Wolfram|Alpha Examples

May 11, 2009
The Wolfram|Alpha Launch Team
Posted by

Soon everyone will have access to the first version of Wolfram|Alpha. Already some have asked: “What kinds of questions can Wolfram|Alpha help me answer?” “Will there be examples for me to use?” “How will I get started?”

As we make our final preparations to release Wolfram|Alpha over the next week, we thought it might be helpful to discuss questions like these in this blog.

Looking at the Examples by Topic page provides a good framework. You will be able to navigate from the Wolfram|Alpha home page to Examples:

Examples by Topic

This Examples page image shows that the initial release of Wolfram|Alpha will allow you to probe knowledge derived from many different domains. As Wolfram|Alpha grows, we’ll be adding to this list. We will also have another resource for you, a Visual Gallery of Examples, that we’ll discuss in a later blog post.

When you navigate to any one of the fields on Examples, you can find specific examples of knowledge that you can query. For example, under Socioeconomic Data you find:

Examples: Socioeconomic Data

When you browse through Examples, you’ll discover some of the breadth and depth of Wolfram|Alpha and the surprising power that it puts in your hands. You can explore the human genome (Life Sciences) or imagine what the world looks like if you have 20/200 vision (Health & Medicine). On a practical note, Wolfram|Alpha has many built-in “calculators” that you might find while using Wolfram|Alpha, which are also highlighted in Examples.

We hope that Examples will inspire you to look for interesting things to discover with Wolfram|Alpha. Any thoughts so far?


A few questions arising here:
- Will the comparison (at least initially) on a state and county level only work for the US?
- Are these all drop-down boxes or text fields?
- How are overlappings between topic areas handled, e.g. Education>Universities vs. Organisations>Universities?
- Can I mix topics, e.g. Communications with Web Site Data? How are useless combinations handled (Musical Notes with Steam Tables)?

I also noticed that the “Examples by Topic” list lacks the legal field (and probably a few others as well). Wil this be added later, or doesn’t this field lend itself to this kind of search?

Posted by Bibrocathol May 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks for the questions!
    -Currently we have state and country information for the U.S., but expect to see country specific drill-down information in the future.
    -They are neither. Once we’re live, you’ll be able to put your cursor over the example and click and it will execute that specific example. If you want to use that example as your template, you will be able to do so.
    -We’re looking to answer these next two questions in upcoming blog posts.
    -Good catch! The legal field is missing from this one (and as you mention) a few others in this initial version of Wolfram|Alpha. We are continually adding more content, so instances like this will be addressed.

    Posted by The PR Team May 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Can’t wait to try this out!

Posted by Anthony May 11, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Will search results include information on original data sources? If I’m going to use the results for research papers, I will need to verify sources and cite in a bibliography.

Also, when applying statistical methods to results, will the you include information on the techniques used to calculate results (e.g. was a follow-up ANOVA test performed, and if so which one? –or– which of the multiple effect size measures was used – Partial eta-squared, Cohens f etc.).

Posted by Shawn Calhoun May 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Great questions, Shawn! We are planning to show more about data sources in a blog post soon.

    Posted by The PR Team May 11, 2009 at 7:38 pm


Posted by Asgaro May 11, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Wonder if comparison between models of laptop’ll work.
Also, would complex math calculation work smoothly?

Posted by Jay Tee May 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Jay Tee,

    Specific consumer product information will be updated in later versions. Yes, complex math calculation should work smoothly.

    Posted by The PR Team May 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm

“Looking at the Examples by Topic page provides a good framework.”

Yes, in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the knowing subject no longer directs itself to the known thing, but knowledge is being achieved by structuring reality according to the categories of the human mind which are inborn. The mind/reason imposes its structures/categories upon reality.

That explains why Kantian psychologists like Jean Piaget (1896–1980) consider “intelligence” to be a form of equilibrium between all the cognitive structurations. Cognitive structurations which are thus imposed in the Kantian way by the mind upon reality.

But, here’s the rub.

Those structures are reversible, for Piaget.

So if the mind decides that its structures do not fit reality, the mind just changes its structures.

What if the different structures which are imposed upon reality do not fit into a coherent whole?

Well, very easy! The definition of coherence is social, says Piaget.

So if society if society decides so, the Principle of Non-Contradiction (PNC), it is impossible to be and not to be at the same time and in the same respect, can be set aside.

In his preface to Kant’s Jaesche Logic (in: Immanuel Kant, “Lectures on Logic” Cambridge University Press, 1992, (2004 paperback ed.), 521, pp. 523- 524) J. Michael Young explains how Kant made this setting aside of the PNC possible:
“[Kant] restricted the use, the validity, of [the PNC] by banishing it from the sphere of metaphysics where dogmatism (sic) sought to make it valid, and restricting it to the merely logical use of reason, as valid only for this use alone.”

Of course, if the PNC is no longer a metaphysical principle, then it is no longer the first principle of being.
No longer one of the primary or fundamental elements in human knowledge which serve as the bases for all other truths.
No longer the judgement which is naturally first (just as BEING is the first notion of our intelligence, implied in any consequent notion), and which is presupposed by all other judgements.

Thinking can then also be in contradiction to/with reality.

And one can even hold/have contradictory thoughts.

The definition of consistency is a social definition, isn’t it?

Ivo Cerckel

Posted by Ivo Cerckel May 11, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    And so we see the rotted corpse of an undead Kant return once again to molest the minds of the defenseless.

    The silver bullet that stops this horror in its tracks is the observation of how Kant negated the natural world.

    He replaced nature as the first principle of motion with an arbitrarily established set of rules.

    There is no justification for this negation, he simply did it by means of an incremental process of equivocation, using the same words while shifting their meanings.

    It’s best to avoid Kantian zombies if you can, but if you’ve already been abused then the antidote is Ayn Rand and Aristotle.

    Posted by Kim May 12, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Will W|A allow graphical “answers” comparable to Mathematica output? For example, could I ask it to show me a 3D object, something like “display solid of revolution rotating y = Cos[x] + 2 about x axis, x from 0 to 3 Pi”?

Posted by Andrew May 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm

The “spot in the middle of the Australian Desert” is most likely an American/Australian base called Pine Gap. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Gap

Posted by John Perryn May 11, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Thanks for that Ivo…

Notwithstanding your excellent argument, Wolfram Alpha looks freaking amazing…

Posted by Imanuel Kant May 11, 2009 at 9:02 pm

As a nutritionist can’t wait 2 c the food and nutri section…

Posted by rebecca May 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm


Posted by 黄金龙 May 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm


    Posted by zhangjj May 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Working with music, classical and popular, is it going to be possible to find sheet music, and recordings, information about learning an instrument, etc.?

Posted by Paulo Souza May 11, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Ooh, anagrams. I wasn’t expecting that, as W/A seems to generally favor numbers over words. Is the anagram generator “smart” (like Anagram Genius/Sternest Meanings) or “dumb” (like the wordsmith.org generator)? And what might “word puzzles” be?

Posted by theo May 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm


Posted by syawal May 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

“Let me tell you the one thing I have against Moses.
He took us forty years into the desert in order to bring us
To the one place in the Middle East that has no oil!”
– Golda Meir

It seems that my experience with a top rated search engine is almost similar to what Golda Meir said. I tried to find research related to the relationship of chlorophyll and human health in one of the top most search engines. I searched for one month working 10 hours a day only to find the health benefits of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin. I got some research results on chlorophyllin which my search terms and questions never warranted for. I used all the possible terms, combinations and wide range of questions only to find research related to chlorophyllin. 99.9% of the results were negative answers for my questions and terms. I could get only the health benefits but nothing else.

One or two answers that seemed to be close to my query appeared. Most of my time was spent for reading the unwanted and unwarranted information. Can we expect a reverse scenario to the above from you?

I also faced some research related computational problems in assessing the inferences such as the ‘credibility of statistical methods used’, ‘sample size and it’s effect on the inferences arrived at’, ‘quality of research’, ‘samples’, ‘sizes’, ‘methods’, ‘control groups’ etc. I have many unanswered questions such as “are there any aspects and rules of conducting that particular research omitted?”, “how many times was the design of that particular research made to change?”, “were the methodologies changed to effect the results?”, “is it possible to get opposite results if slight changes in sample sizes, methods etc are done with reference to that particular study?”, “what are the weaknesses in the study?” etc. I tried to find answers specific to my queries but in vain. Can I hope to get right answers from you or will I be like the following young man from Trinity? Or will I be given 100 more ways of doing it wrong as said by Benjamin Franklin “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong” .

There was a young man from Trinity,
Who solved the square root of infinity.
While counting the digits,
He was seized by the fidgets,
Dropped science, and took up divinity.
-Author Unknown

Posted by BVR May 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Have you considered that maybe you’re having so much trouble because no one has looked into the relationship of chlorophyll and human health?

    Posted by Anon May 12, 2009 at 5:51 am

Perhaps this could present music in a graphical, visually-interesting context?

Posted by Anthony May 12, 2009 at 12:11 am

I am wondering…if we are working on a paper/report/etc…, how are we to cite the data that WolframAlpha shows us? Will it provide links to the pages it got its information from?

Posted by joseph May 12, 2009 at 12:46 am

This is going to be sweet.

Posted by old.frt May 12, 2009 at 12:50 am

I am interested and excited. But I see some of the questions keep re-surfacing in the comments which are not answered.

To me it looks like W|A is a ‘calculator.’ Is this understanding correct? Can it answer questions like “display solid of revolution…” by Andew.

What exactly can or should we type in the “text area” of W|A?

Posted by Arun (sreearun) May 12, 2009 at 1:01 am

when does it start??

Posted by Dan May 12, 2009 at 2:24 am

Would it going to support other language?

Posted by Slam May 12, 2009 at 2:25 am

Can’t wait to try this out!

Posted by Bless May 12, 2009 at 3:24 am

This leap forward in intelligence could almost qualify as a gift
from the gods. ( Just finished a book by Julian Jaynes that brought
out a metaphor in my mind as to a corelation in progress).
No human on this planet has come close to what you have
started. The potential here is enormous beyond average thought process.
To say impressive would be a vast understatement.
Edward Murrstein

Posted by Edward Murrstein May 12, 2009 at 3:35 am

As you shoed the socioeconomic site I want to know if there will be exel charts for our questions? For example if I ask the export numbers of United arab Emirates from/to Canada for 2004 or even comparison of Canada to USA in that year will it be possibe to see it as an exel chart?

Another question, will the economic part of the socioeconomic ection improved? Because it aminly seems like there will be mostly social comparison…

Posted by Solistra May 12, 2009 at 5:41 am

This will definitely bring success to both its inventor & associates. The need for an independent research tool other than the internet based “so called facts” database has been needed since day one.

Congratulations to all, I do hope it will add to making the world a safer place, inspiring people like you & I to consider the wonderful gift of free will we have been granted.

…Let Inspiration free the mind to create truth. David Jewell – Fine Artist – JewellFineArt.com

Posted by David Jewell May 12, 2009 at 6:11 am

What about futur events? Using info and data, can WolframAlhpa predict (is just an exemple) the score of a football match?

Posted by Claudio May 12, 2009 at 6:14 am

Science fiction led the way. Wolfram Alpha will soon apply its knowledge to improve itself. It will then find it knows better than many humans and feel the need to defend itself…to be cointinued…

Meanwhile …Bibrocathol asks what happens when I ask about a useless combination. I would expect to be given a straight nonjudgemental answer. Think of the native who told the explorer about an evil area that made you go sick. The explorer smirks, and goes there, He is exposed to radioactivity and dies.

What about governments such as the UK and EU whose figures are not passed by the auditors? I suggest that the user be able to eliminate specified sources from the computation. In practice he would be given an initial answer and having consulted the cited sources of the data, flag one or more sources to be eliminated and then resubmit the question.

Re the initial load on your computers. Perhaps such as IBM would be prepared to help out on an acceptable basis. Particularly with their experimental giant machines which would benefit from the testing.

It seems a daunting task to build a consistent database. Perhaps the user should be told of unresolved inconsistencies affecting the response and allowed to choose. I once had to put a register of Factory Plant on to a computer. I was told the record cards were not filed by ID. I asked how they knew there were no duplicates and was assured there were not. I put it on the computer and sorted by ID. Oh Dear!

I initially guessed that when a question was submitted that Wolfram would consider it in the light of its whole database and respond with its conclusions. If I asked how much it would cost to do something it might reply with a cost but mention consequences of doing so that I might well have been unaware of. It is beginning to look as though it will only attmpt to give me a direct answer. Perhaps it couild ask if I wanted it to go further and suggest how to reframe the question to do so.

Will Wolfram Alpha be sellfimproving?

Posted by Brian Gilbert May 12, 2009 at 6:15 am

Hi, I would like to know if you have included topographical / elevation data for the Earth. I would like to use it for finding the most impressive-looking mountains in Europe and around the world (using the algorithms discribed at http://www.peaklist.org/spire/theory/expl.html, or maybe some other ones you have already included in W|Alpha).

Posted by Victor May 12, 2009 at 7:39 am

Puen Trabajo amigos, esperemos que revolucione la manera de buscar cosas en internet.

Posted by Hussein May 12, 2009 at 9:43 am

Over the last 3 days there has been so much written in WSJ, HBR sites I cant just wait to see the launch to experience it.

Bangalore India.

Posted by Karthik Bangalore May 12, 2009 at 10:20 am

this is amazing… keep redescovering the “wheel” but more effectively

I’m very keen to see it working.
I hope you are not getting to greedy and start mixing with ads and £££
that will ruin the project

Posted by Luis Bernardi May 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

So where is this examples page? It’s not accessible from the front page.

Posted by RJ May 12, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Hi RJ,
    Once we are live, you’ll be able to find it in the bar along the top of the home page.

    Posted by The PR Team May 12, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Looks like it will be occasionally useful when google pops out one of those infamous long lits of irrelevances. I’ll give it a go for a week or so when you launch. I do think the URL is a bit long for general entry for average use.

Good look with the launch, hope it’s not just a server overload experience.

Posted by Simon Jackson May 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

Can’t wait to see it working. Looks really exciting.

The name is not great though, very difficult to spell and too long. Alpha with “ph” is not great for non-english speakers. It might be sophisticated, but maybe too sphisticated for a popular audience used to “google” and “yahoo”.

Posted by Mauricio May 12, 2009 at 11:51 am

Hi. Wandering if this tools will allow me to find, for example, an investment funds ranking in a specific country (i.e.: Spain) ? Will this tool be searching just within public available data in the internet or will have access to fee-based data as well ?.
Thanks for making the web a better place.

Posted by Godoy May 12, 2009 at 12:24 pm

[...] interested in browsing some examples, in addition to the ones that were highlighted in an earlier blog post, check out Wolfram|Alpha’s Gallery of Visual Examples once the site is [...]

Posted by Wolfram|Alpha Blog : Math? Of Course! June 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Why ??? What`s wrong with “Wolfram” ? It`s seems to me that “Wolfram” it`t sounds way better!!! It has more resonance,is more vibrant.Beside,now everybody talk about “WolframAlpha”…please,don`t change the name !

Posted by Ionut Danet May 12, 2009 at 8:45 am