Summer has drawn to a close, and so too have our annual internships. Each year Wolfram welcomes a new group of interns to work on an exciting array of projects ranging all the way from Bell polynomials to food science. It was a season for learning, growth, and making strides across disciplinary and academic divides. The Wolfram interns are an invaluable part of our team, and they couldn’t wait to tell us all about their time here. Here are just a few examples of the work that was done. More »
Ever wondered what someone with an IQ higher than Einstein’s and a penchant for hacking into NASA might be capable of? If so, you’re in luck. CBS will air the pilot for its brand new series Scorpion, and Wolfram|Alpha will be live-tweeting it this Monday, September 22, at 9/8c. This highly anticipated premiere, starring Elyes Gabel and Katharine McPhee, kicks off a thrilling action drama about a group of super-geniuses brought together by Walter O’Brien to act as the last line of defense in a series of complex threats arising in the modern world. The Scorpion team are taking the next step in proving that the contemporary superhero’s best accessory isn’t a cape, but a laptop. More »
It’s been many years in the making, and today I’m excited to announce the launch of Mathematica Online: a version of Mathematica that operates completely in the cloud—and is accessible just through any modern web browser.
In the past, using Mathematica has always involved first installing software on your computer. But as of today that’s no longer true. Instead, all you have to do is point a web browser at Mathematica Online, then log in, and immediately you can start to use Mathematica—with zero configuration.
Here’s what it looks like:
Photography by Tracy Howl and Paul Clarke
Has our newfound massive availability of data improved decisions and lead to better democracy around the world? Most would say, “It’s highly questionable.”
Conrad Wolfram’s TEDx UK Parliament talk poses this question and explains how computation can be key to the answer, bridging the divide between availability and practical accessibility of data, individualized answers, and the democratization of new knowledge generation. This transformation will be critical not only to government efficiency and business effectiveness—but will fundamentally affect education, society, and democracy as a whole.
Wolfram|Alpha and Mathematica 10 demos feature throughout—including a live Wolfram Language generated tweet.
Spring has officially sprung in the Northern Hemisphere, which means two things right about now: 1) for most schools and students, spring break will be starting within the next few weeks, and 2) summer is right around the corner. Looking for a rewarding way to spend yours? Suggest a topic area you think Wolfram|Alpha should cover—on a subject relevant to a broad audience—and we just might invite you to work on it as a summer intern. More »
Happy New Year! What are your resolutions for 2014? Here’s one of ours: to make sure the rest of your academic year is the best and most successful that it can be. Why? Because you’re awesome and you deserve it! More »
Connected devices are central to our long-term strategy of injecting sophisticated computation and knowledge into everything. With the Wolfram Language we now have a way to describe and compute about things in the world. Connected devices are what we need to measure and interface with those things. More »
Even our biggest Wolfram|Alpha fans may have missed some of the stories we’ve shared this year—but here’s your chance to catch up! Without further ado, our 10 most popular Wolfram|Alpha Blog posts from 2013 More »
If you’re a big music fan (and who isn’t?), you’ve probably been carrying around a lot of the lyrics to your favorite songs and albums in your head. It’s unlikely that you get the chance to show off that expertise very often, though–but now’s your chance! Cash in your music knowledge for cool Wolfram prizes in the Alpha Albums contest. More »
‘Tis the season to inspire your loved ones to unleash their inner computational genius! Get ahead of your holiday shopping with these holiday promotions from Wolfram|Alpha More »
A new partnership between Wolfram Research and the Raspberry Pi Foundation makes the Wolfram Language and Mathematica—the underlying technologies for Wolfram|Alpha—available on the Raspbian OS and they will soon be bundled as part of the standard system software for every Raspberry Pi computer. More »
Computational knowledge. Symbolic programming. Algorithm automation. Dynamic interactivity. Natural language. Computable documents. The cloud. Connected devices. Symbolic ontology. Algorithm discovery. These are all things we’ve been energetically working on—mostly for years—in the context of Wolfram|Alpha, Mathematica, CDF and so on. More »
By now, most of you students are likely getting into the thick of the academic year, preparing for the first wave of exams and projects and presentations to come your way… But don’t freak out just yet! Here’s a list of Wolfram’s most recent apps and programs that might help make your life a little easier. After all, it never hurts to have a few powerful resources on your side. More »
Getting answers just got a whole lot easier for the BlackBerry set. As mentioned at the recent Wolfram Technology Conference, we’re happy and excited to share that BlackBerry has selected Wolfram|Alpha to provide answers for its Voice Control feature with the 10.2 release of BlackBerry OS. More »
A lot of cool things happened this summer on Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram|Alpha Blog. And just wait—we have even better stuff planned for the coming months! But in case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of some of our best posts from this summer. More »
To celebrate the start of the school year last month, Wolfram|Alpha launched the Set the Curve Contest, where we gave fans a chance to prove they were the nerdiest Wolfram|Alpha user by sharing their word clouds from Facebook Personal Analytics. Our winner would be immortalized in Wolfram|Alpha with the chance to choose a person or figure to be portrayed as our next mathematical curve. More »
The Wolfram Education Team is going all over the United States and even online this fall semester. We are excited to demonstrate new advances in Wolfram technologies and their applications in the classroom. More »
When 11-year-old Jesse Friedman won a programming prize at the Wolfram Technology Conference last year, I pondered the diversity of our global user community—from children to Nobel Prize laureates, from CTOs to astronauts, to the thousands of people on the planet who help the world tick every day using the tools we make. 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!
Today we are introducing our new Clip ’n Share feature. Wolfram|Alpha users can now easily share individual result pods on their favorite social networks.
When you hover over a result pod, an icon tray featuring Wolfram|Alpha Pro functionality will appear. The brand new Clip ‘n Share feature, which is free and easy for anyone to use, is now included at the end of the icon list. More »
We are happy to announce that we have partnered with Samsung to bring Wolfram|Alpha’s computational knowledge to Samsung smartphones. The new GALAXY S III and GALAXY Note will now include the Wolfram|Alpha knowledge base with S Voice and S Note applications.
The Wolfram|Alpha front page has “gone back to the drawing board!” We are excited to unveil the redesigned Wolfram|Alpha front page, filled with interactive, hand-drawn sketches that offer a brand new way to interact and learn with Wolfram|Alpha.
We’ve gone through our Examples page and illustrated some of our favorite queries to provide our users with a brand new way to experience Wolfram|Alpha and learn interesting facts. Each of the nearly 300 custom sketches refers to just one example taken from Wolfram|Alpha’s vast knowledge base, and clicking one will take you directly to a corresponding results page. This not only allows visitors to easily explore a wide variety of knowledge, but it also acts as an interactive starting point for those looking to learn more about the answers Wolfram|Alpha can provide.
Today I’m excited to be able to announce the launch of Wolfram|Alpha Pro—the biggest single step in the development of Wolfram|Alpha since its original introduction.
Over the two and a half years since we first launched, Wolfram|Alpha has been growing rapidly in content and capabilities. But today’s introduction of Wolfram|Alpha Pro in effect adds a whole new model for interacting with Wolfram|Alpha—and brings all sorts of fundamentally new and remarkable capabilities.
Starting today, everyone has access to Wolfram|Alpha Pro at wolframalpha.com. Unlike the “tourist” version of Wolfram|Alpha, though, you have to log in, and, yes, to get full capabilities there’s a subscription ($4.99/month, or $2.99/month for students). (Right now, you can try it for free with a trial subscription.)
So, what does Wolfram|Alpha Pro do?
Most of our users are aware that we release a new version of Wolfram|Alpha every week. Each version includes countless changes—including regular data updates to hundreds of sources, improvements to our natural-language parser and other core frameworks, and completely new areas of coverage. More »
It’s been an exciting year for us here at Wolfram|Alpha, and we wanted to say thank you to all of our loyal blog readers. We thought we would take a look back at 2011 by sharing some of this year’s most popular Wolfram|Alpha Blog posts. This year we saw some exciting content additions, brand-new ways of accessing and interacting with Wolfram|Alpha, and an arsenal of apps for students and professionals alike.
I’m so sad this evening—as millions are—to hear of Steve Jobs’s death. Scattered over the last quarter century, I learned much from Steve Jobs, and was proud to consider him a friend. And indeed, he contributed in various ways to all three of my major life projects so far: Mathematica, A New Kind of Science and Wolfram|Alpha.
Thank you to everybody who submitted a photo as part of our Big Spikey on Campus Contest! We loved seeing all of the creative ways Spikey was used on campuses around the world. It was a tough decision, but we’ve finally chosen the best submissions. Each of the winners will be contacted through Twitter or Tumblr. More »
It’s back to school time again, and we here at Wolfram|Alpha know that a new school year can be expensive for both students and parents. Books, clothes, food, computers—it can all add up. That is why we’re giving away free stuff! Over the next two weeks, we will be giving away Wolfram|Alpha merchandise, such as T-shirts, mugs, and our apps, through our Twitter account. In addition to the two weeks of daily giveaways, there is also a chance to win an iPad 2 filled with our apps by participating in the Big Spikey on Campus Contest.
Two weeks ago we made a major announcement: building on technology that we’ve been developing for more than 20 years, we released Computable Document Format (CDF). I think CDF is going to have a big effect on the way all sorts of things can be communicated. Because for the first time it makes it practical to include live computation as a routine part of a document.
There are many important applications of CDF that we’ll no doubt be seeing over the months and years to come. But today I’m pleased to announce an experimental one from us: Wolfram|Alpha with CDF.
Starting today, as soon as you have the free CDF plugin installed (or if you have Mathematica 8 on your system) you can go to the top right-hand corner of the Wolfram|Alpha website, and set CDF on, with the result that Wolfram|Alpha will generate not just a static web page, but instead full CDF output—that you can directly interact and compute with. More »
Now on your Tumblr dashboard, in between animated gifs of cats, fun graphs, and even more pictures of cats, you will find timely data, daily fun facts, and dynamic charts, all computed from Wolfram|Alpha.
Are you already using Wolfram|Alpha to add insight into your Tumblr posts? Be sure to use the official Wolfram|Alpha Tumblr hashtag: #WolframAlpha.
The early development of Wolfram|Alpha showed us that people from diverse domains of knowledge—chemistry, finance, medicine, economics, and many others—were wrestling with many of the same issues: data aggregation and curation, crowd-sourcing, data ontologies, privacy, and more. In 2010, we decided that the leaders of this global data community could benefit from a new forum to share ideas, innovations, and insights into the modern business (and science) of data. And so the Wolfram Data Summit was born, bringing together an elite group of data luminaries for an unprecedented, multidisciplinary conference.
The first annual Data Summit far exceeded our expectations, in the quality of presentations and the intensity of cross-domain debate and discussion. With so many attendees eager to continue this conversation, and so many more data innovators we wanted to invite, we knew we had to make this an annual event.
So we’re pleased to announce that the second annual Wolfram Data Summit will be open to a larger and more diverse group than last year, while maintaining the same high caliber of attendees. We will delve into new topics of general interest—apps and the mobile revolution, social network data, real-time data—while also returning to some of the key themes developed in the first Data Summit and providing more opportunities for open discussion and networking among participants.
More detailed information is available here, including the rapidly filling list of confirmed attendees. Further information, including more details on topics and schedules, will be available soon. The Wolfram Data Summit is an invitation-only event, but interested parties may request an invitation.
It is hard to believe that just two years ago today Wolfram|Alpha was released for free on the web. It’s been another big year for our mission of making all of the world’s knowledge computable. Since Stephen Wolfram’s first annual update, we’ve been introducing curated data at an unprecedented rate, developing new site features and releasing a host of new developer and consumer products.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the new features, products, data, and capabilities we’ve added over the last year. You can explore this list here.
Thank you for making Wolfram|Alpha’s second year an exciting and creative time. We can’t wait to show you what’s next.
Today, in conjunction with DuckDuckGo, we are happy to share that Wolfram|Alpha and DuckDuckGo have entered a new phase of our relationship as official partners. As a result of this partnership, DuckDuckGo will expand Wolfram|Alpha integration into its search site and will maintain the now-official Wolfram|Alpha API Perl binding.
Users of the up-and-coming search site DuckDuckGo know that the site is unique because it doesn’t track history, contains less spam, features a cute bow tie-wearing duck, and provides zero-click information that immediately pops up under the search box. Since the release of the Wolfram|Alpha API, DuckDuckGo has been gradually integrating Wolfram|Alpha’s computational knowledge engine into its offerings, providing users with dynamically computed facts.
Our friendship began when Gabriel Weinberg, Founder of DuckDuckGo, volunteered to be an early Wolfram|Alpha tester. He went on to develop the now-official Wolfram|Alpha Perl API binding and began featuring select Wolfram|Alpha functionality on DuckDuckGo.
“Integrating Wolfram|Alpha into DuckDuckGo was a no-brainer decision, as it can provide instant answers for a broad range of general search queries that are otherwise not easy to get answers to. That’s because Wolfram|Alpha does deep processing of a lot of non-web datasets”, said Weinberg.
“Our primary goal with the launch of version 2 of the API in January was to open Wolfram|Alpha to all developers and their broad spectrum of clever ideas”, said Wolfram|Alpha’s Schoeller Porter, Architect, Developer Relations. “Gabriel and DuckDuckGo exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit by integrating Wolfram|Alpha’s computed knowledge into web search in a compelling, relevant, and ingenious way. We’re excited to be a part of DuckDuckGo’s continued growth”. More »
We’ve been having so much fun over the past few months hunting for fun facts in Wolfram|Alpha that we thought it was time to give @WolframFunFacts its very own space in the Twitterverse.
For those of you who are new to Wolfram Fun Facts, they are unique facts computed from Wolfram|Alpha’s trillions of pieces of data. All of this knowledge is built upon a computational engine that allows us to mash up topic areas such as people, finance, dates, and more to do impressive, if not outrageous, computations.
Here are just a few fun fact samples we’ve discovered in Wolfram|Alpha:
- It would require 8.4×10^11 gallons of paint to cover the surface of the moon
- If driving a car at 60 miles per hour, it will take 11.18 million years to travel one light year
- The average American consumes 125.6 lbs of potatoes per year
- The probability that two people in a 23-person room share the same birthday is 0.51
We’ll be sharing all of the fun facts that we, and you, discover every day. Follow @WolframFunFacts and tweet us your favorite #funfact!
It is immediately clear to anyone who has used the site that Wolfram|Alpha knows a lot about mathematics. When computing integrals, sums, statistics, properties of mathematical objects, or a myriad of other mathematical and mathematics-related problems, it typically returns an extensive and exhaustively complete result. Which is of course not surprising, given that Wolfram|Alpha has the entire power and knowledge of Mathematica behind it, especially when combined with the fact that this native “smarts” is further augmented with large amounts of curated data and customized processing.
However, many visitors to the site have noted in the past that Wolfram|Alpha had relatively little computable knowledge about mathematical terms themselves, a state of affairs in contrast to its knowledge of words in the English language, and perhaps surprising in light of the existence of another Wolfram site devoted to the definition and description of terms in mathematics, namely MathWorld.
As readers of MathWorld likely already know, the entire MathWorld website is written and built using Mathematica. It has therefore been possible to programmatically process the entire 13,000+ entries comprising MathWorld into the native data format of Wolfram|Alpha, thus exposing its content in more computable form.
As an example of the sort of new knowledge this confluence brings to Wolfram|Alpha, consider the input “Lorenz attractor”. In the past, this would simply bring up a Wolfram|Alpha future topic page.
With the incorporation of MathWorld content, the default parse now goes to a description of the attractor, complete with an illustrative figure and some helpful typeset equations:
Today we unveiled a new look on the wolframalpha.com site. We decided the website needed to be reorganized to allow expansion for upcoming consumer, enterprise, and developer products. 2011 is going to be an exciting year for Wolfram|Alpha!
When visiting the site you’ll notice an updated version of your home page. Once you’re there, “take a quick tour”, visit the newly redesigned product pages, and explore resources and tools.
You may have noticed that we’re developing new features on the results pages, too. One of those features is “linked results”. For example, enter a query for “Chicago”. Notice the blue underlined links? Click one to dig deeper into Wolfram|Alpha and see more related information.
We’re also developing “dog-ear peelbacks”. Hover over the dog-ear in the left corner of each pod to uncover how you can save the contents of the pod as an image or copyable plaintext.
The site’s new look is just the first of many new things to come here at Wolfram|Alpha. We’re looking forward to sharing them with you!
Contestants in Wolfram|Alpha’s Deck the Halls with Facts & Knowledge Holiday Gift-Away have been busy submitting their favorite Wolfram|Alpha fun facts, assembling their free Wolfram|Alpha Spikey paper sculpture kits, and snapping photos for the vote-off. Now you get to decide who will win!
Now through January 3, 2011, you can vote once per day for your favorite entry. Your votes will help the 500 contestants win great gifts, such as Mathematica Professional (value: $2495), an iPad, Wolfram mobile apps, and much more! Oh, and you could be one of the random lucky voters to win one of the newly inked Wolfram|Alpha Spikey T-shirts—not available anywhere else—in our daily drawings!
Contestants, here are a few helpful tips to help your entry climb the charts. First, be sure to vote every day! Then use the built-in sharing tools to ask your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to vote for your entry once per day, every day! Be sure to let them know how they can win, too!
If you are a contestant who’s still waiting for your Spikey to arrive, no worries; you can upload your Spikey photo to the gallery anytime through January 3, 2011.
Winners will be announced here and on the website on January 5, 2011. Now jump over to the gallery to vote for your favorite entry!
It has been a magical year here at Wolfram|Alpha, so to say thank you to our loyal community, and to spread a little holiday cheer, we’re kicking off the Wolfram|Alpha Deck the Halls with Facts and Knowledge Holiday Gift-Away
Beginning today, we’re gifting away highly sought after Wolfram|Alpha Spikey sculpture kits to the first 500 people to submit their favorite Wolfram|Alpha fun facts!
But the giving doesn’t end there! If you’re one of the first 500 winners, you can upload a fun photo of your Wolfram|Alpha Spikey to the contest’s photo gallery. And then ask your friends and social networks to vote for your entry every day from December 15, 2010 to January 3, 2011. (Be sure to let them know they can win Wolfram|Alpha T-shirts just for voting!)
The 25 entries with the highest vote totals can win a copy of Mathematica Professional (valued at $2495), an iPad (valued at $499), Wolfram mobile apps, T-shirts, laptop skins, and other gifts. And because the contest is limited to the first 500 people, your chance of winning is shiny and bright!
So, what is a Wolfram|Alpha fun fact? A Wolfram|Alpha fun fact is a unique Wolfram|Alpha result that has some cultural or scientific significance, one which you’ve likely never stumbled upon anywhere else on the web. Here are a few sample submissions to get your wheels turning:
- There are 10.3 trillion stars for each human on the planet »
- $3.95 was the price of Apple’s stock on the day Mark Zuckerberg
was born »
- Calories in 1 short ton of fruitcake = 2.9×10^6 »
- Riding a sleigh around the Earth in a single day would require the sleigh to travel at 1,037 miles per hour »
- “Snowmen” has a Scrabble score of 12. FTW! »
To get started, find a fun or interesting fact in Wolfram|Alpha, and then dash over to the Deck the Halls with Facts and Knowledge Holiday Gift-Away contest page to submit your entry today! Follow @Wolfram_Alpha on Twitter for contest updates and the official hashtag #holidayspikey for fun facts and photo ideas from fellow Wolfram|Alpha Holiday Gift-Away participants.
Have you ever wanted to contribute to Wolfram|Alpha? Do you have an area of expertise you would like to share with the world? By becoming a volunteer data curator for Wolfram|Alpha, you can help us expand our data and be a part of our initiative to make the world’s knowledge computable.
We’ve now made it easier than ever to contribute with the opening of Volunteer Central, the new landing pad for Wolfram|Alpha volunteers.
Volunteer Central is a place for contributors to get updates, check out new projects, and track their progress. Projects are categorized into challenge areas, which are searchable in the dashboard. After applying for an account on the network and creating a login, you can easily find projects to work on, upload them, and see your completed and in-progress projects all in one place.
Uploading a new project earns you “data points”, which add up in your dashboard. Different levels of data points will earn you badges that you can display proudly on your Facebook page and Twitter, as well as other websites.
We currently have projects in challenge areas ranging from currency data to video game data, and we will be adding new projects on a consistent basis. If you want to contribute, but don’t see a challenge area that interests you, you can suggest it by emailing us.
Volunteer Central is a fun and easy way to contribute to Wolfram|Alpha and connect with other Wolfram|Alpha enthusiasts. Use your passion for data for good and sign up to be a volunteer today!
The inaugural Wolfram Data Summit 2010 has officially drawn to a close. We’d like to thank the presenters and participants for contributing to the success of this year’s conference.
We look forward to sharing more photos and summaries with you next week. In the meantime, we invite you to visit our earlier post, “A Look Inside the Wolfram Data Summit 2010,” and catch up on interesting insights and commentary shared by participants on the Twitter hashtag #WolframSummit.
The Wolfram Data Summit 2010 opened this morning in Washington, DC. The inaugural event brings together key people responsible for the world’s great data repositories to exchange ideas, learn from each others’ experiences, and develop innovative data management strategies for the future.
The summit officially opened this morning with a keynote address from Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram Research CEO and creator of Wolfram|Alpha. Topics being presented and discussed at the summit include data curation methods, automated data collection, data linguistics, crowdsourcing, the democratization of data, and more.
The Wolfram Data Summit 2010 will continue through Friday, September 10. We invite you to follow the Twitter hashtag #WolframSummit to participate in the conversation and to get interesting insights and commentary from Wolfram Data Summit participants.
The creation of large data repositories has been a key historical indicator of social and intellectual development—and indeed perhaps one of the defining characteristics of the whole progress of civilization.
And through our work on Wolfram|Alpha—with its insatiable appetite for systematic data—we have gained a uniquely broad view of the many great data repositories that exist in the world today.
Some of these repositories are maintained by national or international agencies, some by companies and other organizations, and some by individuals. A few of the repositories are quite new, but many date back 40 or more years, and some well over a century. But there is one thing in common across essentially every great data repository: a core of diligent and committed people who have carefully shepherded its development.
Curiously, though, few of these people have ever met their counterparts in other domains of data. And in our work on Wolfram|Alpha we are almost certainly the first group ever to have had the pleasure of getting to know such a broad range of leaders of great data repositories.
And one of the things that we have discovered is that there is much in common in both the methods used and the issues faced by these data repositories. So as part of our contribution to the worldwide data community we have decided to sponsor a data summit to bring together for the first time the leaders of today’s great data repositories.
The Wolfram Data Summit 2010 will be held in Washington, DC on September 9–10.
Years ago I wondered if it would ever be possible to systematically make human knowledge computable. And today, one year after the official launch of Wolfram|Alpha, I think I can say for sure: it is possible.
It takes a stack of technology and ideas that I’ve been assembling for nearly 30 years. And in many ways it’s a profoundly difficult project. But this year has shown that it is possible.
Wolfram|Alpha is of course a very long-term undertaking. But much has been built, the direction is set, and things are moving with accelerating speed.
Over the past year, we’ve roughly doubled the amount that Wolfram|Alpha knows. We’ve doubled the number of domains it handles, and the number of algorithms it can use. And we’ve actually much more than doubled the amount of raw data in it.
Things seem to be scaling better and better. The more we put into Wolfram|Alpha, the easier it becomes to add still more. We’ve honed both our automated and human processes, progressively building on what Wolfram|Alpha already does.
When we launched Wolfram|Alpha a year ago, about 2/3 of all queries generated a response. Now over 90% do.
So, what are some of the things we’ve learned over the past year? More »
We can hardly believe it, but one year ago today the Wolfram|Alpha Blog said hello to the blogosphere! Since that day we have published 176 posts covering everything from the launch of Wolfram|Alpha to new data and features developed by members of the Wolfram|Alpha Team, and guest posts by fans of Wolfram|Alpha who are introducing the computational knowledge engine into facets of everyday life.
We’d like to thank the authors and commenters who have made this blog the success that it is today. We’d like to invite you and all of our other 3.9 million unique readers back for another amazing year of coverage from the front lines of Wolfram|Alpha. And if you have not done so already, please subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. We hope you’ll celebrate with us by taking a look back through the archives. Please use the comments section below to share links to your favorite posts and suggest future topics.
Happy birthday, Wolfram|Alpha Blog!
Wolfram|Alpha‘s mission to make all of the world’s systematic knowledge computable is an ambitious project.
Even though it isn’t quite one year old, Wolfram|Alpha is actually just the latest in a long line of public computing efforts from Wolfram Research, and the culmination of a lifetime of work by our founder, Stephen Wolfram.
Tune in here on Thursday, April 15, at 3:15pm U.S. central time for a live broadcast from the conference 50 Years of Public Computing at the University of Illinois, where Stephen will be speaking about the scientific pursuits that led him to create Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha.
The university and the Champaign-Urbana community have been the site of many firsts in computing technology; the area has also been the home of Wolfram Research since it was established in 1987, and is the current headquarters of Wolfram|Alpha. After the talk, Stephen will be joined by Wolfram Research co-founder Theodore Gray and Wolfram|Alpha’s Director of Computable Data Initiatives Jean Buck for a live Q&A session.
We hope you’ll join us here to see the live broadcast at 3:15pm U.S. CDT.
Do you want to find out how advances in computational technology are unlocking knowledge assets and shaping the future?
That is the focus of the London Computational Knowledge Summit, being held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London, United Kingdom, on Wednesday, June 9, 2010.
We are bringing people together to discuss how the Wolfram|Alpha approach can unlock knowledge assets and generate new opportunities for the democratization of information.
Check out the summit website for further information and to register to join us!
Don’t forget to encourage your colleagues and contacts to attend.
Are you an educator looking for new ways to grab your students’ attention and liven up your daily lessons? Visit the new Wolfram|Alpha for Educators site, where you’ll find examples, lesson plans, and even videos on how you can incorporate the technology of Wolfram|Alpha into your classroom.
Peruse the video gallery to get a quick introduction to Wolfram|Alpha, and hear from educators and students who are using it in lectures, activities, and research projects. From there take a peek at one of the many lesson plans, in subject areas such as science, mathematics, and social studies. Once you get the hang of it, you can even submit your own lesson plans to share with other educators.
This site also points to many other Wolfram educational resources, including the Wolfram Demonstrations Project and MathWorld. We have even set up an Education group on the Wolfram|Alpha Community site so that you can connect with other educators.
So the next time you want to do something new and different in your classroom, check out Wolfram|Alpha for Educators to spark your imagination.
At Wolfram|Alpha, our mission is to make all the world’s systematic knowledge available, accessible, and computable.
The number-one priority of our new Managing Director, Barak Berkowitz, is to get Wolfram|Alpha in the hands of everyone. It’s all about ubiquity. This is an exciting time.
To date, we’ve focused on improving the Wolfram|Alpha experience, refining the processes we use to incorporate new information into the system, experimenting with Wolfram|Alpha on mobile devices, and solidifying programmatic access through the API.
As we approach the anniversary of the launch of Wolfram|Alpha, we’ll be moving into Wolfram|Alpha’s next phase, centered on growth—increasing the exposure and use of Wolfram|Alpha both by individuals seeking knowledge and by developers building computational knowledge into their applications in interesting ways. We want Wolfram|Alpha to become ubiquitous.
The first step in this process is to improve Wolfram|Alpha’s accessibility on smartphones and other mobile devices that are increasingly an integral part of one’s online experience. Today we’re launching the mobile Wolfram|Alpha website, http://m.wolframalpha.com. The new mobile website is a big step forward from the landing page it replaces, having been engineered from the ground up for the new generation of touch-screen smartphones while enabling access to Wolfram|Alpha from earlier handheld devices that have difficulty with the main website.
In addition to the mobile website, we’ve changed the price of the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch to $1.99, down from $49.99.
Many, if not most, of our mobile customers tell us that the app is their preferred way of using Wolfram|Alpha. However, if you happen to be one of the few early adopters who aren’t happy with the app, you can request a refund.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will make a series of announcements that continue the push toward our ultimate goal—putting Wolfram|Alpha everywhere. As we enter the age of ubiquity for Wolfram|Alpha, we look forward to seeing and hearing how you make use of computational knowledge in your life.
The Wolfram|Alpha Community is the hub for conversation about using Wolfram|Alpha in areas such as education, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, engineering, and a wide variety of other subjects. You can also share your thoughts with other users and the Wolfram|Alpha Team in the Ideas & Suggestions, Bugs, and How-To forums.
Today we’re releasing the first issue of the Wolfram|Alpha Community Newsletter to keep you connected and up to speed with the latest news and discussions surrounding the world’s first computational knowledge engine.
If you’re already a member of the Wolfram|Alpha Community, you can look forward to receiving a weekly digest highlighting the hottest member-generated topics, news updates from the Wolfram|Alpha Blog, the Community’s top contributors and newest members, and much more. We would like to thank the active members who have made the Community what it is today, and invite you to join it if you haven’t already done so!
It’s said that everything big happens in Texas! And on Sunday night, Wolfram|Alpha won big at the 13th Annual SXSW Web Interactive Awards in Austin, Texas. Our first win of the night was in the Technical Achievement category, which is awarded to “sites that are re-inventing and re-defining the technical parameters of our online experience”. We were pleasantly surprised to also receive the Best of Show award.
We are grateful for the support shown by our users and members of the technology community this past year, and we can’t wait to share all of the big things Wolfram|Alpha has in store!
Catch Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, this Friday, March 5, from noon–1pm CET, live from CeBIT in Hannover, Germany. Conrad is participating in the “Webciety—Connecting Work & Life” panel discussion with featured guests Anand Agarawala (bumptop.com), Peter Berger (Suite101.com), Kevin Eyres (LinkedIn), and Ralf Gerbershagen (Motorola GmbH). The panel will discuss the impact that Web 2.0 and social networks have had on everyday life.
If you’re unable to attend CeBIT, the digital industry’s largest trade show, you can watch the live broadcast of the panel discussion.
We’ve added a new feature that will come in handy for adding information from Wolfram|Alpha into your next blog post or presentation: you can now easily save results pods from Wolfram|Alpha as GIF images.
Here’s a quick walk-through to get you started. First, enter a query into Wolfram|Alpha, such as “1 cup of oatmeal + ½ cup of milk + 1 tsp of sugar“. You can then save results by right-clicking on the pod you want, then clicking on the “Generate image of output” icon that appears in the lower right corner of the popup pod.
Below is an example of a resulting image: More »
Prior to releasing Wolfram|Alpha into the world this past May, we launched the Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Since our welcome message on April 28, we’ve made 133 additional posts covering Wolfram|Alpha news, team member introductions, and “how-to’s” in a wide variety of areas, including finance, nutrition, chemistry, astronomy, math, travel, and even solving crossword puzzles.
As 2009 draws to a close we thought we’d reach into the archives to share with you some of this year’s most popular blog posts.
Rack ’n’ Roll
Take a peek at our system administration team hard at work on one of the
many pre-launch projects. Continue reading…
The Secret Behind the Computational Engine in Wolfram|Alpha
Although it’s tempting to think of Wolfram|Alpha as a place to look up facts, that’s only part of the story. The thing that truly sets Wolfram|Alpha apart is that it is able to do sophisticated computations for you, both pure computations involving numbers or formulas you enter, and computations applied automatically to data called up from its repositories.
Why does computation matter? Because computation is what turns generic information into specific answers. Continue reading…
Live, from Champaign!
Wolfram|Alpha just went live for the very first time, running all clusters.
This first run at testing Wolfram|Alpha in the real world is off to an auspicious start, although not surprisingly, we’re still working on some kinks, especially around logging.
While we’re still in the early stages of this long-term project, it is really gratifying to finally have the opportunity to invite you to participate in this project with us. Continue reading…
Wolfram|Alpha Q&A Webcast
Stephen Wolfram shared the latest news and updates about Wolfram|Alpha and answered several users’ questions in a live webcast yesterday.
We’re really catching the holiday spirit here at Wolfram|Alpha.
We recently announced our special holiday sale for the Wolfram|Alpha app. Now we are launching our first-ever Wolfram|Alpha “Holiday Tweet-a-Day” contest.
Here’s how it works.
From tomorrow, Tuesday, December 22, through Saturday, January 2, we’ll use Twitter to give away a gift a day. Be the first to retweet our “Holiday Tweet-a-Day” tweet and you get the prize! You can double your chances to win by following and playing along with Wolfram Research.
Start following us today so you don’t miss your chance to win with our Wolfram|Alpha “Holiday Tweet-a-Day” contest.
Popular Science, the world’s largest science and technology magazine, has released its list of the top 100 innovations for 2009, and named Wolfram|Alpha as the “Best of What’s New” Grand Award winner in the category of computing. Popular Science states that all 100 innovations must “push past what we thought was possible,” and we are honored by that recognition.
Popular Science‘s article begins:
“A typical search engine is a reference librarian: Ask it a question and it suggests where to find the answer. Wolfram|Alpha, physicist and software guru Stephen Wolfram’s lifelong labor of love, is the impatient geek who overhears your query and leaps in with the answer.”
The entire text is on the Popular Science website.
The December 2009 issue of Popular Science, which hit newsstands on November 12, also features an in-depth profile on Wolfram|Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram and the process of building the computation engine that today holds more than ten trillion pieces of curated data. More »
Starting today, Wolfram|Alpha’s knowledge, computed from expertly curated data, will enrich Bing’s results in select areas across nutrition, health, and advanced mathematics. Wolfram|Alpha provides immediate, unbiased, and individualized information, making it distinctly different from what has traditionally been found through web search. By using Wolfram|Alpha, Bing recognizes the complementary benefits of bringing computational knowledge to the forefront of the search experience.
By using our API, Bing will be able to seamlessly access the tens of thousands of algorithms and trillions of pieces of data from Wolfram|Alpha, and directly incorporate the computations in its search results.
Microsoft’s initiative and interest in Wolfram|Alpha began earlier this year. In fact, there is an interesting story that circulates within our walls around some of our early discussions with Microsoft.
Highlighting examples of Wolfram|Alpha to the most senior executives at Microsoft, Stephen Wolfram entered the query “2^2^2^2^2”. Upon seeing the result, Bill Gates interrupted to say, “What, is that right?”
A profound silence fell over the entire room.
Stephen replied, “We do mathematics!”
Amused, Stephen, Bill, and the other executives dissected the calculation and determined that the result was, indeed, correct. Microsoft continues to pepper us with questions to this day, reflecting its continued enthusiasm in Wolfram|Alpha.
We applaud Microsoft’s vision and foresight in augmenting their search with Wolfram|Alpha, and we look forward to a fulfilling and productive partnership.
We’ve just returned from our visit to Busan, Korea for the 3rd Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy. We had the pleasure of joining some 1500 people from over 130 countries to discuss this year’s theme, “Charting Progress, Building Visions, Improving Life.” Our visit was quite productive, with many interesting discussions with people from around the world on statistics, Wolfram|Alpha, and Mathematica. We are honored that our booth at the Forum’s International Exhibition received a Visitors’ Choice Award based on visitors’ and exhibitors’ votes.
Wolfram Alpha LLC’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything; and democratize access to knowledge. The Forum provided an opportunity to engage in very interesting conversations with people and organizations from many developing and developed countries who have traditionally struggled with capturing, managing, and most importantly disseminating accurate statistical information to their different stakeholders. More »
The first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day is here! We’re so pleased that you’ve stopped by to join us. This groundbreaking live marathon event runs from noon until 2am U.S. CDT, and is being broadcast live on the Homework Day website. Please visit the site to see the event, browse the program highlights, send your questions to be answered by members of the Wolfram|Alpha team, and even submit your homework examples to be showcased live on the air.
On behalf of the Wolfram|Alpha API team, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API.
The response to Wolfram|Alpha and the interest from the community in using the API to build innovative computational knowledge applications has been staggering. Since Wolfram|Alpha launched in May, developers anticipating the release of the API have been sending us their ideas for how they want to use Wolfram|Alpha in their applications. I stopped counting after the 2000th idea crossed my desk. Overwhelmingly, developers see Wolfram|Alpha as a platform for building a business—providing commercial services that leverage Wolfram|Alpha’s unique capabilities.
We’ve seen interest across a wide range of areas for which the developer community wants to use Wolfram|Alpha—researching cancer through computational biology, augmenting web and meta-web search with computed knowledge, enriching online journalism with interactive content, building artificial intelligence systems on our domain expertise, leveraging our data analysis for decision support, optimizing renewable-energy efficiency, and even determining the optimal temperature for draft beer based on the current weather conditions. Clearly, a straightforward API that enables applications to access advanced computations based on trusted information and backed up by a supercomputer-class infrastructure invites developers to explore ideas that were not otherwise possible.
The API is the first of many products and services within the growing Wolfram|Alpha developer ecosystem, from computed data services to GUI-based tools for building interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate into your website.
The API allows your application to interact with Wolfram|Alpha much like you do on the web—you send a web request with the same query string you would type into Wolfram|Alpha’s query box and you get back the same computed results. It’s just that both are in a form your application can understand. There are plenty of ways to tweak and control the results, as well. You can read all about that in the documentation.
The Wolfram|Alpha developer community has already proved itself to be as involved and imaginative as any. There are two ways to get started and become a part of this vibrant community. First, you can register for an API account and explore and experiment on your own. Or, if you’ve got the next Big Idea(TM), let me know. Let’s see what fresh and ingenuous ways we can apply computational knowledge and change the world.
We are pleased to announce that Dell, Inc. will be a principal sponsor of the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day on October 21, 2009.
Dell, whose hardware system helped power the launch of Wolfram|Alpha this May, is sponsoring Homework Day’s Internet Cafe. During the multi-hour live web event, the Internet Cafe will allow on-site participants to interact and use Dell laptops to explore Wolfram|Alpha’s computational knowledge engine as a cutting-edge learning tool in education.
During Homework Day, scholars, experts, and members of the Wolfram|Alpha team will help participants take on a wide variety of subjects, for K–12 to college and beyond.
Students and educators are invited to submit homework questions and examples to be answered by members of the Wolfram|Alpha team, and showcase how they’ve already been using Wolfram|Alpha to bring their homework to life. Please visit http://homeworkday.wolframalpha.com to learn how you can submit your questions and work examples today. People can tune in to see if their submissions are shown.
Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day begins at noon U.S. CDT on October 21, 2009. The live webcast can be viewed on the Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day site. Students, educators, and parents are invited to interact with each other and the Wolfram|Alpha team via Homework Day chat, Twitter, and Facebook.
We are very pleased by the level of excitement and enthusiasm for the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, being held on October 21, 2009, beginning at noon U.S. CDT. We’re receiving interesting questions about how Wolfram|Alpha can be used to solve your toughest assignments, and submissions from students and educators highlighting how they are already using Wolfram|Alpha to enhance the learning experience. There’s still time for you to get your submission in to be addressed during the live webcast by our team of experts.
What types of examples are Homework Day participants submitting?
- Homework questions in any subject area that could benefit from the computable knowledge that Wolfram|Alpha can generate—math, science, history, social studies, geography, languages, and more!
- Videos and screencasts that show how they’re using Wolfram|Alpha
- Lesson plans and homework activities that incorporate Wolfram|Alpha
Selected Homework Day submissions may be eligible to receive a Wolfram|Alpha T-shirt. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to showcase your work during Homework Day. Visit the Homework Day website to get started!
So you have more Facebook friends than anyone else on campus, the quad is a place where everyone knows your name, and you just happened to ace your business and marketing courses—it sounds like you are the perfect fit for a Wolfram|Alpha marketing internship. We’ve launched this challenging new internship program for talented and ambitious students just like you. It’s an opportunity for you to engage in immediate, real-world marketing experiences, testing out cutting-edge and traditional strategies and methods.
The semester-long internship program will be conducted on college campuses across the United States. The program integrates academic theory and scenario-based practice that puts you in the position of making mid-level business decisions, analyzing marketing campaign results, and reflecting on your campaigns. (Your professors will love this!) More »
We are pleased to announce the arrival of the new and improved Wolfram|Alpha Community site. As Wolfram|Alpha‘s vibrant community has grown, we’ve received helpful feedback, and it was clear that you needed a more expandable platform for sharing ideas and interacting.
The new Community site enables you to talk to each other and share relevant and interesting content. We created some starter groups based on topics we’ve already seen arise around Wolfram|Alpha. If you don’t see the group you are looking for, feel free to post it in the Community. We also created forums for general feedback, including ideas and suggestions, bugs, and how-to’s, so that you can propose and discuss changes and ideas.
In the new Wolfram|Alpha Community you can track individual posts more easily, create polls, send messages to other users, and see who else is online. You can also select views, such as unanswered posts, most active posts, or posts new since your last login. Members can also see a detailed User Panel that lets them view their posting statistics and share contact information with other members.
If you are already a member of the Community, you will receive an email containing a new password, which you can change upon logging in to the new Community site. If you want to become a member, simply go to the Community and select “register” to create a profile so you can begin posting.
We hope that the Wolfram|Alpha Community can continue to be the hub for discussion about Wolfram|Alpha. We would like the thank the active members who have made the Community a success, and invite you to join it if you haven’t already done so!
Time just named Wolfram|Alpha as one of the 50 best websites of 2009. We are delighted to receive this recognition in just our first 100 days. According to journalist Adam Fisher, “Clear out your bookmarks. You’re going to need the space for 50 offerings that are indispensable….”
“Today’s search whiz kid is Stephen Wolfram, one of the biggest brains on the planet—and he’s got the new idea. Wolfram has developed a search engine that can actually understand your questions and try to figure out answers. It takes some doing to learn how to talk to Wolfram|Alpha, but it’s well worth it. If the sci-fi writers are right and the Internet does gain a consciousness of its own someday, we’ll all blame Wolfram.”“The 50 Best Websites of 2009,”
As Stephen Wolfram wrote last week, we’ve been very busy since Wolfram|Alpha’s public launch. We’re constantly working toward our ultimate goal of making all of the world’s knowledge computable, and while we’ve got quite a way to go, we already have many trillion pieces of information available—something of value for everyone.
Thank you for your continued support and feedback. We hope you enjoy Wolfram|Alpha.
So what’s been happening with Wolfram|Alpha this summer? A lot!
At a first glance, the website looks pretty much as it did when it first launched—with the straightforward input field. But inside that simple exterior an incredible amount has happened. Our development organization has been buzzing with activity all summer. In fact, it’s clear from the metrics that the intensity is steadily rising, with things being added at an ever-increasing rate.
Wolfram|Alpha was always planned to be a very long-term project, and paced accordingly. We pushed very hard to get it launched before the summer so that we could spend the “quiet time” of our first summer steadily enhancing it, before more people start using it more intently in the fall.
Two really great things have happened as a result of actually getting Wolfram|Alpha launched. The first is that we’ve discovered that there’s a huge community of people out there who want to help the mission of Wolfram|Alpha. And we’re steadily ramping up our mechanisms for those people to contribute to the project. More »
Are you interested in learning more about Mathematica—the powerful technology engine that makes Wolfram|Alpha possible, from its advanced computational algorithms to web deployment? We are pleased to announce that the International Mathematica User Conference 2009 will be held October 22–24 in Champaign, Illinois, USA. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about Mathematica to meet and hear from Mathematica users from around the globe and all walks of life.
If you’d like to learn more about Mathematica and all it brings to Wolfram|Alpha, we’d love to see you at this year’s conference. Please visit the Wolfram Blog for more details.
If you’re as excited about Wolfram|Alpha as we are, and want to help out, consider becoming a volunteer curator. Our volunteer curators are passionate, enthusiastic people who are committed to gathering and checking data. We realize there is a lot of diverse knowledge across the world, and we want to give you the opportunity to be a part of this exciting project.
Currently we are working with volunteer curators from all over the world on geographical data, but we are open to volunteers with different interests or areas of expertise as well. If you’ve got knowledge or insight into a specific area, we want to hear from you.
Our ongoing volunteer curators receive a complimentary, temporary Mathematica license, with the potential to extend the license for long-term curation. You don’t need to know Mathematica to become a volunteer curator, but you will have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the program if you so choose. Volunteers check data, add data, and help us find new ways in which someone might search for data on Wolfram|Alpha.
There is a wide range of time available for volunteers per week, so whether you’d like to help a little or a lot, we would love to have you as a volunteer contributing to the advancement of Wolfram|Alpha.
If you are interested in become a volunteer curator, fill out our form here. If you have questions about the process, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respond to you as soon as possible and work with you to determine your area(s) of expertise and where you might fit in.
Recently, we had the opportunity to showcase Wolfram|Alpha at a local TECH cocktail event in Champaign, Illinois. Our video team had the camera rolling as people got their first look at Wolfram|Alpha. Here’s what they had to say:
We have been working diligently to add your suggested features to the Wolfram|Alpha Community site, and we are pleased to announce that over the next few days you should notice new features there. We hope these changes improve the usability of the site and encourage new people to join the lively discussions.
One of the more notable improvements is the ability to browse posts by category. Categories are now visible from the main toolbar so you can simply jump to posts that interest you. Whether math, science, education, culture, living, or more, there is a place to post your questions and comments.
We also have a new “resolved” feature for posts that have been successfully addressed by either the Community or the Wolfram|Alpha Team and suggestions that have been implemented on Wolfram|Alpha or the Community site. When you click the “Resolved” button, an email is sent to the Wolfram|Alpha Team suggesting the post is resolved. If the Wolfram|Alpha Team agrees the post has been adequately addressed, the post will then appear under the Resolved tab, available for viewing in just one click.
Other new features include automatically updated pods in the sidebar featuring the most recent posts from the Wolfram|Alpha Team and on the Wolfram|Alpha Blog, improved search, and the Wolfram|Alpha navigation bar at the top of the site.
We plan to make further improvements to the Community, and would love to hear your ideas about how we can make it better. Please post your ideas under the Usability tab on the Wolfram|Alpha Community once it goes live.
We are pleased to announce that Wolfram|Alpha is featured on the cover of the July/August 2009 issue of MIT’s Technology Review magazine. The article provides industry context for the project as well as an inside perspective on the events leading up to the launch. The issue, including an 8-page spread focusing on Wolfram|Alpha, is available online today and should arrive in subscriber mailboxes this week.
The story includes exclusive interviews with Stephen Wolfram and other members of the Wolfram|Alpha team. The following is an excerpt from the piece:
“Williams wasn’t toiling in a redoubt of Silicon Valley Web entrepreneurs but in a midwestern citadel of science geeks: Wolfram Research, in Champaign, IL, housed in an office block overlooking a Walgreens and a McDonald’s. This was the corporate lair of Stephen Wolfram, the physicist and maker of Mathematica, which is generally acknowledged to be the most complete technical and graphical software for mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. Williams was working on something his company was calling a “computational knowledge engine”: Wolfram Alpha. In response to questions, Alpha was meant to compute answers rather than list Web pages. It would consist of three elements, honed by hand in Champaign: a constantly expanding collection of data sets, an elaborate calculator, and a natural-language interface for queries.”
To read more, visit the Technology Review website, or look for the new issue on United States’ newsstands.
The enthusiasm and support from all of our users has been nothing short of inspiring. We will continue to incorporate your suggestions as we keep building Wolfram|Alpha. We invite you to take a look back on our journey through insightful stories that highlight some of the interesting issues and challenges that opened up dialogues among our community of users.
We’re pleased to announce that our own Russell Foltz-Smith, a dynamic member of the Wolfram|Alpha business development team, will be interviewed onstage by Nova Spivack, CEO and founder of Radar Networks, which develops semantic social software such as Twine. The interview is part of a special session at the fifth annual Semantic Technology Conference on Wednesday, June 17 at 12:30pm U.S. PDT in San Jose, California.
The interview will focus on going beyond the recent launch news to discuss what’s “under the hood”, so to speak, as well as what’s on the road map for Wolfram|Alpha over the next few months. Nova and Russell will also explore some of the bigger-picture ramifications of computational knowledge, in areas such as education, science, and even ethics.
Wolfram|Alpha is a fascinating and exciting project. What’s made it possible is the terrific team we’ve built around it. And what will make Wolfram|Alpha even stronger is adding more world-class talent to our team.
We believe our mission to make all of the world’s knowledge computable is an important one. While we’ve come a long way, there’s still plenty of work to do—more knowledge needs to be added and updated and new capabilities need to be introduced. We’re ready now to begin bringing more people on board to help us pursue our goals.
A project like Wolfram|Alpha requires a remarkable spectrum of talents—technologists, content experts in almost every conceivable subject area, business experts… and the list goes on.
We are happy to be adding to our outstanding team as we take Wolfram|Alpha into the future. We hope you’ll consider joining us on our journey.
It is said that ambition is contagious, and it’s clear that our ambitions for Wolfram|Alpha, one of the most complex intelligence projects ever undertaken, is spreading around the globe. In the two weeks since Wolfram|Alpha first went live, an impressive number of users have asked how they can contribute to the development of this long-term project. We are flattered by your enthusiasm, and want you to join the Wolfram|Alpha Project.
Just take a look at the number of people, just like you, who have found a way to contribute their interests to this project.
2849 registered users have contributed to the Wolfram|Alpha Community. The ideas and feedback generated through conversations on the Community are invaluable tools for Wolfram|Alpha developers.
70,000 feedback submissions have been sent (via the feedback field that can be found on every page of the site), providing the Wolfram|Alpha team with critical input on specific content. More »
Wolfram|Alpha continues to be a hot topic in online newspapers and magazines, blogs, Facebook, and beyond. But one of our favorite (and one of the most insightful) places to find chatter about Wolfram|Alpha is on Twitter.
People tweet Wolfram|Alpha results that amaze them. Some suggest features or domains we should add. Others ask questions about how to get the results they want. And what’s really great is to see people tweeting advice and recommendations to other users.
Here are a few of the tweeted results or suggestions that have caught our eyes or amused us:
- @yooklyde: According to Wolfram|Alpha I was born approx. an hour before sunset, during a Full Moon. That last bit explains everything.
- @petervogel: Students in my ICT classes continue to be fascinated with Wolfram Alpha; a given-name analysis seems to hook them.
- @sqjtaipei: cool about the running calories expended… how about other sports… need swimming and cycling. thx.
We really enjoy reading and exploring your updates and responding when we can.
We also like Twittering to show you some of the many uses of Wolfram|Alpha.
We’re highlighting a different feature or input every day. Today, it was seeing stars with Wolfram|Alpha. Others have been such things as how to get tide forecasts, compute fuel usage, and figure out that tough crossword puzzle. Educational, practical, topical, just plain interesting—we’ll share it all. You’ve just got to follow us to find out.
We hope you enjoy the results we showcase. We’ll be watching for your ideas and favorite inputs—so be sure to include #wolframalpha in your next tweet.
Our teams have been working steadily for a long time to make Wolfram|Alpha successful. The content development team is one of the most essential groups in this process. All of us are still pushing to get the best information into Wolfram|Alpha for our users. These photos show some of the content developers during the launch weekend. Thanks to all who have helped!
It’s now a week since we officially launched Wolfram|Alpha into the world.
It’s been a great first week.
Approaching 100 million queries. Lots of compliments.
But for me the most striking thing is how many people want to help Wolfram|Alpha succeed.
Making the world’s knowledge computable is a huge undertaking.
And it’s wonderful to see all the help we’re being offered in doing it.
We’ve worked hard to construct a framework. But to realize the full promise of computable knowledge, we need a lot of input and support. More »
We are so excited about the response to the Wolfram|Alpha Community site in the past week. Nearly 2,000 people have shared questions, ideas, and inputs since it launched on Monday, and many more are finding this forum to be a great place to communicate with others who are exploring Wolfram|Alpha. More »
The feedback has been pouring in since we launched Wolfram|Alpha into the world. As promised, we’re reading all of your comments and we’re responding.
Here are a few of the quick fixes we’ve implemented already:
- Building height comparisons.
- Adding detail to the data on languages spoken in Germany.
- Improving understanding of questions about the distance to the moon.
- Calculating housing prices in New York.
We’ll keep making updates. In the meantime, keep the suggestions coming. It’s your feedback that will help us make Wolfram|Alpha stronger for everyone.
We are constantly monitoring the vital signs of Wolfram|Alpha, and have been since the moment it went live. Traffic has held strong, with a sustained rate of hundreds of requests per second from all continents, and we’re now able to fine-tune our systems in ways that weren’t possible with simulated traffic.
We found that in some regions the site was not as responsive as it could be, and we are now in the process of rebalancing the load and continuing to problem-solve networking issues.
To date, we have made substantial progress on solving issues with our network, DNS, hardware, web server configuration, and databases. More »
Wolfram|Alpha is officially launched!
Wolfram|Alpha went live in test mode at 8:48pm CST on Friday. Our teams worked intensely through the weekend to complete load testing, fix bugs, and begin to address the feedback you have provided—over 22,000 feedback messages. During testing, Wolfram|Alpha processed nearly 23 million queries; by our estimates, approximately 3 out of 4 gave satisfactory results.
By late Sunday night, we were able to test all compute clusters at full capacity.
Today we are officially launching Wolfram|Alpha to the world at large. It has been a very successful weekend of testing and learning. We’re flattered by the positive reception thus far, and we are dedicated to furthering the project with the help of you, our community of users.
To that end we are officially launching the Wolfram|Alpha Community, which allows you to submit questions, ideas, and favorite inputs.
We already have a few static forms to contribute things such as facts, figures, and structured data or algorithms, methods, and models. The Community serves to supplement these types of feedback with a more free-form discussion among all Wolfram|Alpha users.
In the Community, you can vote for items that you feel deserve further attention. We support threaded commenting, unique user profiles, and social sharing via email, Twitter, and Facebook. The Community also allows you to “save” items of interest so that you can track their progress over time.
This crowd-sourced model will help our team here gain a better understanding of what features, improvements, and possibilities the Community thinks are most interesting and worthwhile.
There has been a tremendous amount of useful feedback thus far, and much of that information is being used to make immediate improvements in near real time.
But it is also our hope that the Wolfram|Alpha Community will help make the feedback process more direct and have more impact. The Community will provide us with a mechanism to report back to you with changes, new results and capabilities, and overall improvements, thereby closing the loop and making the entire system more transparent.
Of course, we won’t be able to respond to every submission. But we’ll do our very best to respond to all relevant and substantive items. Additionally, it is our hope that members of the Community will likewise take the time to assist their peers, pointing them in the right direction and offering valuable advice and context.
Thanks again for all of your support and please join us in the Community!
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.
In the first 24 hours of our launch weekend, we received nearly 10,000 messages forwarded from the feedback forms on the bottom of each Wolfram|Alpha page. The compliments have been very gratifying.
The feedback has been insightful and entertaining. You’ve offered lots of suggestions, from additional domains and analysis to computations that have gone awry. We thought you might enjoy seeing some of the feedback we’ve received. More »
This is a proud moment for us and for the whole Mathematica community. (We hope the launch goes well!)
Wolfram|Alpha defines a new direction in computing—that would have simply not have been possible without Mathematica, and that in time will add some remarkable new dimensions to Mathematica itself.
In terms of technology, Wolfram|Alpha is a uniquely complex software system, which has been entirely developed and deployed with Mathematica and Mathematica technologies.
It’s a curious—and unintentional—juxtaposition. Because in a sense NKS is the intellectual structure that’s now making Wolfram|Alpha possible. And Wolfram|Alpha is the first “killer app” of NKS.
Stephen Wolfram has written a blog today that reports on the state of NKS and explains a little bit of that connection.
We’re now in the final stages of getting ready to launch Wolfram|Alpha. It’s a hugely complex piece of technology; certainly one of the most complex web-based services ever constructed. We’ve sought advice from many experts as we’ve designed its infrastructure and technology management processes.
But we’ve been rather surprised that we haven’t been able to find even a single publicly available record of the commissioning of any large website at all. So we thought we would document our own experience and that perhaps some of you would like to share this journey with us. We can’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly. Indeed, we fully expect to encounter unanticipated situations along the way. We hope that you’ll find it interesting to join us as we work through these in real time. Perhaps you’ll even have some advice to share. More »
Soon everyone will have access to the first version of Wolfram|Alpha. Already some have asked: “What kinds of questions can Wolfram|Alpha help me answer?” “Will there be examples for me to use?” “How will I get started?”
As we make our final preparations to release Wolfram|Alpha over the next week, we thought it might be helpful to discuss questions like these in this blog.
Looking at the Examples by Topic page provides a good framework. You will be able to navigate from the Wolfram|Alpha home page to Examples:
As part of our testing, for a short time yesterday we opened up access to a small test cluster that was being used for load testing. Within minutes, thousands of people discovered this and started exploring Wolfram|Alpha.
(We recognize Cape Town, Delhi, Tokyo, Lima, Rio de Janeiro… We’re not quite so sure about the spot in the heart of the Australian desert.)
In any case, we’re continuing our final preparations. We plan to launch late next week, with the official date now set for May 18.
Thanks for all of your encouragement!
Although it’s tempting to think of Wolfram|Alpha as a place to look up facts, that’s only part of the story. The thing that truly sets Wolfram|Alpha apart is that it is able to do sophisticated computations for you, both pure computations involving numbers or formulas you enter, and computations applied automatically to data called up from its repositories.
Why does computation matter? Because computation is what turns generic information into specific answers.
To give an amusing example, every school child has at one time or another written a report on the moon, and they probably included the wrong figure for how far the moon is from the earth. Why wrong? Because the distance from the earth to the moon is not constant: it changes by as much as a mile a minute. If you ask Wolfram|Alpha the distance to the moon, it tells you not only the conventionally quoted average distance, but also the actual distance right now, which can at times be well over ten thousand miles off the average. The actual distance is a figure that can be arrived at only by computation based on the moon’s known orbital parameters. It’s rocket science, if you will.
Take a peek at our system administration team hard at work on one of the
many pre-launch projects.
Our teams are working hard to meet our goal of having Wolfram|Alpha ready for you in just a few weeks.
Since Stephen Wolfram’s initial announcement, we’ve had the opportunity to show Wolfram|Alpha to some of the thousands of you who contacted us. Many interesting questions surfaced. We plan to use this blog to address those questions and the many more we expect you’ll have as you think about how you too can use Wolfram|Alpha.
We’ll also let you know about upcoming events around Wolfram|Alpha—like the first public preview that Stephen is giving this afternoon at Harvard Law School. Information on participating in the webcast and Q&A can be found here.
Finally, we’ll use this space to talk about ourselves, giving you a peek into our world, what we’re working on, what we’re thinking, and what you can expect from us as the stewards of this project.
So what is Wolfram|Alpha? To begin, we’ve named it a computational knowledge engine.