Definitive Google vs WolframAlpha Test: Best for Quiz Cheats?

With the launch of the iPhone version of new search engine WolframAlpha, we’ve decided to pit it against Google in the ultimate test: Which is best for helping you cheat at quizzes?

With the launch of the iPhone version of new search engine WolframAlpha, we’ve decided to pit it against Google in the ultimate test: Which is best for helping you cheat at quizzes?


You’re familiar with the scene. You’re at a pub or bar quiz and, faced with a thorny question, you can’t resist just a quick Google under the table on your smartphone. It’s cheating. It’s naughty. And we’ve all done it. Google used to be the de facto cheat search engine…but can WolframAlpha’s searching skills surprise us? After all, it has a vast array of stored factoids sampled from reality by Wolfram’s mysterious ninja elfs, and it searches through them with a clever-sounding “computational engine.” We tried ten random trivia quiz questions to find out.

Why is February second a notable day in the U.S.A.?

Google: Second hit, via wikipedia–Groundhog Day.

WA: “No official holidays or observances.” But searching “Groundhog day” comes up with February second. 

What alcoholic drink is named after hindi word for five?

Google: Third hit, after trying different word combos–Punch.


WA: “WolframAlpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.” 


How many faces has a great stellated dodecahedron?

Google: An image, but no definitive text answer within the results on the first two pages.

WA: An image, and the answer 12. But that’s referring to the dodecahedron alone, the stellated one has more. 



What’s the capital city of New Zealand?

Google: First hit, Wellington.

WA: Wellington, where it’s currently 6ºC. 

What does the latin motto alea iacta est mean?

Google: First hit–“The die has been cast.”

WA: “WolframAlpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.”


In which country does port wine originate?

Google: “Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Oporto, Porto, and often simply Port) is a Portuguese fortified wine” 

WA: “Sweet dark-red dessert wine originally from Portugal”

In greek mythology, Morpheus was the god of what?

Google: If you search for “morpheus god” the first hit is right–sleep or dreams

WA: “The Roman god of sleep and dreams” 


When did Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet movie come out?

Google: First hit–1996

WA: 1996 

Venus is said to be hotter than molten lead, how hot is that?

Google: First hit 327.46ºC


WA: 327.46ºC

Who won the 1994 Superbowl? 

Google: Fourth hit, Dallas cowboys

WA: “isn’t sure what to do.”

And the final cheat scores: Google 9/10, WolframAlpha 5/10. Predictably, unless you’re taking part in a science quiz, Google is your cheating search engine of choice. It’s also easier to whisper to your pub quiz team-mates, when you’re a couple of pints into the evening and have a mouthful of chips.

WolframAlpha did surprise us with its general knowledge, though, and it’s also more concise than paging through long Google search results. So one day, when those magical Wolfram fact elves have processed more widespread data from reality it might become quiz cheat king. But not yet. And anyway, you might as well leave your smartphone browser switched to Wikipedia–that’s where most of the correct answers came from. 


(P.S. If you’re surprised WA did so badly, then you shouldn’t be. It’s not a search engine–despite it being labelled as one almost everywhere you look.) 

[WolframAlpha-iPhone via PocketLintImage via DailyMail

Related: Is Wolfram Alpha The Next Big Thing in Web Search?
Wolfram Alpha Isn’t Google, so Stop Comparing Them
Google Unveils New Search Powers, Speeds Towards Live Data


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I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)