ARCHIVE: August 2010
August 31, 2010– 13

We’re pleased to announce a series of free, live Wolfram|Alpha Back-to-School Webinars that give K–12 educators and administrators an overview of the utility and features of Wolfram|Alpha in education. Educators are showing interest in and enthusiasm for Wolfram|Alpha, and we look forward to helping them incorporate it into their classrooms.

The webinars will be presented by Holland Lincoln, Manager of Education and Business Development, and will feature a live Q&A.

To register for a Wolfram|Alpha Back-to-School Webinar, please click one of the four sessions listed below. Each session is limited to 100 participants. Sign up today to secure your space!

Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 2pm Central Time

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 6pm Central Time

Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 3pm Central Time

Monday, September 13, 2010 at 3pm Central Time

Once your registration is complete, you’ll receive a confirmation email containing a webinar login link. The webinars will be delivered via Adobe Acrobat Connect. Use any one of the supported web browsers on your computer with Flash Player installed.

We look forward to having you and your colleagues join us for an upcoming Wolfram|Alpha Back-to-School Webinar!

Tags:
August 27, 2010– 9

The Wolfram|Alpha App for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad is now on sale for back-to-school! Now through September 12, you can download the Wolfram|Alpha app from the App Store for only $0.99.

The Wolfram|Alpha app gives you answers and access to expert-level knowledge whenever and wherever you need it—whether balancing chemical equations in the lab, studying finance on the bus, or calculating the number of calories in your breakfast as you’re hustling down the quad.

Calculating nutrition information with the Wolfram|Alpha App for iPhone and iPod touch Converting currency with the specialized keyboard on the Wolfram|Alpha App

The Wolfram|Alpha app is designed for both the iPhone and iPad, and has been specially tuned for multi-tasking under iOS 4 and for the iPhone 4′s Retina display. You only have to buy it once, leaving more change in your pocket! And with the app’s four specialized keyboards, you just might find yourself leaving your calculator at home.

Balancing chemical equations with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPad

Be sure to visit this blog throughout the semester to learn about new data and features available in Wolfram|Alpha. And we’d love for you to share how you’re using Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram|Alpha App for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in the comments below.

August 25, 2010– 3

Wolfram|Alpha widget “builders” have been busy creating and sharing their innovative Wolfram|Alpha-powered mini apps on their sites and with their social networks. We’re thrilled by your excitement and widget-building efforts.

The Wolfram|Alpha Widgets home page with the new featured widgets

Beginning today, we’re shining a light on some of the most popular widgets in the gallery, one of which will be designated as the featured widget on the home page. Not only can you use any of these featured widgets on the Wolfram|Alpha Widgets site, but it’s easy to embed any of these widgets on your site, too!

This week’s featured widget on the home page is a quick calorie calculator that lets you calculate the number of calories burned when running, walking, biking, swimming, and cross-country skiing. You can even personalize your results by taking into account factors such as sex, age, distance, and speed.
More »

August 20, 2010– 6

This week BBC News ran a story on how taxi drivers in Japan are hearing the unexpected sounds of cooing babies on their CB radios. The cause: U.S.-purchased baby monitors from nearby U.S. military bases that are interfering with communication frequencies. Why would this happen? It’s likely that the baby monitors were manufactured to work on region two communication frequencies, and while being used in Japan, they’re interfering with communication frequencies allocated to region one.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) divides the world into three regions. Each region has its own frequency-band allocations; that is, in each region, each frequency band is allocated to a specific use. Sometimes a local authority like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States regulates the use of frequency bands.

Say you want to find out how a specific frequency like 2GHz is allocated. Type “frequency allocation 2GHz” into Wolfram|Alpha.

Frequency allocations for 2GHz
More »

August 19, 2010– 3

The Wolfram|Alpha Blog is not only your official news source for new data and features, but it’s also a great place to read how others are using Wolfram|Alpha in everyday life, for education and on the job. This week, a tweet linking to @drwetzel‘s latest blog post “How to Integrate Wolfram Alpha into Science and Math Classes” caught our attention. With a new school year upon us, we wanted to share his examples for using Wolfram|Alpha through the website, widgets, and mobile apps with educators who are looking for ways to incorporate Wolfram|Alpha into their math and science classes.

From the Teach Science and Math blog:

How to Integrate Wolfram Alpha into Science and Math Classes

“What is Wolfram Alpha? It is a supercomputing brain. It provides calculates [sic] and provides comprehensive answers to most any science or math question. Unlike other search sources, you and your students can ask questions in plain language or various forms of abbreviated notation.

Contrary to popular belief, Wolfram Alpha is not a search engine. Unlike popular search engines, which simply retrieve documents based on keyword searches, Wolfram computes answers based on known models of human knowledge. It provides answers which are complete with data and algorithms, representing real-world knowledge.

Teaching Strategies: Researching Facts and Information

Science and math teaching strategies with Wolfram begin with allowing students to search for information about specific facts and information. The following examples provide support for stimulating critical thinking using a digital lens.”

Click here to continue reading this post on the Teach Science and Math blog.

If you’re new to Wolfram|Alpha, we invite you to visit the Wolfram|Alpha for Educators site to browse our video gallery, download lesson plans, and more. Are you already using Wolfram|Alpha in your classroom? Share your story in the comment box below and you could be featured in an upcoming post on how educators are using Wolfram|Alpha as a learning tool in a variety of subjects.

August 13, 2010– 2

When we introduced the beta versions of Wolfram|Alpha Widgets and Widget Builder just a few short weeks ago, we asked, “So, what will you widget?” The answer we got was “A lot of creative, outside-the-box widgets!”

We fully expected to be blown away by all of the innovative and fun ways users would harness the power of Wolfram|Alpha on their blogs, websites, and on their social media networks. Wolfram|Alpha users have already customized and built over 1300 widgets with the easy-to-use drag-and-drop Widget Builder. You can browse them all in the Widget Gallery. If you haven’t created your first widget yet, take a quick tour or check out the demo video to see how simple it is to build your own free, custom Wolfram|Alpha-powered mini-app.

Not only have users been excited about customizing and building widgets, but they’ve been sharing them too! We’ve stumbled upon an impressive number of widgets on Twitter and Facebook. And widgets have been embedded in over 500 websites and blogs to date. We thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the handy widgets users are creating and sharing on a variety of websites and blogging platforms.

@ThinktankPlanet tweeted us a link to their custom astronomy widget on the Thinktank Birmingham science museum’s website. If you want to find the location of an astronomical object in the sky for a given city, time, and date, give this widget a try. You may also want to see how this custom widget appears on the website.

More »

August 9, 2010– 1

On August 2, The New York Times reported that the (near) final estimate for the total amount of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon drilling accident is approximately 4.9 million barrels. It would be nice to understand what this number means in the context of the commodity markets where oil is traded. It would also be nice to better understand what this oil spill did to BP stockholders.

Wolfram|Alpha can help answer these questions. For example, someone might wonder what all this oil would be worth on the oil market. The input “price of 4.9 million barrels of oil” tells us that the value of this oil on the oil futures market is around $398.8 million (at the time this was written). That’s a lot of money just floating around the Gulf! But to be fair, much of it was cleaned up. Wolfram|Alpha also shows a graph of how the value of this oil has fluctuated over time as well as the latest quote of a barrel of oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Price of 4.9 million barrels of oil

Someone might wonder whether the amount of spilled oil was enough to affect the price of oil in the U.S. The input “oil futures open interest” gives us the number of oil futures contracts currently in existence for the front-month contract.

As the graph illustrates, open interest starts out strong every month (as the front-month contract rolls forward to the next month). As the contract approaches expiration, some people close out their positions while others roll their positions forward into a future month’s contract. The best measure of open interest would be the higher numbers shown immediately after the front-month rolls forward (especially since other contract months aren’t accounted for here).
More »

August 5, 2010– 7

Here at Wolfram|Alpha we’re always asking questions and seeking answers in an effort to make all of the world’s knowledge computable and understandable by everyone (big or small).

We’ve put together a short list of common questions asked by preschool- and kindergarten-aged children that can be answered with Wolfram|Alpha. We hope these examples inspire your child to dream up more!

Is the Moon bigger than the Earth? Ask Wolfram|Alpha to compare “size of earth, size of moon”, and you’ll discover numerical and graphic size comparisons showing that the Earth is indeed larger than the Moon.

size of earth, size of moon

Chances are your little artists will discover the answer to this question on their own, but they can try asking Wolfram|Alpha what color they get when they “mix red and blue”?

Mixing the colors red and blue

Whether it’s because they’re excited about the party or just turning a year older, the birthday countdown is always on! Simply ask Wolfram|Alpha about the date of the child’s upcoming birthday, such as “October 8 2010”, to learn the number of days, weeks, or months until the big day.
More »

August 2, 2010– 3

As you go about your day, especially during the hot summer season, you probably don’t think much about the Sun other than that it makes you want to go for a quick dip in the swimming pool to cool off. After all, the Sun rises and sets every day (for those of us outside the Arctic and Antarctic Circles), and people just take it for granted without much thought.

The Sun is far more dynamic than you might think, although thankfully we don’t usually feel direct effects of its activity from Earth’s surface. The atmosphere and magnetic field of the Earth provide a nice buffer zone that protects us.

Every 11 years, the Sun completes a cycle that is fairly regular. During solar maximum, the number of sunspots is higher than usual, and during solar minimum (which we are just coming out of), it is relatively spot free.

The Sun is still coming out of solar minimum, but activity is slowly returning. At about 8:55 UTC on August 1, a measurable solar flare triggered an event known as a coronal mass ejection (CME). This is where the “atmosphere” of the Sun sends out a burst of energized plasma. In this case, nearly the entire Earth-facing side of the Sun was involved, so effects on the Earth are more likely. Here’s the X-ray signature of the solar flare that triggered the CME:

The X-ray signature of the solar flare that triggered the CME
More »