Wolfram|Alpha Update Today

June 8, 2009
The Wolfram|Alpha Team
Posted by

There’s new data flowing into Wolfram|Alpha every second. And we’re always working very hard to develop the core code and data for the system. In fact, internally, we have a complete new version of the system that’s built every day. But before we release this version for general use, we do extensive validation and testing.

In addition to real-time data updates, we’ve made a few changes to Wolfram|Alpha since its launch three weeks ago. But today, as one step in our ongoing, long-term development process, we’ve just made live the first broad updates to the core code and data of Wolfram|Alpha.

And now we’re working hard to get ready the next update… which will be in fact probably be going live for preview testing as early as tomorrow.

We’ll be doing many similar updates in the future; check this blog for the latest information.

Today’s update includes the following:

  • Additional linguistic forms for many types of data and questions
  • More comparisons of composite properties (e.g. “US military vs. UK”)
  • Combined time series plots of different quantities (e.g. “germany gdp vs population”)
  • More complete handling of government positions (e.g. “chancellor”, etc.)
  • Updates to country borders for India, China, Slovenia, Croatia, and others
  • Updates to naming for certain politically sensitive countries and regions
  • Additional subcountry regions (e.g. “Wales”); many more to come
  • Additional support for current and past fractional timezones (e.g. “Iran time”)
  • City-by-city handling of U.S. states with multiple timezones
  • Updates to certain European currencies (e.g. for “Cyprus” and “Slovakia”)
  • Some additional historical events; many more to come
  • Additional probability computations for cards and coins (e.g. “2 or 3 aces”)
  • Additional output for partitions of integers (e.g. “partitions of 47″)
  • Implicit handling of geometric figure properties (e.g. “ellipse with area 6 and major axis 2″)
  • Additional support for Mathematica 3D graphics syntax
  • Additional support for stock prices with explicit dates
  • Support for planet-to-planet distances and “nearest planet”, etc.
  • Extra information when comparing incompatible units (e.g. “ergs vs. newtons”)
  • Improved linguistic handling for many foods (e.g. “love apple”)
  • More mountains added, especially in Australia
  • Support for many less-common given names (e.g. “zebulon”)
  • More “self-aware” questions answered (e.g. “how old are you”)
  • More consistent handling of sidebar links to Wikipedia, etc.

Altogether, there have been 1850 code commits, and 591 code files have been changed. About 1.1 million data values have also been touched in some way in this update.


Sounds cool, will try it.

Posted by Sam June 8, 2009 at 11:19 pm Reply

Good update, nothing extreme, but good none the less, only thing that suprised me is that I thought these were constantly released once finished instead of being pushed in one big go…

Posted by David Mulder June 9, 2009 at 12:16 am Reply

The rate of updates is impressive. You mention the link to Wikipedia. This seems inconsistent with the specification which states that all data is curated.

Is it fair to assume that explicit links are not curated as opposed to data used to answer questions which is curated?

Posted by Brian Gilbert June 9, 2009 at 1:26 am Reply

    I’m with i here. I think many (some?) of us have suites designed to test areas we’re interested in but aren’t yet supported. I’d like to hear about step upgrades so I can take another look.

    Posted by Fred Klingener June 9, 2009 at 8:11 am Reply

Good to hear! It is very much appreciated to receive information about what has been updated. A more detailed update log would be even better!

I already look forward to the next update.

Posted by David June 9, 2009 at 2:32 am Reply

Thank you for the update, looking forward for more

btw, WA still cant understand “Marlon Brando movies”

Posted by markos June 9, 2009 at 2:52 am Reply

Great Stuff !
I think it’s very important to inform your users of updates in this way, so thanks and keep up the good work.

Posted by Imaginary Unit June 9, 2009 at 4:13 am Reply

I think the best new feature is the ability to compare different quantities!

Posted by JenC June 9, 2009 at 7:10 am Reply

Wow, a list of updates what exactly what I was hoping for. It’s a lot of fun being able to watch Wolfram|Alpha improve.

Posted by Daniel Bigham June 9, 2009 at 7:57 am Reply

Wolfram|Alpha can already tell you the flight time between two cities, can it tell you which cities are within a certain flight time of another? e.g. “cities within 5 hours flight time of Hong Kong”. Perhaps the list would be too exhaustive, maybe a qualifier would be “capital cities” or “airports” instead of “cities”.

Posted by Paul June 9, 2009 at 10:57 am Reply
Posted by Paul June 9, 2009 at 1:01 pm Reply

    I agree that W|A gives a terrible answer for that query. Interestingly enough, it does give a much better answer (e.g., http://www65.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=density+of+water+at+40+centigrade+at+1+atm+at+0+psu) though one needs to specify pressure (somewhat reasonable, though it could easily assume 1 atm) and salinity (which doesn’t seem like it should be necessary)

    Posted by A June 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm Reply

      Obviously that’s the density of water ice at 40 C, 1 atm. On planet Tatooine.

      Posted by Nicolas June 10, 2009 at 10:58 pm Reply

Why does it not understand something so simple as “download 1000 MB with a 100 mbit/s internet connection”?

Posted by SPAMSPAMSPAM June 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm Reply

Really looking forward to the low-level Data API, any idea when this will be available?

Posted by Robert June 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm Reply

It should be able to figure out the following kind of questions

“Do you like my new beard?”, “Where do I find Big Whoop?” , “Where is Monkey Island?”, “Who does live on Phatt Island?”, “Who is the Governor of Meele Island?”, ““You fight like a dairy farmer.”

Or any movie quotes or something like this “What do I see when that baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour?” (answer: “You’re gonna see some serious shit.” by Doc Brown in BTTF. Movie came out XXXX, Actor is …., etc.) It should be able to handle those, too.

You know, the serious stuff we all care about! (^_^)

Posted by toots June 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm Reply

appler? ??…

In fact, internally, we have a complete new version of the system that’s built every day. ?? ?? ???? ?? ???, ?? ?? ??? ? ???….

Posted by appler's me2DAY June 9, 2009 at 5:53 pm Reply

All of the graphics that Wolfram|Alpha outputs need to be in flash so that you can mouseover and get information. For example, the query “earthquake” shows a world map with all earthquakes within a user defined window. You should be able to mouse over and get data about each data point. Also flash would allow the graphics to be easily enlarged and manipulated. This feature is the biggest thing that I look forward to.

Posted by Mills June 9, 2009 at 7:21 pm Reply

    “All of the graphics that Wolfram|Alpha outputs need to be in flash”

    WTF!? Are you retared?! It sure seems so! Graphics need to be graphics so one can save them easily. With flash the page will be unusable!

    If anything they should do it with JavaScript, that’s way more portable, cause it works on every system. Flash right now is a major pain in the ass on many non 32bit Windows/Mac systems!

    Posted by toots June 10, 2009 at 7:51 am Reply

    Flash is unusable on mobile devices, so it’s a no-no

    Posted by Wizzard June 10, 2009 at 11:51 pm Reply

      Uhh screenshot? Mobile version can use static graphics.

      Posted by Cory June 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm Reply

    This is possible without flash (AJAX).

    Posted by cubefox June 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm Reply

You’ve added information on mountains in Australia? Hey, I live there, and we don’t have any mountains!

Posted by John Brookes June 10, 2009 at 1:01 am Reply

Nice! I live about five minutes away from the aforementioned “Zebulon”… but some very nice improvements nonetheless.

It’s good to see better natural language interpretation; this is going to be crucial in making Wolfram|Alpha successful in their endeavor.

Posted by Eric Martindale June 10, 2009 at 8:59 am Reply

@John Brookes

Have you ever heard about the Blue Mountains?

Posted by chris June 10, 2009 at 9:35 am Reply

Excellent that basic comparisons between things are now in place! This now needs to be expanded on… the next step would be to perform statistical analysis of the correlations.

It’s interesting to see that the system seems to be able to be expanded very quickly, due to the broad-based power of the underlying engine (Mathematica).

The question is how far can the Wolfram Alpha Team go?. Is Stephen Wolfram really to try to ‘go all the way’ for a push on the ultimate long-term prize…true artifical general intelligence?

Posted by Marc Geddes June 11, 2009 at 6:45 am Reply

    WolframAlpha has nearly nothing to do with AI.

    Posted by cubefox June 12, 2009 at 7:38 pm Reply

In other news, “sum 1/n^1.5″ still doesn’t converge and Neva River is still in Belarus. You should really prioritize fixing errors in data before adding new stuff.

Posted by Timofei June 11, 2009 at 9:27 am Reply

much appreciated wa team

Posted by angkasuwan June 11, 2009 at 10:17 pm Reply

[...] and support from all of our users has been nothing short of inspiring. We will continue to incorporate your suggestions as we keep building Wolfram|Alpha. We invite you to take a look back on our journey through [...]

Posted by Wolfram|Alpha Blog : Month One: A Look Back June 8, 2011 at 10:44 am Reply
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