Friday, May 15, 2009

wolfram alpha + taxonomy = ?

So whenever a new search engine is introduced I like to test it with the family of wasps I specialize on, the Diapriidae. Wolfram|alpha is getting a lot of hype lately, and tonight it went live. While it largely choked and acted oddly (if it worked at all) on my search terms, some searches did appear to complete. I tested the term Diapriidae, needless to say it didn't do too well as parasitic wasps are not dinosaurs. I suppose it gets some points for recognizing I was requesting something related to a taxonomic classification...maybe. "Hymenoptera" was more successful, but with (very) minimal results. "total species of hymenoptera" could not be interpreted. Searching for taxonomy returns some interesting results, including "taxonomic networks" (e.g.). You can click to see the sources for a given result, and those sources are (nicely) linked, Species 2000/ITIS is listed as one. It doesn't appear that you can drill down much past orders of insects. In general I'm very underwhelmed thus far. The primary source is listed as Wolfram|Alpha curated data, it will be interesting to see if they expand there database, watch for job postings cybertaxonomists!