A Brief Introduction to
WolframAlpha (Computational Knowledge Engine)
- What is WolframAlpha? (watch their 1:20 introductory video)
WolframAlpha is a long-term project—its goal is to take as much of the world's knowledge as possible and make it computable
- WolframAlpha uses the
Wolfram Knowledgebase, which is curated (selected, organized):
- derived from primary sources usually not available on the web
- all data can be used for computation using the Wolfram Language (13 minute video, if interested)
Search engines and WolframAlpha usually give very different results:
- compare Google and WolframAlpha by typing in ‘Carol, Ray, Bethany, Joshua’
- compare Bing and WolframAlpha by putting in ‘weather Sahuarita’ (scroll down and look at weather history charts)
- WolframAlpha knows where you are, and uses this information.
Type in: ‘Green Valley’
WolframAlpha knows from geoIP—from the internet address it sees for me—which one I probably want.
- WolframAlpha can give very detailed information.
Type in: weather in New Jersey on August 28, 1958
Type in: weather in Tucson when President Obama was born
- If you enter several entries of the same type, WolframAlpha gives a comparison.
Type in: ‘Google, Bing, Yahoo’ or ‘My Little Pony, Star Wars’ or ‘Catholic, Mormon’ or ‘cats dogs rats’
- WolframAlpha often gives data you might not expect.
Type in: ‘Joseph Smith’ (select the ‘religious’ entry); scroll down to Wikipedia page hit history
Of course, WolframAlpha has its limits.
Type in: Is God real?
The bible is in the database (but not the Book of Mormon).
Type in (say): Genesis 35:10
WolframAlpha can be helpful if you're on a diet.
Type in: 1 cup chamomile tea, 1 bowl bran cereal, 1 banana (click ‘total nutrition facts’)
You can have fun for hours! (The ‘over 9000’ is for you, Joshua!)
Type in: 9001 words
Type in: 9001 miles
Type in: 9001 lbs
Type in: 9001 calories
Type in: 9001 mph
WolframAlpha has information about medicine:
Type in: CIDP
Type in: life expectancy female age 56 United States
Type in: 5'6" 130 lbs
Type in: D# minor (play both the scale and the chord)
Need help with career information?
Type in: wages: computer programmer, veterinarian, math teacher, fast food worker
Crossword puzzle or word game help?
Type in: _ E _ _ A _ Y
Card game help?
Type in: full house (select ‘poker hand’)
Here are some fun ones:
Type in: US population pyramid
Type in: $100 1958 vs 2014
Type in: life expectancy map
Type in: Where am I?
Tips for using WolframAlpha:
- WolframAlpha answers specific questions rather than explaining general topics:
Enter ‘2 cups of sugar’, not ‘nutrition information’
- You can only get answers about objective facts:
Try ‘highest mountain’, not ‘most beautiful painting’
- Only what is known is known to WolframAlpha is available:
Ask ‘how many men in the United States’, not ‘how many monsters in Loch Ness’
- Only public information is available:
Request ‘home prices in Tucson’, not ‘home phone of President Obama’
WolframAlpha displays graphical information where appropriate.
Type in: federal deficit during Obama administration
(replace Obama by Bush; Bill Clinton)
WolframAlpha makes necessary assumptions, which you can then change.
Type in: mortgage 4.5%
Of course, WolframAlpha is fantastic at mathematics!
- type in: $2 + 2$
- WolframAlpha strives to understand any reasonable entry: try 2 times 3 or 2*3 or 2(3) or 2x3
- type in: 794/23; click ‘step-by-step solution’ (requires PRO)
- Type in some random equation in two variables. (You can cut-and-paste the samples below into WolframAlpha, if desired.)
x mod y = 1
x^2sin(xy) - 3 = 4 + 2sin(y)tan(x)
- More thorough introductions to WolframAlpha: