Wolfram Alpha

What we want to do is to take whatever you ask, and generate the best report we can about it. Don’t just give you one answer, but contextualize that. Organize the information in a way that’s optimized for humans to understand.

All of this, as I say, happens many millions of times every day. And I’m really excited about what it means for the democratization of knowledge.

It used to be that if you want to answer all these kinds of questions, you’d have to go find an expert, and have them figure out the answer. But now in a sense we’ve automated a lot of those experts. So that means anyone, anywhere, anytime, can immediately get answers.

This guy, Stephen Wolfram, has made here an amazing discovery. He has created a tool that seems to be like some sort of new version of a smart, knowledgeable Siri. So useful ! Of course, it still has room for improvement, but Wolfram Alpha, I would say, is the next technological step. For having played with it, I was nicely surprised to see that it is precise and yet easy to understand. So the questions are : What do the creators of these computational knowledge engines have in mind ? Really spread knowledge, or make profit ? Both seem plausible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the best out of it. And will technology ever beat the human brain ? In the future, probably, yes. For now, check that out :


Well, at least I know I won’t use Wolfram Alpha as my only resource for my EE topic. But isn’t it nice, to have a quick overview, instead of searching the web when you don’t know what you’re searching for ?

What if you’re like me, and you don’t ever know where to look first ? {I want to see that as curiosity, but still…}


Types of Knowledge (Studyguide)

The point in this chapter 3 is to dissect what we know of knowledge itself and truth, and see what correlation there is between the two.

[pp. 92-93] My stages of knowledge ? I’d say I’m in stage one for Japanese, as I only know the characters but I barely know any vocabulary – I can’t even do a complete sentence ! Economy is probably stage 2, the stock market, shares, the crash and all that stuff  : I think I understand it a little, but don’t ask me to explain it ! There’s room for improvement, but it’s not a mystery. Cooking  – I think I recently made it from my third stage to the fourth one, since I’ve recently practiced. The fifth stage probably involves the mother language for most of the people; you master it.

– Experimental knowledge : most of what I have learned in school, such as solving a Math problem, and before that, reading, counting, etc… It comes through emotion, maybe language too, and reasoning.

– Procedural knowledge : I can play the harp ! I know how to play the harp. It’s about sense perception and emotion.

– Knowledge claim : what I have learned in school that is not experimental; If I look West tomorrow morning around 6 am, I will see the sun rise. It’s reasoning, and certainly language too (communication); I think everything that involves “I’ve heard about that” fits in this category : you probably didn’t come to a conclusion yourself, most probably you heard it from around you, it’s what – almost – everyone believes.

What I’ve learned here in school, I believe, is based on cognitivism and collaboration, a mix of the two, and when it’s not one, it’s the other ; especially in an IB school like ours, where working together is enhanced and where one of the points is to be knowledgeable.

[pp. 94-97] As there are different types of knowledge, there also are different types of memory :

– Procedural memory : goes with procedural knowledge. It’s what you’ve learned to do by repeating it, and it’s not necessarily conscious, for example tying shoes, reading, riding a bike. I believe it’s the kind of memory Mr. Wearing uses to play the piano.

– Working memory : is based on reasoning and comprehension. It’s the type of knowledge that is put forward in IQ tests.

– Long-term memory (or LTM)/ short- term memory : Using the analogy of a computer, long term memory would be the information stored on the hard disk, whereas short-term would be like random access memory. A person with Alzheimer’s, surprisingly, forget in the early stages what she has learned the most recently, which is short term memory. Examples of LTM are events that happened in childhood, the books you read years ago, old friends’ faces, etc.

– Declarative memory : is considered part of the long-term memory. As opposed to procedural memory, it’s about facts and knowledge that you are conscious about. like what you learn in school or at work.

– Episodic memory : is one of the two subsections of declarative memory (the other one being semantic memory). It deals with more of the personal experiences, autobiographical events such as places, dates, associated emotions…

[pp. 100-103] Different tests to detect truth can be used, such as coherence test, correspondence and pragmatic. In IB subjects, I believe most of what we learn is based on coherence – like in math, everything is base on what we have learned before, you can’t do Pythagoras’ theorem if you don’t know square roots – and correspondence – in History, you can see how current events are explained by previous events and everything is in correlation with each other, and if this happened before then that could be true – but not enough on pragmatism – indeed, isn’t experience the only way of recognizing something as true ? Maybe we don’t play with that aspect enough.

[pp. 104-105] And as truth is mostly a matter of perspective, being sincere and being right are two complete different things. Someone can be sincere and not be right, truth isn’t a hundred percent of times the good thing to say : I will always remember that story about this couple and their friend crossing the Danube to escape Romanian dictatorship ; it happens during the night, the husband gets caught in the fishing net and drowns ; the pregnant wife and the friend are arrested at the border post and she saves his life by saying the friend is actually her husband ; lying. What I mean is not that lying is good, but there always are exceptions and they shall not be forgotten.

[pp. 108-109] The way we justify our beliefs may change from one subject to another, although they certainly have similarities. Absolutely all subjects are based on reliable sources, despite the fact taht they can be questionable… The past has shown how general consensus is sometimes wrong – think of the time when people imagined a geocentric universe, and how science has proved otherwise. But there are very few subjects that rely on memory ; it is understandable, since it’s so subjective and there is no proof. I can only think of one : writing, composing in general, where your personal experience is the basis of your text or you creation. In the same way, emotions build up who you are, but aren’t directly involved in any subject. Doesn’t that say a lot about how we are taught ? Shouldn’t we focus on personal perception a little bit more ? Maybe not to the point of considering revelation a relevant justification, but still…

[pp. 110-111]

[p. 114] Using the three S’s to evaluate what I’ve recently learned in History class about Haiti :

– SOURCE : In this case, that would be the History teacher ; he has no recognizable motive for deception, since his job is to explain facts as objectively as possible ; he is qualified and expected to be accurate, and hopefully free from substances that might have affected hid perception ; therefore he can be considered as a reliable source.

– STATEMENTS : The teacher, in this context, only reports information and tries to avoid making claims of his own as much as possible ; there is no real correlation between what he presents and his ultimate goal, which would be get his students to be knowledgeable ; visual accompaniments are diverse and relevant, without being emotionally affecting, and they work as pieces of evidence to make a point ; no contradictions, internally consistent, free from logical errors.

– SELF : Of course I tend to believe the statements that are made ; afterwards I use this information to build up my own opinion, everything goes through the critical thinking phase ; I can hardly use my own experience in that class, through, since we rely more on general understanding than personal understanding.

Based on the knowledge I hope I own and the claims I make, I can say that’s what seems true. Questionable,but coherent, andI chose to believe it.

Knowledge and the search for truth (p.90)

Regarding knowledge, the author from ‘Noughts and Crosses’, Malorie Blackman, has chosen to raise the problem of racism. Her dystopia descibes a world where the Black people have the power and the Whites are their slaves, and a dramatic love story takes place between the daughter of the -black- Prime Minister and  the son of a rebel leader. Blackman questions the reader : how far would you go with accepting someone’s differences ? How far can you see beyond them ?
She has a very special style of writing, poignant and thrilling, and the word choice is always carefully picked considering who is thinking. She presents the perspectives of the main characters, and that emphasizes the idea of ‘perception’. Once you’re in the character’s head, he gets suddenly so normal, and the hero is not a hero anymore, he’s just human, and the murderer, he’s just human, and the friends, they’re just human too. “D’you ever wonder what it would be like if our positions were reversed?’ I ask. At Jack’s puzzled look I continue. ‘If we whites were in charge instead of you Crosses?’, says the rebel leader’s son in the book. It’s an interesting quote that plays with the fact that it actually used to be this way – the Blacks being slaves of the Whites.


The cover of the book is perfectly chosen : there’s the Blacks on top, and there’s the Whites, but nothing is ever completely black or white, there’s compromises. It reminded me of another famous symbol, the Yin and Yang.

I truly am emotionally attached to books, and reading about Yeshey of Bhutan and Thomas Pettit, who have diametrically opposed points of view, I obviously tend to go with the first one : don’t step on a book ! They’re more than just pages put together, they have a strong symbolic meaning. We’re talking about communication, sharing ideas and beliefs, the old ‘Google’. It used to be my number one source of knowledge, but with the Internet growing exponentially, it’s not so true anymore… And well, if the Guttenberg Parenthesis happens to be true, I still don’t believe the concept of books is going to die ; we’ll just find some other way of spreading our knowledge and experience.