable, like give special 
dispensation to obvious clue words, like _and_, _or_, _of_, _in_, etc. 
for guessing separate queries, conversions, etc.  This could even form a 
new (but simple) language that could easily be used by even 
non-technical endusers.  It doesn't seem like there's going to be any 
substantial improvement if they're going to keep doing statistical 
matching (or whatever it is they're doing) by basically randomly 
guessing what queries mean.

Erik Max Francis && max at &&
  San Jose, CA, USA && 37 18 N 121 57 W && AIM/Y!M/Skype erikmaxfrancis
   Nothing is so good it lasts eternally
    -- Florence, _Chess_

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