ARCHIVE: January 2012
January 31, 2012–

One year ago this week we sent out our first Wolfram Fun Fact! Since then, we have tweeted nearly 200 Wolfram|Alpha-computed facts, gained over 10,000 followers, and received some pretty amazing submissions from those followers.

To celebrate our first birthday, we thought we would share some of our favorite and most popular Wolfram Fun Facts from the past year:

January 30, 2012–

Wolfram|Alpha has become well-known for its ability to perform step-by-step math in a variety of areas. Today we’re pleased to introduce a new member to this family: step-by-step differential equations. Differential equations are fundamental to many fields, with applications such as describing spring-mass systems and circuits and modeling control systems.

From basic separable equations to solving with Laplace transforms, Wolfram|Alpha is a great way to guide yourself through a tough differential equation problem. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Wolfram|Alpha can show the steps to solve simple differential equations as well as slightly more complicated ones like this one:

January 26, 2012–

If you paid any attention to last weekend’s NFL games, you know that we’re headed for another Patriots versus Giants Super Bowl. We’ll take a closer look at those two teams next week, including prior matchups, head-to-head player comparisons, and performance trends over the past few months. But while we’ve got a slight breather in the NFL schedule, we wanted to show you a few ways you can use Wolfram|Alpha to uncover interesting stats from the 2011 NFL season (and beyond).

The Indianapolis Colts turned from a possible playoff contender to a team just hoping to win a game after quarterback Peyton Manning was ruled out for the year. Manning’s absence was a big reason why the Colts’ offense had a hard time scoring points. This bar graph clearly shows the Colts having the lowest point production since 1993.

What rule gives the integer sequence 3, 10, 17, 18, 7, …? Wolfram|Alpha can easily find that this sequence comes from a simple cubic polynomial, -x3 + 6x2 – 4x + 2.

A different sequence, 1, 1, 3, 7, 22, 82, 333, 1448, … can be identified as the sequence of the polyhexes. After that, the input sequence of the polyhexes recovers the above sequence.

January 19, 2012–

Last week we announced our partnership with global sports statistics company STATS LLC and demonstrated how Wolfram|Alpha now allows users to access and compute football statistics using natural language. Since our original announcement, we’ve had a weekend’s worth of exciting playoff games. Miss any of the action? Ask Wolfram|Alpha about last weekend’s NFL games. Wolfram|Alpha not only returns the games and their final scores, but also provides a summary of team statistics leaders (and losers) across all four matchups. More »

January 18, 2012–

Teachers, are you looking for a new way to integrate technology into your classroom? How about through a dynamic textbook or pre-generated lesson plans? Students, are you looking for some extra help or practice in your classes? How about using interactive demonstrations and widgets to help understand the concepts you are learning? The Wolfram Education Portal is the answer for students and teachers alike!

We are happy to announce the launch of the free Beta version of the Wolfram Education Portal. The portal comes equipped with a dynamic and interactive textbook, lesson plans aligned to the common core standards, and many other supplemental materials for your courses, including Wolfram Demonstrations, widgets, and videos. The Education Portal currently contains full materials for Algebra and partial materials for Calculus, but will continue to grow and improve with your comments and feedback. More »

January 13, 2012–

Since Wolfram|Alpha launched in 2009, we’ve often said that its knowledge base covers what you’d find in a pretty good reference library—and many of the new features we’ve highlighted over the past two and a half years have indeed been very reference-y: global agriculture data, public school statistics, species information, and tons of other socioeconomic, scientific, and mathematical content. Of course, Wolfram|Alpha has always been much more than a mere repository of reference data: we’ve made it possible for people to explore, compare, compute, and interact with all that data in unprecedented ways. More »

January 12, 2012–

There’s been very little change in top-level internet domains (like .com, .org, .us, etc.) for a long time. But a number of years ago I started thinking about the possibility of having a new .data top-level domain (TLD). And starting this week, there’ll finally be a period when it’s possible to apply to create such a thing.

It’s not at all clear what’s going to happen with new TLDs—or how people will end up feeling about them. Presumably there’ll be TLDs for places and communities and professions and categories of goods and events. A .data TLD would be a slightly different kind of thing. But along with some other interested parties, I’ve been exploring the possibility of creating such a thing.

With Wolfram|Alpha and Mathematica—as well as our annual Data Summit—we’ve been deeply involved with the worldwide data community, and coordinating the creation of a .data TLD would be an extension of that activity. More »

January 12, 2012–

Finding the tangents and normals of a mathematical function or relation is one of the most common exercises in any calculus course. In this post, I’ll show you the newest functionality in Wolfram|Alpha for discovering and investigating them.

The simplest example of a tangent is the “tangent line” to a one-dimensional curve in the plane. Graphically, the tangent line is a line that “just touches” the curve at some point, so that if it were moved just slightly, this one point of contact would become two.

If you ask Wolfram|Alpha for the tangent line of a specific function and point, it gives it in both graphical and algebraic/numerical form:

January 5, 2012–

The next time you go stargazing, bring the power of computation along with the Wolfram Planets Reference App and Wolfram Stars Reference App for iOS. Both apps provide access to real-time data and the computational power of Wolfram|Alpha in order to perform advanced calculations and provide data on the planets and stars.

January 4, 2012–

What do your alarm clock, thermostat, coffeemaker, car radio, anti-lock brakes—and almost every other electrical and mechanical device you encounter in your daily life—all have in common? They are all examples of “control systems,” one of the most ubiquitous yet unseen modern technologies. A control system is any system or device that controls or regulates the behavior of another system. Using various kinds of sensors and actuators, these systems automatically control most common appliances, industrial processes, and even your body’s own biological processes!

Take your home’s humble thermostat. The temperature of your home depends on many factors, especially how long and how recently the home’s furnace was on. With a thermostat installed, the reverse is also true: the state of the furnace depends on the temperature of the house (it comes on if the temperature is too low, and turns off if the temperature is too high). There is a closed loop of causation formed between the home’s temperature and the state of the furnace. By design, the thermostat creates a kind of closed loop called a “negative feedback loop,” which tends to stabilize the temperature around a desired value. Most control systems are like this: sensors feed information back into the system, which is then used to decide on an action. More »