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Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha launched this past weekend. Though it has its quirks, it is notable as a new type of "computational knowledge" search engine. For RPG players who like to crunch numbers and science, especially with a game like Eclipse Phase, it has some interesting potential.

For example, let's say you've set your personal Eclipse Phase game in the year 2100, and you need to know what day of the week May 17th falls on. Enter "May 17, 2100" and Wolfram Alpha tells you it's Monday, among other details.

Let's say your character wants to egocast (transmit their uploaded mind) between Mars and Europa on this date. Well, how far do these two happen to be apart on that date? Enter "distance between mars and europa may 17, 2100" and Wolfram Alpha tells you they are about 5.075 AU, or 42.21 light minutes apart. So that egocast is going to take ~42 minutes.

That's just getting started. Here are some other interesting uses:

A self-replicating machine child is born

A few days ago (May 29) was a momentous day for the open source tech movement — the RepRap open source 3-D printer made its first copy of itself.

What is RepRap?

Printers are a common everyday machine. They use ink and technology to make things in 2 dimensions. Imagine if instead of printing on bits of paper, you had a printer that works in 3 dimensions. You would have to use a solid ink, but you would be able to print real, robust, mechanical parts. To give you an idea of how robust these parts could be think of Lego bricks and you’re in the right ballpark. You could make lots of useful stuff. Interestingly, you could also make most of the parts to make another 3D printer, but not all of them. That would be a machine which could make itself.

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