Smarter than Google?

February 12, 2010 by Maaike Breedveld, Wageningen University

Dutch mathematician Nicole Koenderink obtained her PhD yesterday. Her thesis involved a search engine that is smarter than Google. This machine taps into the knowledge of experts and poses questions in return.

Whoever googles 'appel' (Dutch for apple) will not only come across sites in Dutch about the apple, but also search results about the artist Karel Appel and other namesakes. In other words, you get many results which you don't need. That's because reads only text, which is a row of letters without a context. A which uses the knowledge of a particular subject is cleverer. The row of letters will immediately acquire a meaning, which enables the search engine to redirect a question such as: 'Are you searching for the artist or for fruit?'

Nicole Koenderink has developed a knowledge model which taps into the knowledge of experts, and has built this into a search engine. The expert model begins with listing the major concepts in a field, such as 'grape'. Subsequently, the programme searches for 'grape' in existing lists of concepts to find related concepts such as 'viniculture' or 'grapeseed oil'. By approving or rejecting these concepts, the expert model accumulates better and better relevant terms and their inter-relations. These are expressed in layman's terms, which is a big plus, says Koenderink. 'It is much more user-friendly than current methods, and there's demand for this in practice.'

Koenderink graduated yesterday in Delft, but she works at Food & Biobased Research Group of Wageningen UR. Here, she has applied her expert model - the so-called Reuse-based Ontology Construction - in tomato breeding.

She has looked into how to automate the selection of tomato seedlings. Breeders and growers are very keen to predict at an early stage how many tomatoes a full-grown plant would bear. 'This quality control is currently done by well-trained experts, who, among themselves, differ greatly in their approaches, since there seem to be sixty different criteria used in their selection processes. For example, they look at leaf surface and stem length, and also at the chance that the plant will bear no fruit. I have drawn upon the knowledge and experience which these experts - often unconsciously - have in their heads to come up with a usable knowledge model.'

She has developed a technique in the expert model which combines the selection rules with three dimensional recordings of the seedlings. This technique will be ready for use commercially later this year.

Explore further: Tropical cyclone or ISU Cyclone? Semantic science search engine knows that there is a difference

Related Stories

Search engine branding to be examined by researcher

June 11, 2008

Like other industries, companies that maintain search engines must work harder to recruit and retain customers. One way to do this is branding -- creating a cognitive impression that a user is likely to retain and rely on ...

Search engine mashup

July 6, 2007

A mashup of two different types of web search tools could make find the useful nuggets of information among all the grit on the Internet much easier.

Google search gets semantic

March 24, 2009

Google on Tuesday modified its globally popular Internet search service to understand relationships between words, as the company bids to better grasp what Web users are looking for.

Grid browser finds the meaning of life

May 20, 2009

( -- A web browser that can understand technical terms in life sciences and automatically find additional resources and services has been developed by European researchers. It could lead to a new generation of ...

Recommended for you

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 16, 2010
this article makes me wonder how much subconscious analysis is actually occuring during moments of "intuition"...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.