Search Engines for Higher Math, Really?

Imagine my enthusiasm when I saw the Tweet:

Then I headed to the NY Times article mentioned.   However, what I saw was very disappointing.

Both Bing and Google can perform trigonometric functions like sine, cosine and tanget (sic) when the sin, cos and tan operators are typed into the search box.

My initial thought was that the article was written by a non-technologist or at least someone who was not well-read in the impact the web has had on our society, but alas the author is an accomplished author in the field. There are two significant issues I have with this "Tip of the Week": 1) Is this what is considered Higher Math and 2) Have you heard of WolframAlpha? For the former I guess it could be perspective.  As a self-proclaimed nerd, a mathematics major in college, and a math teacher, I could be biased.  That said, I still think it is misleading to categorize this as "Higher Math."

typing “sin 45 degrees” and hitting the Enter key brings a result of 0.707107 

I won't beat on that answer because it really is the lesser of the two evils for this article.  Instead I want to focus on the overlooked gem that is WolframAlpha, the computational knowledge engine.  Even had the title of this article been, Using Search Engines to Do Math Computations, I would still be just as surprised that the author failed to include WolframAlpha as part of the "gadgetwise" tip of the week.  For example the same question posed to WolframAlpha:

Because this site leverages the power of Mathematica, it has the ability to generate far more meaningful information about this calculation.  However stopping at simple calculations would be a mistake. Here are some more advanced calculations: Integral Calculus

3D graphing

However advanced calculations are significantly less than 1% of the amazing stuff that WolframAlpha can do.



World Data

Now that is a "search engine" that can do higher math.  On a final note, I will leave you with my favorite feature: recipe analysis (e.g. ginger dressing). In the comments, feel free to leave your favorite WolframAlpha search.