Some common questions from the many student users of Wolfram|Alpha include “Isn’t cbrt(-8) = -2?” and “Why doesn’t the plot of the cube root include the negative part?” The answers are that -2 is just one of the three cube roots of -8, and that Mathematica, the computational engine of Wolfram|Alpha, has always chosen the principal root, which is complex valued. More generally, odd roots of negative numbers are typically assumed to be complex. You can see this in the output of (-8)^(1/3). More »
I love dogs; they are the best. I find that they are suitable not only as companions, but as friends and confidants. That said, as much as I might anthropomorphize them, I do genuinely wish I could see the world in their eyes. Now, with Wolfram|Alpha, I can—and so can you. More »
My mother always loved gardening, and when I was growing up I enjoyed taking long strolls with her while she told me what all the different flowers were. She knew a lot about plants, but I remember sometimes asking her a question—like what was a plant’s taxonomic structure, or its optimal height compared to its average height—and she didn’t know what to say. Well, that’s why we’ve come up with the Wolfram Plants Reference App, available on iOS and PC. This app is for you, mom! More »
It’s tornado season in some parts of the United States, and while longtime users of Wolfram|Alpha are probably aware of our ability to analyze earthquake data, we weren’t able to say much about tornadoes. Now, utilizing data from from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, Wolfram|Alpha can answer questions about tornado activity in the US from 1950 to 2012. For good measure, we’ve also added data on worldwide volcanic eruptions to our knowledge base. More »
Today, we’re proud to unveil the Wolfram|Alpha Handwritten Knowledge Engine, a new, more personal way of delivering computed answers.
You might be wondering where this idea came from. Well, let me tell you a story.
We had a thought not long ago that it would be nice to get you (the internet) a gift. One of those “just because” things to spread a bit of happiness around the world.
Conventional wisdom holds that the best gifts are handmade. But making gifts by hand for over 2.2 billion people? It was a daunting challenge. Luckily, we had a head start: Wolfram|Alpha already computes its answers just for you. The answer to every query, question, and computation is custom-generated, drawing upon trillions of pieces of built-in knowledge.
We began to imagine ways to add that handmade, personal flair to Wolfram|Alpha results. Artisanal answers, if you will. We narrowed it down to “putting a bird on it” versus a handwritten interface, results pages and all. Handwriting won the coin toss.
You remember handwriting, right? The thing you used to do with a pen, to write letters and checks? Checks, well, they were these pieces of paper that represented… you know what, I should get back to the story.
We knew we’d need a goodly number of contributors, as well as some sort of training component—consistency is important, after all. Human Resources began recruiting in earnest (by the way, we’re hiring), as well as organizing a Corporate Penmanship Retreat.
That brings us to now. The retreat just wrapped, and the Wolfram|Alpha Handwritten Knowledge Engine is ready to go. Ask a question, and your machine-computed results will be transcribed and illustrated by a real live human being.
I recommend acting fast. A few of the physicists already have writer’s cramp, and the pop culture researchers might be next.
So what will you compute? I definitely cannot recommend running your homework through Wolfram|Alpha, printing out the handwritten results, and trying to pass them as your own. Definitely not. But here are some other ideas to get you going.
Go meta, and get handwritten knowledge about the word handwriting:
Find derivatives… with style:
Put your mind at ease with a handwritten verification of some important information:
Why not Zoidberg?
We hope you enjoy the Wolfram|Alpha Handwritten Knowledge Engine. Please share your favorites in the comments.
April 2, 2013 Update: We hope you enjoyed the handwritten Wolfram|Alpha results on April Fools’ Day. While some staff are recovering from carpal tunnel, we have returned to the normal styling for all results.
If you want to see the handwritten results, begin any query with “handwritten style” (without quotes), and our staff will get back to work!