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Math The Internet Science

New Company Seeks to Bring Semantic Context To Numbers 264

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the quick-create-another-standards-body dept.
A new company, True#, is seeking to bring extensive semantic context to numbers to give them obvious meanings just as certain words have obvious meanings to most readers. "Most of us can probably recognize 3.14159 and the conceptual baggage it carries, but how many of us would recognize 58.44? (That's a mole of sodium chloride, in grams, for the curious.) And the response that would work for words — look it up — doesn't work so conveniently for numbers. Only one of the top-10 hits in Google refers to salt, and Bing fails entirely (though it does offer 'Women's Sexy Mini Skirts by VENUS'). Clearly, we haven't figured out how to make the Web work for numbers in the same way it does for words."
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New Company Seeks to Bring Semantic Context To Numbers

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  • why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:32PM (#29014191) Homepage Journal

    In all seriousness - this is not a rhetorical question. Usually I want this information in the inverse order, not just having a number with no context. What is the value in searching in that direction is their some widespread need I don't know about?

  • Errrm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:32PM (#29014197) Journal

    So, a search doesn't bring up what one person would expect and that means the search engine failed? Sometimes the problem with logical fallacies is that they are so big as to defy categorization.

  • okey dokey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nyall (646782) on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:37PM (#29014277) Homepage

    Sounds like a solution looking for a problem.

  • by StellarFury (1058280) on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:42PM (#29014343)

    Why in the hell would I want to search for a number with no context? Who thinks that way? Everyone remembers the concept, not the number.

    You say "3.14" and people know it as pi. But if you said "pi," people would say "3.14." This example is only interesting because it's widespread.

    Nobody would start with "58.44" and say "Hmmm, what does that symbolize?" No. They need to know the molecular weight of sodium chloride, and so they'll search Google for "molecular weight sodium chloride" and turn up the number 58.44. We're not computers, we know semantic context, and need numbers. Not the other way around.

    Though I guess this sort of thing might be useful for some sort of numerical AI, who has numbers but no semantic context. Time to don the tinfoil hats, fellows.

  • Re:why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:43PM (#29014373) Homepage Journal

    Shhhh... Since when has making sense had anything to do with raising money from VC's? Especially when you can use the word crowdsourcing in your pitch.

  • by Rival (14861) on Monday August 10, 2009 @02:09PM (#29014761) Homepage Journal

    I'll bite.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=mole+of+sodium+chloride+in+grams [google.com] - seems to work just fine searching for "mole of sodium chloride in grams" and also works without the "in grams".

    http://www.bing.com/search?q=mole+of+sodium+chloride+in+grams [bing.com] - works for Bing too.
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=sodium+chloride+molecular+weight [bing.com] - also works.
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=58.44+science [bing.com] - "58.44 science" 6th one down. Better results from google.

    Why would anyone just type in a number and expect it to know that you want the molecular weight of NaCl? If you add a little bit of context to your search, it magically works.

    You're missing the point. The purpose is to provide explanation for numbers which have no context. Presumably, if you're looking at some equation or source code which uses an unrecognized constant, or if a calculation returns a surprising result, one might be able to use such a search to find more information.

    For example, let's say you're poking around with math and discover that 0.5^0.5 == 0.25^0.25 =~ 0.70710678118654752440084436210485. Is that irrational number significant somehow? What if you were only returned that result from some function -- would you recognize it as 1/sqrt(2), or sin(45)?

    I'm not sure how necessary this capability is, exactly, but that is what they are trying to do.

  • Re:Irony? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pollardito (781263) on Monday August 10, 2009 @02:21PM (#29014885)
    The fact that computers are based on numbers is part of the reason it's hard to be good at this, since numbers are used to represent anything and everything. Numbers sometimes aren't really even "amounts" they can be ASCII codes or addresses, so if you give me 58.44 how do I know that's not just ":.," or room #44 on floor #58 (or room #68 on floor #88 from hex). Numbers are meaningless without context. Even the phone numbers that we use every day would be unrecognizable without specific formatting and/or a standard length to give them context.
  • Re:why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday August 10, 2009 @02:23PM (#29014933)

    In all seriousness - this is not a rhetorical question. Usually I want this information in the inverse order, not just having a number with no context. What is the value in searching in that direction is their some widespread need I don't know about?

    I suspect the primary use would be using an internet-connected device to cheat on multiple-choice tests.

  • INCORRECT USAGE (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 10, 2009 @02:32PM (#29015053)

    "Begs the question" is not a synonym for "raises the question".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begs_the_question [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday August 10, 2009 @03:03PM (#29015455)
    I suspect the primary use would be using an internet-connected device to cheat on multiple-choice tests.

    So you are saying that when someone sees the question: "What is the molecular weight of NaCl? 1) 34.99 2) 43.33 3) 58.44 4) 3" they'll google each number to see what it says instead of googling the question itself?

  • Re:INCORRECT USAGE (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 10, 2009 @03:11PM (#29015547)
    The real definition for "begs the question" is bad because it has nothing to do with either begging or questions. They should rename the fallacy to something more logical and get on with their lives.

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