Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why on earth do we need equation search?

Some People ask if Symbolab can hurt children’s ability to solve math problems.  They think children should struggle with hard problems over days instead of instantly looking up answers.   My answer to that: absolutely not.

Children are curious by nature, they want to learn, but they want to learn their way.  There is plenty of math on the web, encyclopedias, courses, videos, forums, games, cheat sheets and more.   Equation search can help them (and their parents, teachers, tutors) find the site that’s right for them.

No need to fear math, or not knowing where to start with a simple or complex math problem.  True, it will give you a solution, but also the method to solve such problems, theoretical explanation, similar exercises, games, and discussions; everything they need to learn, improve and gain confidence.  They can embrace math like never before.

Knowledge is power, by enabling equation search we empower students, teachers, parents and researches, we empower us.

Tell us what you think,


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Symbolab Sources; what makes Symbolab so rich

Symbolab is always on the outlook to find, index and make available for search only the top publicly available scientific resources. 

Some of the sources that are available to search:

Coming soon to the Scholar site:

To search on a specific source you can add the source name into your query. For instance searching for “MIT sin(x)” is searching for the equation “sin(x)” in MIT courses.

If you  want us to add scientific sites that allow open free access please let us know and we will do our best to make it available on our site as soon as possible.


Monday, October 15, 2012

If you can’t find equations, let the equations find you

How simple it should  be to click on any equation while browsing through books, class notes, documents,  and instantly getting information without having to type it in (it’s most likely an image)  Symbolab Quick Search does just that for you. 

What is Quick Search?  it’s a smart browser extension that identifies equations in documents and on selection returns computation information and search results.  No toolbars, no popups, no spam, simple, clean, seamless integration.

Symbolab Quick Search IconAfter installing the extension, you will notice a small icon next to every scientific expression on selected sites.  Simply press the icon and voilĂ , instant search results, how simple is that?

Example from Wikipedia:
Symbolab Quick Search extension

Currently supported sites are Wikipedia, Wikibooks, StackExchange, MathOverflow.

You can install the extension from Chrome Web Store or Firefox Addons.

What’s your Quick Search wish list?


Monday, October 8, 2012

Equation search in a nutshell

How is the scientific language different than other languages?  In English, you can’t just take any three letters and form a new word.  It’s too strict for that.  In mathematics on the other hand, you could take almost any three symbols and form a new, valid expression.  Science is a language with its own syntax, grammar, and vocabulary; it’s a challenging and exciting space.

What happens when equations are processed as a collection of symbols as if they were just like text?  Try using any of the leading search engines to search for (x+y)n   No wait!  you have to type (x+y)^n   At best you get equations containing  x, y, n or just documents about New York  or any other combination of the letters x,y and n. 

So what if we try to search for the expression (x+y)n as is including the symbols? That won’t work either. We should also get results for (y+x)n  ,  (a+b)n ,  (x+y)m  , … to complicate things we shouldn’t  get results for (x+a)n  , Why? Because most likely “a” in this context is a constant. 

Ok, we really need a search engine that can understand the contextual meaning of the equation.  It would also be nice if we could search by the symbols and notations (using Latex is no fun).

Symbolab gives you all this and more

Until the next post,

How it all began...

About three and a half years ago I encountered a problem. It seemed like it must be a problem that countless people faced. But amazingly there was no solution.

I was on my way to finishing  my master’s in mathematics hoping to carry on with a PhD. For one of my courses, I received a home assignment that required the analysis of the NLS (Nonlinear Schrodinger equation).  Then I got stuck.

So I did what any 21st century student would do. I opened my browser and searched “NLS”.
Then I searched “Nonlinear Schrodinger equation.” Then I tried to add the relevant dimension to the queries.  

Then I got really frustrated.

I tried putting in the signs of the equation. But since everybody writes the equations differently, that was completely useless.

I returned to search with text. For each article that seemed relevant I needed to download the file (PDFs) and plough through the whole article. 

After more than an hour I finally found what I was looking for. 

Actually, during my BSc In Physics and MA in Mathematics this happened a lot. It happened a lot to all my friends too.

Great scientific content, that we knew was out there on the web was unsearchable.

I suddenly realized how extremely cool a semantic mathematical and scientific search engine could be. It would be an indispensable search tool for scientists, researchers, teachers and students everywhere. It would be a real contribution to science. People said it was too difficult. Difficult or not, I had to see if there is a way to pull it off.

I knew that if I could solve this problem for myself, I would solve it for tens of millions of people.


Back in 2012, Symbolab is on its way to conquering the scientific research space. We have solved the problem that defeated me as a student.

I hope that it makes your life as much easier as it has mine.