It’s been an exciting year for us here at Wolfram|Alpha, and we wanted to say thank you to all of our loyal blog readers. We thought we would take a look back at 2011 by sharing some of this year’s most popular Wolfram|Alpha Blog posts. This year we saw some exciting content additions, brand-new ways of accessing and interacting with Wolfram|Alpha, and an arsenal of apps for students and professionals alike.
We are pleased to add our latest work in the domain of radiation shielding to our ever-widening repertoire of highly technical and challenging areas. Although this was one of the earliest features added to Wolfram|Alpha, we have now significantly expanded the functionality of the area that permits users to ask about the shielding efficacy of numerous materials against multiple radiation sources. Most importantly, we have now included the computations for shielding against that most dreaded radiation—the gamma ray. We think these new features will be extremely useful in helping people to better understand the common shielding gadgets they might see every day (such as at the dentist’s office or when getting an X-ray).
At launch we had information only for beta radiation (electron beam) but now have added alpha particles, protons as well as photons to our collection. Additionally, we have significantly improved the natural-language capabilities in this domain. For example, asking Wolfram|Alpha “At what thickness of lead is 3 MeV gamma radiation halved in intensity?” immediately returns the thickness of the lead sheet as the result. Or maybe you’re interested in figuring out how far alpha particles travel through air. Just ask, “What thickness of air will shield 5 MeV alpha particle radiation?” What if there is a glass window? Once again, the query is at your fingertips: “What is the maximum electron radiation that a 2″ thick plate glass can block?” More »
Just in time for the holidays, we’re introducing a new functionality that provides consumers with a unique approach to shopping. By leveraging data from Best Buy’s public APIs, Wolfram|Alpha users will now be able to browse more than 35,000 appliances and consumer electronics products. Wolfram|Alpha’s intuitive natural-language interface helps you hone in on the precise products you need, while its powerful data visualization capabilities give you an innovative overview of any shopping category.
We’ve taken the strengths we’ve developed in math, science, and socioeconomic data and created something equally unique and useful for online shoppers. Type in the name of a product category—”dishwashers” or “tablet computers,” for example—and Wolfram|Alpha generates a comprehensive, custom analysis. What are the typical dimensions and other physical characteristics of other products in this class? How common is a given product feature? Wolfram|Alpha helps you to answer these questions.
Type in a specific product name or model number—say, “Samsung GT-P3113TSYXAR”—and Wolfram|Alpha will highlight that product’s rank within the entire product category. From a glance at the plots below, you can see that this tablet falls pretty squarely in the middle of the pack with regard to price and generally on the low-end to average range for a variety of physical and performance attributes.
The hyperlink has been one of the most powerful tools of the information age. Links make it easier to navigate the complex web of information online by combining the information itself with the method for retrieving it. Clicking a link means “tell me more about this thing,” which naturally lends itself to “surfing.”
At Wolfram|Alpha, we strive to integrate and leverage technologies to create the most powerful computational capabilities and user experiences possible. In Wolfram|Alpha, the output comes in the form of a “report.” If you want to know more about something in the output of an Wolfram|Alpha query, clicking it as a link will generate another such report. Though we’ve had links in Wolfram|Alpha for a while, we’ve recently taken them to the next (computable) level: Wolfram|Alpha now computes links dynamically based on the output generated by your query.
Clicking a link basically feeds the plaintext of that link back into Wolfram|Alpha, creating new output with new links. Thus the navigational ability of the world wide web and the computational ability of Wolfram|Alpha are now intertwined and can feed off each other. You can now surf Wolfram|Alpha like you can surf the Internet. More »
Making your list and checking it twice, but still don’t know what to get for the last few people on your list? Gift a Wolfram app! From now through December 31, select apps are 50% off. We have apps for snowbirds and travelers, students and teachers, history buffs, word game enthusiasts, casino lovers, lawyers, network administrators, and lifelong learners—everyone, really! More »
In his classic sci-fi television series Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry dreamt of a computer that could help its user with pretty much anything. Ask it a question; it has an answer. Need some Earl Grey tea? It can materialize it for you. Need to create a self-aware, artificially intelligent program based on a Sherlock Holmes character in order to defeat Data? Easy. While we can’t materialize anything for you or create a self-aware, artificially intelligent program, we are on track to make all the world’s knowledge computable, with the hopes of someday answering all of your factual questions. In some cases, we are doing a bit better than the Star Trek computer: