angry tapir writes "Microsoft is rolling out some enhancements to its Bing search engine, including some that rely on computational information delivered by Wolfram Alpha. That means that people will be able to search for some complicated information, and the search engine will be able to compute the answers. In a blog post, Tracey Yao, program manager, and Pedro Silva, product manager at Microsoft, give some examples."
KentuckyFC writes "Nobel prize-winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft has joined the likes of computer scientists Stephen Wolfram and Ed Fredkin in claiming that the universe can be accurately modeled by cellular automata. The novel aspect of 't Hooft's model is that it allows quantum mechanics and, in particular, the spooky action at a distance known as entanglement to be deterministic. The idea that quantum mechanics is fundamentally deterministic is known as hidden variable theory but has been widely discounted by physicists because numerous experiments have shown its predictions to be wrong. But 't Hooft says his cellular automaton model is a new class of hidden variable theory that falls outside the remit of previous tests. However, he readily admits that the new model has serious shortcomings — it lacks some of the basic symmetries that our universe enjoys, such as rotational symmetry. However, 't Hooft adds that he is working on modifications that will make the model more realistic (abstract)."
snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister suggests that Wolfram Research's claim to copyright of results returned by the Wolfram Alpha engine could have significant ramifications for the software industry. 'While software companies routinely retain sole ownership of their software and license it to users, Wolfram Research has taken the additional step of claiming ownership of the output of the software itself,' McAllister writes, pointing out that it is 'at least theoretically possible to copyright works generated by machines.' And, under current copyright law, if any Wolfram claim to authorship of the output of its engine is upheld, by extension the same rules will apply to other information services in similar cases as well. In other words, 'If unique presentations based on software-based manipulation of mundane data are copyrightable, who retains what rights to the resulting works?'"
An anonymous reader sends in a story about how Wolfram Alpha is becoming the latest tool students are using to help with their schoolwork, and why some professors are worried it will interfere with the learning process. Quoting: "The goal of WolframAlpha is to bring high-level mathematics to the masses, by letting users type in problems in plain English and delivering instant results. As a result, some professors say the service poses tough questions for their classroom policies. 'I think this is going to reignite a math war,' said Maria H. Andersen, a mathematics instructor at Muskegon Community College, referring to past debates over the role of graphing calculators in math education. 'Given that there are still pockets of instructors and departments in the US where graphing calculators are still not allowed, some instructors will likely react with resistance (i.e. we still don't change anything) or possibly even with the charge that using WA is cheating.'"
future.nerd tips news that Wolfram Alpha is set to be launched tonight at 8PM EST (00:00 GMT), and the entire process will be broadcast live, via webcast. Steven Wolfram said to PCPro, "We've been rather surprised that we haven't been able to find even a single publicly available record of the commissioning of any large website at all. So we thought we would document our own experience. We can't guarantee that everything will go smoothly. We fully expect to encounter unanticipated situations along the way. We hope that it'll be interesting for people to join us as we work through these in real time." In a related blog post, he explains how Wolfram Alpha interacts with Mathematica.
SilverMind writes in to note a blog entry at Byte Size Biology describing in detail a few hours spent with Wolfram Alpha (which we have discussed before). "After playing around with Wolfram Alpha for a few hours, I can safely say the following: it's different, it's incomplete, it's idiosyncratic, and it's funky cool. And no, it will not dethrone Google, nor does it aim to do so."
wjousts writes "Technology Review has an article comparing various search results from Wolfram Alpha and Google. Results vary. For example, searching 'Microsoft Apple' in Alpha returns data comparing both companies stock prices, whereas Google top results are news stories mentioning both companies. However, when searching for '10 pounds kilograms,' Alpha rather unhelpfully assumes you want to multiply 10 pounds by 1 kilogram, whereas Google directs you to sites for metric conversions. Change the query to '10 pounds in kilograms' and both give you the result you'd expect (i.e. 4.536 kg)."
An anonymous reader points out a ReadWriteWeb piece on an hour-long demo of Wolfram|Alpha (which we discussed at its announcement). Stephen Wolfram does not like to call it a "search engine," preferring instead the term "computational knowledge engine." It will open to the public in May. "The hype around Wolfram|Alpha, the next 'Google killer' from the makers of Mathematica, has been building over the last few weeks. Today, we were lucky enough to attend a one-hour web demo with Stephen Wolfram, and from what we've seen, it definitely looks like it can live up to the hype — though, because it is so different from traditional search engines, it will definitely not be a 'Google killer.' According to Stephen Wolfram, the goal of Alpha is to give everyone access to expert knowledge and the data that a specialist would be able to compute from this information."
An anonymous reader writes "Computer scientist Stephen Wolfram feels that he has put together at least the initial version of a computer that actually answers factual questions, a la Star Trek's ship computers. His version will be found on their Web-based application, Wolfram Alpha. What does this mean? Well, instead of returning links to pages that may (or may not) contain the answer to your questions, Wolfram will respond with the actual answer. Just imagine typing in 'How many bones are in the human body?' and getting the answer." Right now, though the search entry field is in place, Alpha is not yet generally available -- only "to a few select individuals."
mblase writes "Wolfram Research has released the seventh version of Mathematica, and it does a lot more than symbolic algebra. New features range from things as simple as cut-and-paste integration with Microsoft Word's Equation Editor to instant 3D models of mathematical objects to the most expensive clone of Photoshop ever. Full suites of genome, chemical, weather, astronomical, financial, and geodesic data (or support for same) is designed to make Mathematica as invaluable for scientific research as it is for mathematics."
Ed Pegg writes "For those that want to get their fingers stained red and blue with actual political data, resources beyond 538 and pollster can be accessed. In a blog item for Wolfram Research, Jeff Hamrick gives step by step details for how to import raw data from Mason-Dixon, Rasmussen, and Quinnipiac. Then he uses Mathematica to analyze the political data." Related: Slashdot developer Pudge presented at OSCON in July his own approach to gathering Washington-state polling data for analysis [PDF].
stoolpigeon writes "The O'Reilly School of Technology is teaming up with Wolfram Research to provide on-line math courses using an AJAX version of Mathematica. O'Reilly has posted an and interview with Scott Gray, the director of OST, that has more details on the program (named Hilbert after David Hilbert) itself as well as the classes they will be offering."
Richard Pritches writes in to let us know that MIT errata expert Evangelos Georgiadis has disproved 44 conjectures set by Dr. Stephen Wolfram (founder of Mathematica) in A New Kind of Science. The paper was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Cellular Automata and can be read in PDF form at Prof Edwin Clark's collection of reviews of Wolfram's ANKS. "The formulas provided by Wolfram for these  rules are not minimal. Moreover for 8 of these cannot be minimal even by simple inspection since minimal formula sizes for 3-input Boolean functions over this basis never exceeds 5."
Fishbat writes "In a cutting message to the Foundations of Mathematics mailing list, Stanford's Vaughan Pratt has pointed out an elementary mistake in the recently announced proof that Wolfram's (2,3) machine is universal." Update: 10/30 04:18 GMT by KD : Ed Pegg Jr. from Wolfram Research points to this response to Dr. Pratt's note, which has been submitted to the FoM mailing list but has not yet appeared there due to moderation.