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Zebadiah Smith
Blog Posts from this author:
January 19, 2012– 1

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 »

May 4, 2011– 7

In light of the accident at the nuclear facility in Fukushima, Japan following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, there has been an increased interest about nuclear power and nuclear reactors worldwide. Due to the desire for factual information about this important topic, we have added data on commercial nuclear power reactors—based on information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—to Wolfram|Alpha.

The IAEA’s database has information on all of the world’s commercial nuclear power plants, including those currently operating, those that have been shutdown, and reactors under construction. Ask Wolfram|Alpha for “all nuclear reactors”, and it is evident that nuclear power is a widely used source of electrical energy.
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January 26, 2011– 5

When we are growing up and learning about the world, there are moments when a topic or idea really catches our attention. Perhaps it is while reading a book or during a lecture given by a good teacher. For me, one of those moments occurred during my junior year of high school in Mr. Brooks’s chemistry class. We were learning about the structure of the atom, and Mr. Brooks did a demonstration for us. He turned off the lights in the classroom and turned on a hydrogen discharge tube. The tube glowed with a pink light. Then Mr. Brooks put a prism in front of the glowing discharge tube, and several vertical lines of light appeared on the chalk board behind the prism.

At the time, I didn’t really understand that the voltage applied across the discharge tube was exciting the electrons around the hydrogen atoms and that the lines formed as the pink light passed through the prism were characteristic wavelengths of light being emitted as the electrons around the hydrogen atoms returned to lower energy levels. But I clearly remember the intense curiosity I felt about the phenomenon I was witnessing. It is, therefore, with some nostalgia that I announce the addition of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) atomic spectra database to Wolfram|Alpha.

Investigation of atomic spectra contributed significantly to our understanding of atomic structure and are described by the Rydberg formula. Furthermore, atomic spectra are used by astronomers to classify and determine the composition of stars. Today, the NIST database has become the most comprehensive and reliable set of data for atomic spectra and includes information about spectral lines and atomic energy levels associated with many elements and ions. All of this data can now be found in Wolfram|Alpha, including that visible hydrogen spectrum I was so curious about in high school:

Click the image to see the full results

Click the image to see the full results

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October 8, 2010– 5

From gathering around the family radio to listen to “The War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938 to watching the local weather forecast on your 52-inch plasma TV, wireless transmission has been a primary source of information, communication, and entertainment for the past century. Today, thousands of radio and television stations are broadcasting around the world. Beyond your favorite songs, news broadcasts, and shows, how much do you know about the broadcast stations you listen to and watch? The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a large amount of information on the radio and television stations broadcasting in the U.S. as well as a number of stations in other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and recently this data was added to Wolfram|Alpha.

Try out the call sign for your favorite radio station. You might be interested to know who holds the license for that station or find out that it’s being broadcast from that antenna you drive by on your way to work. The local map not only shows you the location of the antenna, but is also zoomed in to show the approximate listening area. How tall is that antenna? Wolfram|Alpha has the answer, as well as a lot of other technical details about the station antenna.
Radio station WLS-FM

On a road trip and stumble upon an interesting AM station broadcasting on 1010 kilohertz? You don’t need to know the call sign to get the information. Try “1010 am radio”, and Wolfram|Alpha will give you the information for the station broadcasting on that frequency closest to you. If it’s a long road trip, you might find a couple stations broadcasting on the same frequency along the way. All the stations broadcasting on 1010 kilohertz are shown, along with their locations and distances from you. More »