Although I was born several years after the first Apollo Moon landing, the excitement surrounding the Apollo Moon landings and the space exploration enthusiasm it fostered drastically affected my childhood and shaped the direction my later life would follow. The space race, arguably peaking with the Apollo Moon landings, generated a funding explosion for science education that allowed many planetariums to be built and a phase of education encouragement that affected many of my generation. If we could land on the Moon, imagine what else we might achieve if we worked hard enough.
On July 20, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. This landing began a sequence of Moon landings that ended with Apollo 17. We can leverage Wolfram|Alpha and the recently released Mathematica 10 to help us celebrate and continue exploring (data, in this case). The available data includes dates, crew information, and landing coordinates.
Let’s explore the crew information first. As with many famous people, Wolfram|Alpha gives a fair amount of information like birth dates and locations, pictures, time lines, height information, and familial information. More »
Are you looking to make a move in the near future? Budgeting for your next vacation? Before you go anywhere, check out Wolfram|Alpha’s data on costs of living and consumer goods. Whether you’re simply looking to get the most bang for your buck, or figuring out how your salary needs to change to maintain your lifestyle in a new city, look no further for some quick answers. More »
Whether you’re trying to find the perfect word in Scrabble or study the languages of the world, Wolfram|Alpha has always provided computational insights into how we communicate. Now we’re taking that a step further—with data from the American Community Survey, we can take a closer look at where different languages are spoken in the United States. More »
For many high school seniors, it’s that time of year when the search for colleges is wrapping up—or, for juniors, is just beginning. Whether you’re interested in comparing university stats, finding out how affordable college will be, or comparing your test scores against your peers, Wolfram|Alpha has some valuable tools to help you pick the right school. More »
Happy Hispanic Heritage month! To celebrate, Wolfram|Alpha would like to spread some Hispanic computational knowledge! We’ve got some pretty nifty geographical gems to show you. More »
Though summer’s winding down in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s not too late to take a trip out to your local amusement park. We’ve added a bunch of new amusement park data to Wolfram|Alpha, so whether you’re plotting your vacation or just hoping to learn some cool facts about your favorite rides, we’re sure to have a query that’ll give you a thrill. More »
For many of us, the end of summer is a time of change. You might be going to college, starting a new year of school, or taking a new job. Even if you’re not, there’s a decent chance that you’re still meeting some new friends and living a little bit differently in general. We’ve previously looked at what Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook can tell us about the evolution of our society, but we can also use Personal Analytics to inform us about how we change over time as individuals. More »
Today is National Tooth Fairy Day, a day where we can be reminded to take good care of our teeth, and in the event we’re young and some fall out, to put them under our pillows for magic money. I once heard that the source of this magic money is from some sort of self-described guardian, but I’ve never actually met him or her. More »
Superlatives, like hyperbole, are my favorite thing. So it is with the greatest excitement that I am devoting this blog post to superlatives and range searching, as Wolfram|Alpha has again expanded its functionality in these areas.
I once heard from an actor pretending to be a scientist that the denser an element is, the better that element is for fighting terrible monsters. I cannot speak on the accuracy of that statement, as I am not an actor pretending to be a scientist, but if you wanted to apply superlatives to chemistry, Wolfram|Alpha can do that. More »
Since President Reagan declared it in 1987, every third week in November in the United States is celebrated as Geography Awareness Week. Related to that, one of my favorite novels—Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy—is coming to cinemas today. Thanks to Wolfram|Alpha, I’ll be able to discuss these two seemingly unrelated things with you. My nerdy dream has finally come true.
If you’re unfamiliar with Anna Karenina, I won’t spoil the content, but suffice it to say that Anna is a Russian socialite and aristocrat whose lover, Count Alexei Vronsky, due to various reasons best discovered on your own, takes her across Europe, later returning to Russia. There’s a lot of discussion about ethics and morality, with some deeply flawed characters making interesting if non-ideal decisions, to say the least. What matters for this blog post, though, is that Anna visits a bunch of places. And she’s from Russia, which is huge. It’s about the size of Pluto. More »
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. More »
Today is the summer solstice—when the Sun is at its more northern point—which marks the first day of summer, as well as the longest day in 2012. It’s a great day to go outside and take advantage of all the extra sunlight, and also a good time to take a look at all of the computations Wolfram|Alpha can do revolving around the Sun.
It sounds like the setup for a stereotypical horror movie, but it’s a true story: a lone traveler—the founder of a major software company and the creator of an innovative computational knowledge engine—driving on a dark and unfamiliar road. A rental car running low on gas. It’s the 21st century, of course, so he’s got GPS—but the last few gas stations it directed him to were shuttered for the night. Should he take his chances with the next station recommended by the GPS? Should he pull over on a spooky, moonless country road and try to call other stations in the desperate hope that someone answers his call?
Well, maybe. Or he could just ask the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone or Android App “Where’s the nearest open gas station?”
We’ve blogged before about international food consumption data in Wolfram|Alpha, and queries about this data have proved to be a favorite among our users, with good reason: it’s fascinating to explore the world’s food supply and to visualize trends in consumption. In an attempt to fill in a more complete picture of global agricultural trends, we’ve added more data from the FAO—this time covering food production, harvest, and crop yields around the world. More »
A few weeks ago, we pointed out some new additions to Wolfram|Alpha from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database, primarily focused on labor and employment around the world. We’ve also incorporated data about doing business in most countries, collected by a World Bank project called, appropriately, “Doing Business”.
This data covers a wide range of issues, including import/export costs, business tax rates, and the time required to complete various business-related activities. Try the following examples to get a better sense of the breadth of this dataset:
- Export costs in Brazil vs. Argentina »
- New businesses registered in Japan vs. India »
- Credit bureau coverage in Asia »
- Europe total business tax rate »
- How much does it cost to start a business in India, Mexico, Singapore »
- Time required to start a business »
Wolfram|Alpha can also rank countries according to a number of business-related indices. Ask about the ease of doing business in Eurozone countries, for example, and you’ll see that Ireland and Greece occupy the ends of this spectrum. In this case, a higher index score indicates a regulatory environment that is generally unfriendly to business operation; in light of Greece’s recent economic woes, it should come as no surprise to see that country at the bottom of the list. (Note that for all the properties in this dataset, you can click the “Definition” button in the input interpretation or in other pods to get more details on each property.)
New York City. Los Angeles. Chicago. Each of these cities is renowned for a diverse array of cultural, entertainment, culinary, and other experiences—as well as for legendary traffic delays. But just how bad do native commuters have it? And if you drive to work in a different city, how does your commute stack up? Wolfram|Alpha can’t yet guide you through the traffic, but it can visualize and compare statistics about traffic and urban transportation in more than 100 US urban areas, with data from the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report.
Ask Wolfram|Alpha about traffic in NYC, LA, and Chicago, for example, to see how they compare:
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.
By popular demand, Wolfram|Alpha recently expanded population data for most of the world’s countries, based in part on statistics from the United Nations Population Division. Populations are shaped by factors such as disease, war, genocide, and famine as well as more benign phenomena such as immigration. One of the more common user requests in this area has been to support queries like “China population distribution”, which now returns an age pyramid and detailed table of population by age and sex:
You can also query for specific age groups, as indicated on the pyramid, or just query for a single age, and Wolfram|Alpha will return data for the appropriate five-year age “bin”:
If you’re concerned about the US economy, you probably caught last week’s news that Standard & Poor’s Case–Shiller home price index for 20 large cities continued to decline in January. If you’re curious to know more about recent housing trends in the US, you can not only ask Wolfram|Alpha about the 20-city index, but also for details on any of the major metropolitan areas included in that composite. For example, query “Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Miami Case–Shiller index”, and you can see just how big the housing “bubble” was in each of these four cities.
As kids start to return to classes after the holidays, we’re happy to announce that Wolfram|Alpha has the ability to compute some interesting information about their school districts. You can now use Wolfram|Alpha to analyze and compare data on student-teacher ratios, expenditures, revenues, and salaries in more than 18,000 public school districts in the United States.
Let’s start with an example on the West Coast: Seattle Public Schools is one of the larger districts in the country, with over 100 schools and more than 45,000 students. The student-teacher ratio is 18:1, and if you scroll down you’ll see that total expenditures are about $14,000 per student per year.
Renowned physicist Enrico Fermi’s name is synonymous with a type of estimation problem often illustrated by the classic question, “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?” Finding a “Fermi estimate” of this number would typically involve multiplying a series of rough estimates, such as the population of Chicago, an approximate number of households owning pianos, the frequency with which a typical piano might be tuned, and so on. It’s unlikely that anyone would arrive at a precise, correct answer through this method, but a Fermi estimate should at least be able to generate an answer that is approximately the right order of magnitude.
A Fermi estimate usually seeks to measure a quantity that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to actually measure. “Piano tuners in Chicago” may have fallen into that category several decades ago, but as Wolfram|Alpha can now demonstrate, things have changed:
We recently overhauled our data on jobs and salaries in the United States, adding Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on more than 800 detailed occupations at the national, state, and metropolitan area levels. Which means Wolfram|Alpha can’t quite get you to an exact measurement of the number of piano tuners in Chicago (and presumably, many of them must at least dabble in other instruments), but it can come surprisingly close.
Wolfram|Alpha can also compute a number of interesting statistics that aren’t obvious from the source data, such as the fact that Chicago has quite a high density of musical instrument tuners and repairers—roughly 2.3 times the national average workforce fraction for this occupation—and that their median wage is roughly 1.3 times the national average. And it can also provide helpful context for any occupation, computing employment and wage information for related jobs and sub-specialties, according to BLS classifications.
You can also perform all kinds of interesting comparisons, of course: try asking Wolfram|Alpha to “compare producers and actors employment in California”, for example, or “garbage collectors vs waiters salaries in New York City”. Or if you’re contemplating a cross-country move, you might be interested to see a comparison between “computer programmers salaries in Seattle vs Philadelphia”.
And if you need to access salary and job-related data often, you can create your own Wolfram|Alpha Widgets tailored for specific jobs and regions. You can easily customize widgets, like the one below, and embed them in your website and share with your social networks.
This Sunday, July 11, is World Population Day—an event established in 1989 by the United Nations to raise awareness of global population issues. This year, the emphasis is on the 2010 World Population and Housing Census Programme and the importance of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data in a way that supports good health and social policy development.
In the past few months, we’ve added a variety of international data sets to Wolfram|Alpha, such as data on food consumption and worldwide health indicators. But Wolfram|Alpha launched with an enormous collection of global socioeconomic data, much of it from the UN and other authoritative repositories of international statistics, and we’ve continued to expand and curate that collection.
As we’ve said before, we’re committed to “democratizing data”—to making it easier for everyone to access and understand the wealth of important data produced by a multitude of sources. For good examples of our own ability to analyze and disseminate relevant socioeconomic data, try some of the following queries pertaining to topics from past and present World Population Days:
- All countries’ population in 1900 »
- All countries’ population in 2050 »
- Poverty in all countries »
- Female literacy in all countries »
- Life expectancy in all countries »
We’ll soon be introducing some new functionality that will give “power users” the ability to do more advanced analysis and comparison of properties between groups of countries, and in other knowledge domains. And as always, if you’d like to see additional data in Wolfram|Alpha, please send us your suggestions.
PS: If you’re interested in the absolute latest information on world population, try asking Wolfram|Alpha for the current world population. Reload that page in your browser a few times and see how fast that number is going up!
Here at Wolfram|Alpha, we’re busy curating new data and knowledge from around the world. And as new data rolls in, we’re exploring how it might connect and provide insights to existing datasets. Since the launch of Wolfram|Alpha you’ve been able to explore a number of properties for cities, such as population, geographic properties, location and map coordinates, current local time and weather, economic properties, crime rates, and more. Now, thanks to a recent coupling between people and city data, Wolfram|Alpha can not only tell you that Memphis, Tennessee is the Home of the Blues, but it can also tell you that it’s the birth and/or death place of notable people such as the King of Rock ‘n Roll Elvis Presley and civil rights activist Martin Luther King.
At the present time Wolfram|Alpha contains deaths and births for some 38,000 notable people from around the world in places such as Cape Town, South Africa and Oxford, United Kingdom. Are you wondering where all of the data for notable people in Beijing, China and some other cities is hiding? Given the busy nature of birth and death data, we’re reaching out to Wolfram|Alpha volunteers who are contributing to the project with information from their parts of the world. Did you notice missing data on notable people from your area? You can help add data to Wolfram|Alpha by signing up to become a volunteer. Check out this recent blog post profiling the work of a few dedicated Wolfram|Alpha volunteers.
Since Wolfram|Alpha‘s launch in May 2009, one of its most talked-about features has been its ability to compute specific answers to questions about math, chemistry, economics, demographics, and much more. But as its knowledge base continues to grow, it’s also able to highlight interesting and useful connections between data sets, and to reveal information that you might not think to ask for on your own.
One of the coolest examples of this is our recently enhanced relocation calculator. For several months, we’ve been able to answer simple questions about the relative cost of living in various United States cities and metropolitan areas. If you told Wolfram|Alpha that you were relocating from Seattle to Miami with a salary of $35000, you’d get a comparison of the relative cost of groceries, housing, and other expenses in each city, plus an estimate of the salary required to maintain a comparable standard of living in your destination city. On its own, this is a useful little calculator—but it’s also something that dozens of other websites could do.
But because Wolfram|Alpha knows tons of other details about any given city, our relocation calculator can now do things that no other site can. In addition to salary and cost-of-living comparisons, you now get comparisons of each city’s population, median home sale prices, unemployment rates, crime rates, sales taxes, traffic congestion, and climate—a useful sampling of current and historical comparative data for anyone contemplating a move.
We’ll highlight similar enhancements as they are released. And as always, we welcome your suggestions for new data, or new ways of looking at existing data, in any domain covered by Wolfram|Alpha.
Saturday’s massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile has captured the attention and concern of the world community. The area continues to be plagued by dozens of smaller quakes including at least nine of magnitude 6.0 or higher.
Below is a timeline of earthquake activity in Chile over the last 72 hours. Wolfram|Alpha‘s earthquake data is updated every six minutes with information reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS reports activity within 30 minutes of most seismic events worldwide.
In addition to the map and timeline, the output shows the top three earthquakes (ranked in decreasing order of magnitude) within the past 72 hours, and clicking the “More” button will pull up information on the lower-magnitude shocks. Furthermore, you can see exact coordinates by clicking the “Show coordinates” button.
If you’re monitoring quake activity in Chile or other parts of the world, you will find Wolfram|Alpha useful for exploring a single event or series of events by time, location, and magnitude.
Happy birthday, George Washington! In case you’d forgotten, President’s Day in the United States isn’t actually celebrated on George Washington’s birthday: since 1971, it has fallen on the 3rd Monday in February, which means it’s always at least one day short of the first president’s actual birthday, February 22.
As you might imagine for a man referred to as “the father of the country,” the name “Washington” has taken on a life of its own—and as such, it provides a good opportunity to see how Wolfram|Alpha deals with cases where a single word can be interpreted in many different ways.
Type “Washington” on its own, and you’ll learn that the word could refer to a city, a U.S. state, a surname, a specific person, or a given name. For users in the United States, Wolfram|Alpha will assume you’re talking about the nation’s capital, and then give a list of alternate cities ranked by a combination of population, distance from your current location, and general popularity. But if you’re in the United Kingdom, the default assumption will be a place closer to home:
When you ask more-specific questions about “Washington”, Wolfram|Alpha is usually able to make even-more-intelligent assumptions about which Washington you really want know about. Ask for “distance from seattle to washington” and you’ll get the great-circle distance between two cities. Try to “compare virginia and washington“, and you’ll get a stat-by-stat comparison of the two U.S. states. Ask Wolfram|Alpha “when was Washington born?” and the result is the first U.S. president’s birthday; try “washingtons in 1900” and you’ll discover that about 28 U.S. residents were given that first name that year, or ask about “washington as a last name” and Wolfram|Alpha will reveal that more than 160,000 people had that last name in the 2000 U.S. Census. More »
New curated data flows into Wolfram|Alpha every day. One addition that we haven’t highlighted before is crime data from the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, including historical information on crimes and crime rates for all 50 states and thousands of individual cities.
A simple query for “U.S. Crime” will return the nation’s overall crime rate (the number of crimes per 100,000 people) and details on individual categories of violent and property crimes.
But Wolfram|Alpha’s true strength shows when you perform more-advanced comparisons and computations. For example, try comparing the crime statistics for two cities, such as “Crime Seattle vs. New York”; you can see clearly that although crime rates have fallen gradually over the last fifteen years, Seattle’s crime rate has maintained a level around 2.5 times that of New York City. More »
When we launched Wolfram|Alpha in May 2009, it already contained trillions of pieces of information—the result of nearly five years of sustained data-gathering, on top of more than two decades of formula and algorithm development in Mathematica. Since then, we’ve successfully released a new build of Wolfram|Alpha’s codebase each week, incorporating not only hundreds of minor behind-the-scenes enhancements and bug fixes, but also a steady stream of major new features and datasets.
We’ve highlighted some of these new additions in this blog, but many more have entered the system with little fanfare. As we near the end of 2009, we wanted to look back at seven months of new Wolfram|Alpha features and functionality.
If you caught Monday night’s Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers American football game, then you certainly noticed the new Cowboys Stadium, which is one of the largest domed stadiums and has the largest single-span roof structures in the world. As a tribute to this monumental building, we want to take a moment to point out some of the cool comparisons that Wolfram|Alpha computes automatically whenever you type in a specific measurement or quantity.
The stadium’s roof, for example, measures 660,800 square feet. Type that figure into Wolfram|Alpha, and you’ll discover that it’s just slightly larger than another, possibly more familiar monument:
Each exterior arch of the stadium weighs 3,255 tons, which Wolfram|Alpha instantly computes as measuring a little bit more than the space shuttle’s launch mass, but just one-quarter of the mass of trash produced each day in New York City, or one-ninth the mass of the Titanic:
And those arches are an incredible 292 feet tall—greater than the length of a Boeing 747-400, and just shy of the length of the football field they cover:
For virtually any measurement or conversion query, Wolfram|Alpha will return a variety of dynamically computed comparisons like these. Try out a few of your own (like your age, height, and weight, for example) and let us know if you get any surprising results.
Yesterday an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 struck the South Pacific, near the Samoan islands. Wolfram|Alpha’s earthquake feed immediately brought information on that quake into the system, and continues to pick up data on aftershocks in the region. Here’s the latest 24-hour view of earthquake activity within 250 miles of Upolu, one of the Samoan islands devastated by the resulting tsunami.
(The image below reflects activity within the 24 hours before this post was written; click the image for current information.)
That earthquake in the South Pacific was the largest quake in the past 24 hours, but not the only one. Today there have been several other major quakes near Indonesia, including one of magnitude 7.6, and smaller quakes near China.
(The image below reflects worldwide earthquake activity within the 24 hours before this post was written; click the image for current information.)
Does this summer seem hotter than last year’s? Are you debating between a trip to Miami or Florence in the springtime? Or perhaps heading to Tokyo in November, and wondering how to pack? Wolfram|Alpha has a number of helpful tools to answer your weather questions, by retrieving current conditions, forecasts, and historical data from weather stations located all over the world.
For example, simply enter “weather” into the computation bar, and Wolfram|Alpha’s geoIP capabilities identify your approximate location and produce the latest records from your nearest weather station. The “Latest recorded weather” pod may feature information like the current temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and conditions, such as clear, thunderstorms, or fog. Go ahead and click here to give it a try for your area.
Baseball is the great American pastime. We’re at the midpoint of the Major League Baseball season, and fans are gearing up for the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be played on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 in Saint Louis, Missouri. For baseball fans, this “Midsummer Classic” embodies much of what there is to love about baseball: a night at the park, hot dogs and Cracker Jacks, and top players from American and National League teams all on one diamond. But what we at Wolfram|Alpha love about baseball are all of the fast statistics that can be quickly computed and returned as easy-to-read graphs.
Wolfram|Alpha contains statistics and history for Major League Baseball teams’ wins, losses, pitching and batting histories, and more, from 1960–2008. This information allows you to easily compute statistics for a single season, or graph a visual history over decades. More »
We have been highlighting ways Wolfram|Alpha can be a part of your daily life, and we think you will find it a great addition to your other travel resources. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, Wolfram|Alpha can become a part of your planning by providing essential data.
Let’s say you live in San Francisco, California and want to fly to Miami, Florida. Type “San Francisco airports” into Wolfram|Alpha, and your results conveniently include the airport code “SFO” for the San Francisco International Airport. You can use Wolfram|Alpha to instantly access all codes for all U.S. airports, even those as obscure as 11II. Results also list elevation of the airport, number of runways, local time, and other nearby airports in case you want to search for better alternatives for your departure and arrival cities.
There’s new data flowing into Wolfram|Alpha every second. And we’re always working very hard to develop the core code and data for the system. In fact, internally, we have a complete new version of the system that’s built every day. But before we release this version for general use, we do extensive validation and testing.
In addition to real-time data updates, we’ve made a few changes to Wolfram|Alpha since its launch three weeks ago. But today, as one step in our ongoing, long-term development process, we’ve just made live the first broad updates to the core code and data of Wolfram|Alpha. More »
It’s 3am on the East Coast and we can see from the sampling of our geoIP data that plenty of people are awake and using Wolfram|Alpha. Here’s a sample of 5 seconds on the map:
Europe is just starting to wake up on a Monday morning and our query rate is starting to climb.