ARCHIVE: October 2009
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October 30, 2009– 0

Each October around here, as we stare into the seemingly endless bowls of “fun-size” Halloween candies, we tell ourselves, “Oh, it’s just a bite!” Chances are some of those tempting treats will be the always-popular Snickers candy bars. But have you ever wondered just how much “fun” there is in a fun-size Snickers candy bar compared to a full-size one? And by fun we mean all the fun nutrition such as calories, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and so on. Being that we’re in the holiday spirit (or at least in the mood to eat candy), we want to share some fun comparisons for the Snickers bar we found in Wolfram|Alpha’s nutrition database.

Let’s enter the query, “Compare 1 fun size snickers v 1 regular snickers bar”. The output page shown below provides individual nutrition labels for the fun-size bar and the full-size bar, followed by comparison pods highlighting the difference in mean values and the percentages of daily recommended values for calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and sterols. It will also provide you with a comparison of the physical mass.

Click the image to see a full breakdown:

Comparing nutrition facts of a fun-size Snickers bar and a full-size bar

More »

October 28, 2009– 9

The Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch popped up on the App Store’s “What’s Hot” list today. We are delighted that Apple selected the app to be featured, recognizing the intense interest and excitement being shown in Wolfram|Alpha.

We were pleasantly surprised, too, to see the Wolfram|Alpha App appear on the store’s “Top Grossing” list on the second day it was available and remain there through the week. We’ve also been thrilled by the positive feedback from those who have purchased the app, visible in the reviews on the App Store.

If you haven’t seen the app yet, check it out.

October 26, 2009– 5

It’s now been a week since the first version of the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch was released, and we’re excited to see how people are using it.

Our excitement was heightened by the opportunity to showcase the Wolfram|Alpha App at our Homework Day event and by the surprise of discovering—right in the middle of Homework Day—that there were reports of the app crashing unexpectedly. More »

October 22, 2009– 6

We’re signing off from the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day. What an incredible day it has been! We look forward to sharing highlights and recaps with you in the days to come. To the Homework Day participants, and all members of the Wolfram|Alpha community, we thank you.

The Wolfram|Alpha team

Homework Day guest

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October 21, 2009– 4

A few months back we introduced our blog readers to Wolfram|Alpha’s chemistry data, and we thought it would be fitting to have a Chemistry 101 review blog post for Homework Day. Wolfram|Alpha contains a wealth of chemistry data, and provides you with rapid and accurate computations at the simple push of a button. Wolfram|Alpha is an incredible learning tool for new chemistry students looking for ways to learn and test their knowledge of chemistry basics. Many of the topic areas found in an introductory or basic chemistry course syllabus can be explored in Wolfram|Alpha.

Need to compute how many moles are in 5 grams of iron? Query “how many moles are in 5 grams of iron?“, and Wolfram|Alpha quickly computes your input and returns a result, along with unit conversions.

Computing how many moles are in 5 grams of iron

More »

October 21, 2009– 0

Alternative band Common Loon to take the Homework Day stage at 12:10am

Pulling an all-nighter? Stay tuned to the Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day website to check out alternative band Common Loon from 12:10–12:30am U.S. CDT.

Is there a subject that’s keeping you up late? Submit your homework questions to be answered by members of the Wolfram|Alpha team.

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October 21, 2009– 2

Whether you are an astronomy student, an educator, or a hobbyist with an eye to the sky, Wolfram|Alpha is a great resource for exploring astronomy data. A while back we posted an introduction to using Wolfram|Alpha to compute and explore properties and locations for objects and events in our solar system. Since then we’ve added a new set of data we’d like to share: solar system features.

Ever wanted to explore the solar system? If so, you might like to take a look at a new set of data available on Wolfram|Alpha: the complete catalog of over 14,000 officially recognized and named solar system features maintained by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Each feature includes not only its name, but also what type of feature it is, what astronomical body it’s on, and its surface coordinates. For most named features, Wolfram|Alpha also includes a surface map showing where it is located on its parent body. Let’s go exploring!

Starting close to home, you can examine the Moon:
The Tycho crater on the Moon
More »

October 21, 2009– 2

It’s been an exciting afternoon here at the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day—and the day is just getting started. We will be broadcasting live from the Homework Day website until 2am U.S. CDT. Our host, University of Illinois and University of Syracuse Adjunct Professor Eric Hansen, kicked the show off with a live interview with Wolfram|Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram.

Homework Day host Eric Hansen (right) interviews Wolfram|Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram

Shannon Smith and her mother Nancy Brachbill, the teachers behind Recess TEC, joined us for live demonstrations and interviews about how they are using Wolfram|Alpha in their 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms. Learn more about Nancy and Shannon in our earlier blog post.

Educators Shannon Smith and Nancy Brachbill joined us for live interviews and demonstrations

We’ve also had the opportunity to interact with students, educators, and parents at the Dell-sponsored Internet Cafe:

Guests exploring Wolfram|Alpha in the Dell-sponsored Internet Cafe

More »

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October 21, 2009– 2

When we were preparing for Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, a tweet from @mwarntzen caught our attention: “just learned how to use an abacus while messing around on Wolfram|Alpha.” It brought smiles to our faces to think about this ancient tool being explored with our modern-day technology, and to think about how learning tools have evolved.

The abacus was developed as a counting tool long before the time of calculators. More modern versions of the abacus are wooden frames with rows of beads used for counting. Query “abacus” in the computation bar, and Wolfram|Alpha will return an abacus page (as shown below). You can enter a number, and Wolfram|Alpha will show you how the number would appear on a modern Chinese abacus. More »

October 21, 2009– 0

If you’re writing an essay for history or a speech for debate class, Wolfram|Alpha is a great resource. It has an enormous words and linguistics database that you can use for such things as word definitions, and word origins, synonyms, and hyphenation. Wolfram|Alpha can even compute the number of pages a given text might produce based on the number of words it contains, such as “500 words in French”. Wolfram|Alpha also has the ability to compute details such how long it should take you to type, read, and deliver that 500-word speech you’ve been preparing.

Type “word contest”, and Wolfram|Alpha will retrieve the word data for the English word “contest”. The results tell you many definitions of the word, that its first known recorded use was in 1603, that it rhymes with “conquest”, and a wealth of other data on just that word. More »

October 21, 2009– 2

We want to introduce you to a mother-daughter team who will be joining us for the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day to share their passion for advancing educational technology in the classroom.

Nancy Brachbill and Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith and her mother, Nancy Brachbill have more than 30 years of combined teaching experience, and are working hard to integrate technology into their 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms on a daily basis. Through their company Recess TEC, they strive to help other educators do the same. They have been involved in countless hours of various educational technology programs to gain a full understanding of what continually engages students.

Recently Shannon took to her classroom blog “Blogsmith” to talk about how she has introduced Wolfram|Alpha into her classroom. Here is an excerpt from her post “The Online Brain”: More »

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October 21, 2009– 17

The first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day is here! We’re so pleased that you’ve stopped by to join us. This groundbreaking live marathon event runs from noon until 2am U.S. CDT, and is being broadcast live on the Homework Day website. Please visit the site to see the event, browse the program highlights, send your questions to be answered by members of the Wolfram|Alpha team, and even submit your homework examples to be showcased live on the air.

You can stay connected with us all day via the Homework Day chat, here on the Wolfram|Alpha Blog, and through Facebook and Twitter (be sure to include #homeworkday in your tweets).

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October 20, 2009– 2

A sneak peek at the Dell sponsored Internet Cafe at Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day

We’re just hours away from the start of the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, and we thought we’d give you a sneak peak of the Dell-sponsored Homework Day Cafe. This groundbreaking, marathon webcast will be broadcast live from the Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day website beginning at noon U.S. CDT, on October 21. Visit the site now to submit your questions and homework examples!

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October 20, 2009– 2

There’s a lot going on in the Wolfram|Alpha project these days—and this week there’s a remarkable convergence of events.

Late last week we introduced the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API, allowing outside developers to call Wolfram|Alpha from their websites or application programs.

Then yesterday we released the first mobile implementation of Wolfram|Alpha, in the form of an iPhone app.

Tomorrow, we’re doing something completely different: Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day—a 14-hour live webcast event for students and educators.

Oh, and starting on Thursday is the International Mathematica User Conference, which will show many advances in the core Mathematica technology on which Wolfram|Alpha is based.
More »

October 19, 2009– 16

In case you yet haven’t yet heard: the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch is now available. An enormous amount of effort went into creating this app. Thanks to the entire team for all your work.

The news broke last night and has continued today on many different sites: Mashable, Mobile Tech Addicts, Gizmodo, Rafe’s Radar on CNET, Search Engine Land, Download Squad, Daring Fireball, and many others. We certainly liked hearing…

“The mathematical and scientific information is really outstanding and it’s pretty mind-blowing the sorts of data you can extrapolate and the sorts of information that you can get back. Ultimately, this app showcases the very real potential Wolfram|Alpha has.” Christina Warren, Mashable

“I found in testing it over the weekend that I would be much more inclined to use the iPhone version than the online version of the engine. I would even say it was more ‘fun.’” Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land

“The app does the kind of high-level math that would make Texas Instruments weep. If you’re a student or someone in a math-intensive technical field, it might rock your world.” Jay Hathaway, Download Squad

“…I’m glad they’ve set the price high. There’s widespread consensus that the current race-to-the-bottom in App Store pricing discourages the development of deep, significant applications.” John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Keyboard on the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App Computing with the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App

More »

October 17, 2009– 1

Program highlights for the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, which begins at noon U.S. CDT on Wednesday, October 21, 2009, are now on the Homework Day website. We’re very excited by the amount of enthusiasm that students, parents, and educators are generating about this groundbreaking live web event, which aims to solve your toughest assignments and explore the power of using Wolfram|Alpha for school, college, and beyond.

You’re invited to tune in to the event at any time throughout the day. Here are just a few of the highlights we have planned for you:

  • A special Homework Day welcome from Wolfram|Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram
  • Live interviews, demonstrations, and vibrant panel discussions with educators
  • A thought-provoking in-depth conversation with an internationally known actor and education advocate
  • Live Q&A with members of the Wolfram|Alpha team tackling your toughest questions
  • A fun science experiment from our very own mad scientist Theodore Gray

You can see more of our program highlights on the Homework Day website. While you’re there, find out how you can contribute your questions and examples today!

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October 15, 2009– 28

On behalf of the Wolfram|Alpha API team, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API.

The response to Wolfram|Alpha and the interest from the community in using the API to build innovative computational knowledge applications has been staggering. Since Wolfram|Alpha launched in May, developers anticipating the release of the API have been sending us their ideas for how they want to use Wolfram|Alpha in their applications. I stopped counting after the 2000th idea crossed my desk. Overwhelmingly, developers see Wolfram|Alpha as a platform for building a business—providing commercial services that leverage Wolfram|Alpha’s unique capabilities.

We’ve seen interest across a wide range of areas for which the developer community wants to use Wolfram|Alpha—researching cancer through computational biology, augmenting web and meta-web search with computed knowledge, enriching online journalism with interactive content, building artificial intelligence systems on our domain expertise, leveraging our data analysis for decision support, optimizing renewable-energy efficiency, and even determining the optimal temperature for draft beer based on the current weather conditions. Clearly, a straightforward API that enables applications to access advanced computations based on trusted information and backed up by a supercomputer-class infrastructure invites developers to explore ideas that were not otherwise possible.

The API is the first of many products and services within the growing Wolfram|Alpha developer ecosystem, from computed data services to GUI-based tools for building interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate into your website.

The API allows your application to interact with Wolfram|Alpha much like you do on the web—you send a web request with the same query string you would type into Wolfram|Alpha’s query box and you get back the same computed results. It’s just that both are in a form your application can understand. There are plenty of ways to tweak and control the results, as well. You can read all about that in the documentation.

The Wolfram|Alpha developer community has already proved itself to be as involved and imaginative as any. There are two ways to get started and become a part of this vibrant community. First, you can register for an API account and explore and experiment on your own. Or, if you’ve got the next Big Idea(TM), let me know. Let’s see what fresh and ingenuous ways we can apply computational knowledge and change the world.

October 14, 2009– 2

Thanks to our early Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day participants, we are pleased to announce that a submissions gallery is now live on the Homework Day website. Please visit the site and view some of the sampling of interesting questions and work that have been submitted. Some of the posted works include questions, courseware, and lesson plans for astronomy, biology, calculus, chemistry, geometry, geology, history, physics, and writing. If you haven’t already done so, please consider submitting your questions and examples for Homework Day!

This first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day is set to begin at noon U.S. CDT, on October 21. So swing by the Homework Day Website and learn how to submit your contributions today!

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October 13, 2009– 2

We are pleased to announce that Dell, Inc. will be a principal sponsor of the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day on October 21, 2009.

Dell, whose hardware system helped power the launch of Wolfram|Alpha this May, is sponsoring Homework Day’s Internet Cafe. During the multi-hour live web event, the Internet Cafe will allow on-site participants to interact and use Dell laptops to explore Wolfram|Alpha’s computational knowledge engine as a cutting-edge learning tool in education.

During Homework Day, scholars, experts, and members of the Wolfram|Alpha team will help participants take on a wide variety of subjects, for K–12 to college and beyond.

Students and educators are invited to submit homework questions and examples to be answered by members of the Wolfram|Alpha team, and showcase how they’ve already been using Wolfram|Alpha to bring their homework to life. Please visit http://homeworkday.wolframalpha.com to learn how you can submit your questions and work examples today. People can tune in to see if their submissions are shown.

Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day begins at noon U.S. CDT on October 21, 2009.  The live webcast can be viewed on the Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day site. Students, educators, and parents are invited to interact with each other and the Wolfram|Alpha team via Homework Day chat, Twitter, and Facebook.

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October 12, 2009– 1

We are very pleased by the level of excitement and enthusiasm for the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, being held on October 21, 2009, beginning at noon U.S. CDT. We’re receiving interesting questions about how Wolfram|Alpha can be used to solve your toughest assignments, and submissions from students and educators highlighting how they are already using Wolfram|Alpha to enhance the learning experience. There’s still time for you to get your submission in to be addressed during the live webcast by our team of experts.

What types of examples are Homework Day participants submitting?

  • Homework questions in any subject area that could benefit from the computable knowledge that Wolfram|Alpha can generate—math, science, history, social studies, geography, languages, and more!
  • Videos and screencasts that show how they’re using Wolfram|Alpha
  • Lesson plans and homework activities that incorporate Wolfram|Alpha

Selected Homework Day submissions may be eligible to receive a Wolfram|Alpha T-shirt. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to showcase your work during Homework Day. Visit the Homework Day website to get started!

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October 9, 2009– 12

Happy Birthday, barcode!

The barcode’s 57th birthday is being celebrated this week all around the web. People really took notice of this event. And why wouldn’t they? From books to food to clothing, barcodes have found their place on just about every manufactured item we consume.

The system was invented by Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver, and was later honed by David Collins, as a way to track and catalog items. The barcode is an optical binary encoding system that was designed to be fault tolerant so that it can be scanned from a variety of distances and angles. It’s also designed so that the directionality is never ambiguous, and most barcodes have some kind of check digits or characters to improve accuracy (in Wolfram|Alpha, click “Show details” to see the encoded form and the check characters). First applied as a way to identify railroad cars, barcodes came into wide use after the laser and the computer were more developed. More »

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October 8, 2009– 15

For active investors, the fast-paced nature of the trading floor requires having tools available to make confident decisions in a timely manner. Wolfram|Alpha offers a collection of money and finance tools ideal for finance professionals and personal finance matters. This data flows into Wolfram|Alpha in real time, providing traders with computation results in charts and graphs. In this post, we’ll look at a variety of ways Wolfram|Alpha can compute and present stock data.

Let’s start with the basics. Simply enter the name of a stock, such as Starbucks or its ticker symbol SBUX, into the computation bar. Wolfram|Alpha retrieves and analyzes both real-time and historical data, and presents the output in category pods. The pods display information such as the stock’s current value at last trade, its value at open and close, and range for that trading period. The “Fundamentals and financials” pod displays information such as the stock’s market share, revenue, number of employees, dividends, and more. Change the “Fundamentals” option on the right side of the pod to see additional information, including ratios, balance sheets, and income and cash flow statements.

More »

October 5, 2009– 16

Join us on Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at noon CDT, for the start of  Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, a groundbreaking marathon live interactive web event that brings together students, parents, and educators from across the United States to solve their toughest assignments and explore the power of using Wolfram|Alpha for school, college, and beyond.

The multi-hour event will be broadcast live on our new Homework Day website. You can interact with Wolfram|Alpha team members and other Homework Day participants via Homework Day chat, Facebook, and Twitter.
More »

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October 2, 2009– 0

If you caught Monday night’s Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers American football game, then you certainly noticed the new Cowboys Stadium, which is one of the largest domed stadiums and has the largest single-span roof structures in the world. As a tribute to this monumental building, we want to take a moment to point out some of the cool comparisons that Wolfram|Alpha computes automatically whenever you type in a specific measurement or quantity.

The stadium’s roof, for example, measures 660,800 square feet. Type that figure into Wolfram|Alpha, and you’ll discover that it’s just slightly larger than another, possibly more familiar monument:

Cowboys Stadium compared to the area of the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza

Each exterior arch of the stadium weighs 3,255 tons, which Wolfram|Alpha instantly computes as measuring a little bit more than the space shuttle’s launch mass, but just one-quarter of the mass of trash produced each day in New York City, or one-ninth the mass of the Titanic:

Comparing the weight of each of the stadium's exterior arches to the weight of the Titanic

And those arches are an incredible 292 feet tall—greater than the length of a Boeing 747-400, and just shy of the length of the football field they cover:

Comparing the height of the Cowboys Stadium arches to a Boeing 747

For virtually any measurement or conversion query, Wolfram|Alpha will return a variety of dynamically computed comparisons like these. Try out a few of your own (like your age, height, and weight, for example) and let us know if you get any surprising results.