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WolframAlpha as a Dictionary

As David Whelan says in today’s post on his blog, Finding Legal Information, law is “powered by words.” David directs us to WolframAlpha’s word information function, which is pretty impressive. You tend to think of WolframAlpha as the home of mathematical and scientific data — at least I do. So it’s a welcome surprise to find that they do “dictionary” better than anyone else online at the moment. Look up a word and you get the definition, the proper places for hyphenation, pronunciation, word frequency (from 1539 to 2007 using Google’s one million books sample), synonyms, antonyms, narrower and . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

The Friday Fillip: WolframTones

Much of the time when I enter WolfamAlpha I feel the way archeologists must have felt confronting Egyptian hieroglyphics before the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone or—to cast things the other way and into the future—the way the scientists in 2001, A Space Odyssey felt in the presence of the monolith. I know it’s magnificent but I don’t know how to work it—not properly, at least.

The latest instance of my admiring frustration has been caused by WolframTones, which, as the tagline has it, is “an experiment in a new kind of music.” It’s a sonic working out of . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Use Wolfram-Alpha to Generate a Password

Here’s a quick tip from digital inspiration (via Lifehacker). If you don’t use a password generating/saving application, you may want to turn to the computational engine Wolfram-Alpha the next time you need to come up with a “random” password. Simply enter into the search box on that site [password of n characters] where ‘n’ is the number of characters you want. Wolfram Alpha returns this (for a 7 character request):

The phonetic form may help you memorize the new password. (I’d prefer the sort of thing we do with our postal codes; thus, for this, perhaps: “Why two? Ask . . . [more]

Posted in: Technology

Wolfram-Alpha Time Sheet Tip

Math has never been my strong suit. Keeping my day organized in 6 minute intervals is sometimes a chore. My firm changed accounting software and with that change I decided to use the new tool efficiently and no longer keep a paper time sheet. Unfortunately, I no longer have the nice little conversion chart that used to be on my paper form.

New search tools have been getting some press here on Slaw, including WolframAlpha. This computational search engine makes for an easy shortcut to inputting the correct time span into online time sheet.


The resulting hours plus . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law, Technology

Does Wolfram|Alpha Make Google Obsolete?

I have seen the future of search – and this demo of Wolfram|Alpha is so mindboggling in conception and ambition that when the site launches I want to experiment at length, when it launches on Monday. It’s essentially about fusing an analytical engine on top of search, drawing data from the web and then crunching it in a myriad of different ways. “Wolfram Alpha is like a cross between a research library, a graphing calculator, and a search engine.” “Wolfram Alpha can generate and compute vast amounts of data and present it using visual charts, spreadsheets and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Libraries & Research, Technology, Technology: Internet

Wolfram Meets Berkman

Book off an hour or so at 3 p.m. ET this coming Tuesday, April 28, to join, via webcast, the “sneak preview” of the grandly named Wolfram/Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine at Harvard’s Berkman Center. As we told you last month in One to Watch?, Wolfram, a mathematician, has kept wraps around his project while talking up its potential in general terms. Will it be a search engine? Will it be an answering tool? Will it be so much more? Now you can tune in as Stephen Wolfram and Jonathan Zittrain, law prof at Harvard expose some of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training: Law Schools, Legal Information, Technology

Should Lawyers Learn to Code?

There have been many articles written suggesting that lawyers should learn how to code software. This Wolfram Alpha article is a good one, although many of the articles are far more adamant that every lawyer needs to learn how to code. The rationale is that because software will have an increasing effect on how lawyers practice, and who will be competing with us to provide our services, we should learn to code.

So should we learn how to code? For most lawyers, probably not.

I knew how to code before law school, and for me it has been very useful. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice

Thursday Thinkpiece: Webb & Loughlin on Shifting Attitudes in the Next Generation of Male Lawyers

Each Thursday we present a significant excerpt, usually from a recently published book or journal article. In every case the proper permissions have been obtained. If you are a publisher who would like to participate in this feature, please let us know via the site’s contact form.

Shifting Attitudes in the Next Generation of Male Lawyers: Will the Kids be as Important as the Courtroom?

Shannon R. Webb, Professor at Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Fanshawe College
Catherine Loughlin, Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University

First published in the . . . [more]

Posted in: Thursday Thinkpiece

The Friday Fillip: My Last Friday Fillip

After many hundreds of Friday Fillips, it’s time to call it quits. It’s been an honour and a whole lot of fun to be able to punctuate your weeks in this way.

I thought I might spend a moment or two here looking back at the Fillips published at this time of year.

  • 2005 Fillips hadn’t begun then, the year Slaw started. But my announcement of a holiday break contains a nice set-break quote from a band I (still) like that serves to round out a decade of Fillips too: “Thanks for the applause, we’ll take a pause for a
. . . [more]
Posted in: The Friday Fillip

The Friday Fillip: How Time Flies

Too fast, too slow, too big, too small, too quiet — most of what there is lies beyond our senses, which is intriguing, if also more than a little humbling. So ever since Galileo spotted the moons of Jupiter and van Leeuwenhoek watched his animalcules wriggle around, the rest of us have been fascinated by this invisible world made present for us by clever scientists and engineers.

Photography has played a huge role in gratifying our appetite for the imperceptible. There’s the obvious but now taken-for-granted ability to see aspects of the otherwise lost, invisible past, of course. And shots . . . [more]

Posted in: The Friday Fillip

A Step Closer to IBM Watson in the Law?

Are we getting closer to machines in the practice of law? In his blog post “Meet your new lawyer, IBM Watson,” Ron Friedmann describes a meeting between IBM senior management and top-tier law firm CIOs at last week’s ILTA conference. He says:

It sounds like IBM intends Legal Watson to replace junior associates or at least perform much of their work (see also The Future of LawAmerican Lawyer, Aug 2014). Legal Watson’s success depends on the answers to three questions:

  1. What information – and how much – does Watson need to ingest and, to the extent necessary,
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice