Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input

The title of this post is what I see when I try to use Wolfram|Alpha. Repeatedly. Almost exclusively.

Q: How many calories in a latte? A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

Q: What wavelength is ultraviolet radiation? A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

Q;: calories burned swimming one mile A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input. (Note, it can answer for running but not for swimming)

Q: net worth of Donald Trump A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input. (It can tell me that Trump Tower is 1362 feet tall however)

Q: what percentage of queries to wolfram|alpha return answers? A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

I heard Rudy Rucker interview Wolfram about this project before it went live and I was excited about getting a chance to play with it. I’ve been subscribing to Rucker’s podcast feed for years, and it is usually radio interviews he has done or recordings of his readings. This was something different and interesting, and I was sold on Alpha.

Last Friday I checked in on the launch, watched the video and waited impatiently for my own chance to kick the tires. Now that I have, I’m stifling a yawn. This was the sales pitch:

“Wolfram|Alpha can pop out an answer to pretty much any kind of factual question that you might pose to a scientist, economist, banker, or other kind of expert.”

The reality:

Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the questions I was asking the kind of things that any other kind of expert could answer? Some of them are simple matters of fact. This is not cherry picked, I have several dozen failed queries a lot like these. I’m still excited about what I was sold. Someone wake me when that thing is live.

2 Replies to “Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input”

  1. Pretty unimpressive so far. It didn’t know what to do with any of this input;

    Why does the sun shine?
    What is podcasting?
    Why do birds sing?
    What can you do with my input?
    How does WolframAlpha work?
    When is this service going to be worth using?
    How does Dave Slusher make me laugh so consistently?

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