Introducing the Wolfram Geography Course Assistant
Recently we released the new Wolfram Geography Course Assistant App for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and PCs. Whether you’re studying for an exam or merely a geography nerd like me, there’s no better way to get either a general overview of the planet we all share or a really in-depth analysis of specific datasets. You can study Earth’s physical geography, geology and climate, political boundaries, demographics, economics, and social statistics. It might be the best $4.99 you’ve ever spent, and to prove it, allow me to attempt a persuasive argument.
Perhaps the most exciting way to demonstrate what makes the Wolfram Geography Course Assistant so powerful is to satisfy the requirements of an arbitrary and hypothetical classroom assignment. Suppose your teacher wants you to compare Australia and New Zealand on the premise that she likes competition for competition’s sake and needs to know which country is “better.” She leaves “better” undefined so that you come to your conclusion on your own. (Spoiler alert: We here at Wolfram|Alpha love every country equally, with all of our hearts.) Because I think it’s fun, and because I lived in New Zealand before working at Wolfram|Alpha, I’ll compare which country is larger or smaller across a number of sectors, although whether it’s better to be larger or smaller is up to you.
Let’s begin with the Physical Geography menu item, and then select the Geographic Properties sub-menu item, and type in New Zealand and Australia.
We can see that Australia, being an island-continent, is substantially larger than New Zealand: 2,968,000 square miles compared to 103,738. (Or, roughly the contiguous United States versus Colorado, which are 3,120,000 and 104,094 square miles, respectively.)
Separated by the Tasman Sea, Canberra and Wellington (the capital cities of Australia and New Zealand) are 1,448 miles away from each other. That’s 2 hours and 40 minutes away by airplane or 1 hour and 50 minutes by the speed of sound. There are heaps more features in Physical Geography, but let’s skip ahead to Geology and Climate.
We know that New Zealand has a lot of volcanic activity (volcanoes being responsible for Banks Peninsula on the South Island, among other features), but which of the two countries has the tallest volcano?
We can see that Australia’s tallest volcano, Heard, is 9,006 feet tall, about 175 feet shorter than New Zealand’s tallest, Ruapehu, at 9,177 feet. So if Australia takes up more physical space than New Zealand, at least New Zealand has a bigger lava faucet. (Note: Volcanoes are not actually faucets; they are ruptures in the planet’s crust that allow hot magma and gases to escape from below.)
Now let’s compare some of the nations’ demographics.
Australia has a population of 21,500,000 people as of 2010, compared to New Zealand’s population of 4,300,000. But the reality is that many people, when they think of New Zealand, think of sheep. I’m really willing to bet a nonzero number of you reading made that association. It’s OK. I do, too—there’s even a sheep on my alma mater’s coat of arms (University of Canterbury in Christchurch.)
Australia’s sheep population is 72,700,000 compared to New Zealand’s 32,400,000. However, we can see that proportionately, Australia’s sheep population has plummeted over the past few decades, where as New Zealand’s has experienced a steady decline. New Zealand maintains a higher ratio of sheep per person, but Australia’s total sector is 124% larger. Since our hypothetical assignment doesn’t indicate which of these is better, I’ll just leave it at that.
Of course, the Wolfram Geography Course Assistant App can do far more than analyze Oceania. You can compare median incomes and juxtapose the results with weather patterns, analyze student-teacher ratio compared to national literacy rates, or check out the tides forecast tomorrow in your city, among a breadth of other possibilities. For example, suppose you wanted to do a transverse Mercator projection, because they’re amazing:
As our goal here at Wolfram is the democratization of knowledge, and part of that is an app for every course, and more, we’re sure you’ll love what the Wolfram Geography Course Assistant App can offer you. But are you looking for an app in a different field to guide you through your coursework? We sincerely appreciate any and all user feedback, because as corny as it sounds, we genuinely want you to succeed in all you do. So leave a comment in our handy box below to let us know what you think.