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Re: Mathematica 8 and Alpha integration....

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  • Subject: [mg113993] Re: Mathematica 8 and Alpha integration....
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2010 06:12:15 -0500 (EST)

Documenting the behavior would, to a great extent, I think, amount to 
simply repeating (perhaps in a somewhat digested form) all the kinds of 
input that users of WolframAlpha use and the corresponding results that 
are returned!

Part of the reason is that, remember, a lot of handling of user input 
has been governed by the developers and maintainers of WolframAlpha 
actually looking at what people type and seeing how the system responds, 
then adding ways of answering a wider range of questions.

On 11/19/2010 5:07 AM, Jason Ledbetter wrote:
> First, I'm excited about this integration. I'm excited about the natural
> language capabilities.
> I'm not sure how this practice mixes with reality, however.
> 1) Taking the first example from Wolfram's blog, one can ask alpha "=plot x
> sin^3x" then follow that up with "=add black frame". Yet it can't comprehend
> "remove black frame"....
> So I try "change frame to blue" and alpha returns an input interpretation of
> "Show[%, Frame->True, FrameStyle->Pink]". Pink? Really? I guess it made up
> an answer because it stated Alpha doesn't yet know how to respond to the
> query.
> I'm beginning to wonder if I don't need documentation on what "natural
> language" Mathematica 8/Alpha actually knows....
> 2) I can ask Mathematica 8/alpha "=average 1,2,3,4,5" and get Mean[{1,...}] back with a
> result of 3. Great.
> However, one can't say "a={1,2,3,4,5}" and "=average a".
> There seems to be this line drawn in the interaction between notebook and
> it's variables and what is passed to alpha.
> Are the details of this interaction and the capabilities documented
> anywhere?
> Is there something one needs to do to "convert a" to something Alpha can
> understand other than just using the raw input numbers again?
> 3) I'm not sure CTRL= does anything.
> Entering "average 1,2,3,4,5" does give me a result that I'd expect similar
> to #2 but entering "average a" as defined in #2 gives me "no mathematica
> translations".... i'm under the (potentially false) impression that CTRL= is
> more "local" than just =.
> I'm thinking that "natural language" is a good idea, but not if the speaker
> has to reduce his vocabulary and the expectations of that vocabulary to meet
> what the product does.
> Two possibilities I see:
> A) I'm expecting too much.
> B) It will get there sometime later.
> Which results in:
> Expecting to use Alpha integration for anything more than pulling data from
> their curated databases is going to be a failure in the current version.
> thoughts?
> -jbl

Murray Eisenberg                     murray at
Mathematics & Statistics Dept.
Lederle Graduate Research Tower      phone 413 549-1020 (H)
University of Massachusetts                413 545-2859 (W)
710 North Pleasant Street            fax   413 545-1801
Amherst, MA 01003-9305

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