ARCHIVE: December 2009
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December 29, 2009– 3

Prior to releasing Wolfram|Alpha into the world this past May, we launched the Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Since our welcome message on April 28, we’ve made 133 additional posts covering Wolfram|Alpha news, team member introductions, and “how-to’s” in a wide variety of areas, including finance, nutrition, chemistry, astronomy, math, travel, and even solving crossword puzzles.

As 2009 draws to a close we thought we’d reach into the archives to share with you some of this year’s most popular blog posts.

April

Rack ’n’ Roll

Take a peek at our system administration team hard at work on one of the
many pre-launch projects.
Continue reading…

May

The Secret Behind the Computational Engine in Wolfram|Alpha

Although it’s tempting to think of Wolfram|Alpha as a place to look up facts, that’s only part of the story. The thing that truly sets Wolfram|Alpha apart is that it is able to do sophisticated computations for you, both pure computations involving numbers or formulas you enter, and computations applied automatically to data called up from its repositories.

Why does computation matter? Because computation is what turns generic information into specific answers. Continue reading…

Live, from Champaign!

Wolfram|Alpha just went live for the very first time, running all clusters.

This first run at testing Wolfram|Alpha in the real world is off to an auspicious start, although not surprisingly, we’re still working on some kinks, especially around logging.

While we’re still in the early stages of this long-term project, it is really gratifying to finally have the opportunity to invite you to participate in this project with us. Continue reading…

June

Wolfram|Alpha Q&A Webcast

Stephen Wolfram shared the latest news and updates about Wolfram|Alpha and answered several users’ questions in a live webcast yesterday.

If you missed it, you can watch the recording here. Continue reading… More »

December 21, 2009– 7

We’re really catching the holiday spirit here at Wolfram|Alpha.

We recently announced our special holiday sale for the Wolfram|Alpha app. Now we are launching our first-ever Wolfram|Alpha “Holiday Tweet-a-Day” contest.

Happy holidays from Wolfram|Alpha!

Here’s how it works.

From tomorrow, Tuesday, December 22, through Saturday, January 2, we’ll use Twitter to give away a gift a day. Be the first to retweet our “Holiday Tweet-a-Day” tweet and you get the prize! You can double your chances to win by following and playing along with Wolfram Research.

Start following us today so you don’t miss your chance to win with our Wolfram|Alpha “Holiday Tweet-a-Day” contest.

December 21, 2009– 180

When we launched Wolfram|Alpha in May 2009, it already contained trillions of pieces of information—the result of nearly five years of sustained data-gathering, on top of more than two decades of formula and algorithm development in Mathematica. Since then, we’ve successfully released a new build of Wolfram|Alpha’s codebase each week, incorporating not only hundreds of minor behind-the-scenes enhancements and bug fixes, but also a steady stream of major new features and datasets.

We’ve highlighted some of these new additions in this blog, but many more have entered the system with little fanfare. As we near the end of 2009, we wanted to look back at seven months of new Wolfram|Alpha features and functionality.

More »

December 18, 2009– 4

When astronomers observe a distant object in the universe, how do they know how far away it is? One method involves the object’s redshift.

What is redshift? It is a shift in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation toward the longer-wavelength (red) end of the spectrum. Astronomers measure redshift by looking at the spectrum of light from a given distant object.

Type “redshift 6.3” into Wolfram|Alpha.

Wolfram|Alpha computes data for a redshift 6.3

The assumption pod at the top indicates that Wolfram|Alpha has interpreted our “redshift” query as “cosmological redshift”. The “more” menu there lets you access alternate interpretations. More »

December 10, 2009– 21

In the spirit of the holiday season, the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone & iPod touch will be on sale for US $19.99, starting December 11 (tomorrow) through December 31.

You can get it at the App Store.

And just for fun, here are some holiday-inspired nuggets of knowledge from Wolfram|Alpha:

Happy holidays!

December 8, 2009– 3

One of Wolfram|Alpha’s primary sources for medical test data is the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES), an annual survey of thousands of people, from throughout the United States, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Wolfram|Alpha’s presentation of this data is unique in that it doesn’t just report reference ranges, but allows you to see where your own measurements and test numbers fall within the survey’s distribution of results. (Wolfram|Alpha does not give advice, medical or otherwise.)

At the most basic level, an input of “cholesterol test” returns the survey’s distribution of total cholesterol values:
Wolfram|Alpha computes cholesterol test data

More »

December 3, 2009– 3

Psychrometry deals with the thermodynamic properties of gas-vapor mixtures. Air-water vapor mixtures are the most common systems studied because of their importance in heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and weather reporting.

Students of engineering are introduced to the subtleties of psychrometry in their thermodynamics courses. But we are all exposed to psychrometry any time we watch weather reports on television. Your favorite meteorologist probably speaks about the relative humidity, dry bulb temperature, and dew point temperature.

Let’s start our exploration of psychrometry by querying “psychrometric properties“. Wolfram|Alpha returns a presentation of data for moist air, including a graph known as a psychrometric chart.

More »

December 2, 2009– 1

Use of Wolfram|Alpha is really taking off on college campuses around the world. This is especially true at Chicago State University.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Sciences John Erickson has long used Mathematica in his courses. So when he heard Wolfram Research was launching Wolfram|Alpha, which is built on Mathematica, he knew it would become a major resource for engaging students in mathematics.

Now with Wolfram|Alpha fully integrated into his courses, he says the site is “the best thing for education” because it helps him take his lessons beyond what’s covered in a typical textbook. In this video, he shares an example of how Wolfram|Alpha allows him to show real-world applications of the math he’s teaching.

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Wolfram|Alpha has also been quite a hit with Professor Erickson’s students, who now use Wolfram|Alpha for all of their courses. They say it’s like having a “personal tutor” available at all times. In this video, they demonstrate why Wolfram|Alpha has become their go-to tool.
More »

December 1, 2009– 185

(January 15, 2014 Update: Step-by-step solutions has been updated! Learn more.)

Have you ever given up working on a math problem because you couldn’t figure out the next step? Wolfram|Alpha can guide you step by step through the process of solving many mathematical problems, from solving a simple quadratic equation to taking the integral of a complex function.

When trying to find the roots of 3x2+x–7=4x, Wolfram|Alpha can break down the steps for you if you click the “Show steps” button in the Result pod.
Wolfram|Alpha finds the roots of 3x2+x–7=4x

As you can see, Wolfram|Alpha can find the roots of quadratic equations. Wolfram|Alpha shows how to solve this equation by completing the square and then solving for x. Of course, there are other ways to solve this problem! More »