As an old (before the Web was born) friend of Aziz’ I’ve watched with amusement as he’s become a bit of an Internet celebrity. Even my father, who follows his posts elsewhere, has commented to me about his impressive online presence. Aziz has tried over the years to involve me in this crazy newfangled “blogging” thing he does (in MY day we had to write letters to newspapers to tell people our opinions!). But today Aziz made me the offer I couldn’t refuse. He offered to let me tell you about my Wolfram Alpha Spikey.
Yes, this is a contest. Yes, I’m asking you to vote for my Spikey picture (preferably with every email address you, your friends, your family and all of your co-workers have, every day until January 3rd).
So how did Wolfram get me to do this? What is my price, and how did they meet it?
If you have not used Wolfram Alpha yet, it’s the best-kept search secret on the Internet…despite Wolfram’s attempts to make it NOT a secret. Want to know the average velocity of an unladen swallow? WA knows that. Want to know if you’re pretty? WA thinks you are. Want to use facts and authoritative resources in a discussion about socialized medicine comparing life-expectancy in various countries? WA can calculate those differences, serve up the facts, show you the references, and point you at other relevant information.
In short, I was hooked on Wolfram Alpha the minute it was born. This is one sort of potential that computing has to help us leap forward. It’s the antithesis of Wikipedia (which has another sort of potential for improving our understanding of the world). This uses the most rigorous and authoritative sources available, and applies Wolfram’s breathtaking calculating algorithms to let you explore it. Yes, a Google result will get you a quick answer (another brilliant outcome of computing), but a Wolfram Alpha result will be either right, or so open about how it was arrived-at that it can be evaluated by those relying on it. Wikipedia is the “man on the street”, Google is that friend who knows everything, but Wolfram Alpha is the Britcom-loving red-haired research Librarian. The Librarian won’t evaluate your process, but they’ll get you to the best information and be fun doing it.
So when Wolfram Alpha offered to send me a kit to make Spikey, a beautiful red Rhombic Hexecontrahedron, just for picking a neat fact from an Alpha query…well duh. I spent a week taking pictures of my Spikey in all sorts of places. It’s amazing how well Spikey fits into my world. Then I picked one of Spikey hanging out at the dojo with my dear friend Fernando for the contest. And now I’m evangelizing Wolfram Alpha to get votes for my Spikey .
But I don’t mind a bit. Wolfram has done some revolutionary things for mathematics. I remember struggling mightily with early versions of Mathematica, but they’ve come a loooong way since then. Those who made it through “A New Kind of Science” see the world differently and perhaps more beautifully now. Wolfram does an array of cool things. But Wolfram Alpha…oh Wolfram Alpha…marries rigorous information, brilliant computing algorithms to explore that information, and a WHOPPING good geeky sense of humor. As Aziz would say…”Awesome!”
So whether you vote for my Spikey, or just go visit Wolfram Alpha, I hope something good comes out of this (like you winning a T-Shirt by voting, or me winning an iPad or Wolfram Stuff because you voted, or you saving the world by researching environment change or nuclear proliferation in Wolfram Alpha). That’s important, because according to Aziz, I will be posting here more in the future.
Sigh. What a geek will do for swag…