When Wolfram|Alpha announced its first-ever Homework Day, we took notice.
Homework Day is a live, interactive Web event that will feature step-by-step tutorials showing educators how to use Wolfram|Alpha in the classroom. It will also present panel discussions on the future of education. The event takes place tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 21, starting at noon CDT.
What is Wolfram|Alpha, you ask? That’s the best part: Rather than a search engine, it calls itself a “computational knowledge engine” that makes “it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything.” By collecting and curating objective data, models, methods and algorithms, the site aims to provide “definitive answers to factual queries” in the areas of math, physics, chemistry, geology, geography and even history. Simply enter your “completely free-form input” and the site promises to deliver “powerful results … with maximum clarity.”
The news media loves to ponder whether Bing or anyone else can ever dislodge Google as the top commercial search engine. But as Wolfram Alpha’s promise of “definitive answers to factual queries” shows, while Google may forever be the best search engine to use in most cases, there are a number of specialty search engines that will almost always produce better search results than Google in particular cases.
That’s why we created SweetSearch. It’s a more selective search engine that was built with students and academic research in mind. All of the 35,000 Web sites included in SweetSearch have been evaluated for content, quality and reliability. By combining human insight with search engine technology, SweetSearch excludes distracting clutter. It allows students to focus on determining which results are most relevant to their research, rather than waste time evaluating sites that are not worth their consideration. Due to the fact that SweetSearch only searches a small slice of the Web, sometimes a broader search engine will be a better place to start a search. But for research queries, SweetSearch will often display on the first page a “Eureka” result that may be buried many pages deep in a broad search engine.
Now educators and students have two tools to add to their online research arsenal, for times when a broad, commercial search engine doesn’t quite get the job done: Wolfram|Alpha for computations and SweetSearch for information.