Most of the new features we announce on this blog are large-scale projects where we add a huge chunk of data to Wolfram|Alpha all at once. But there are always dozens of background projects going on at any given time—including a seemingly never-ending effort to expand our database of information on private companies.
I was a child of the late 70s and early 80s, so I was witness to the early evolution of home computers and the trends that came along with them. It’s amazing when you see the large-screen displays of today and compare them to the giant bulky monitors from those early days. It’s also amazing to see how the capabilities of these displays have improved with time, something we often take for granted. We are spoiled with giant widescreen monitors that sometimes exceed 2500x1400 pixels in size. I remember taking my first steps in computer science in school using graphics on an Apple IIe that supported 280x192 pixels! (We also walked to school uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes, because those were a luxury.) I’m sure there are those of you in the audience who remember even earlier days with even more primitive capabilities (TRS 80?).
Today there are a high number of devices that support all manner of display resolutions. Many applications that deal with graphics will often present you with dialog boxes when you save your images that give you things like a pixels per inch (PPI) setting as well as the memory used by the image. Often these little things are taken for granted, but they can be useful for planning how to use your results. Wolfram|Alpha has now added some extensions to its functionality that provide some basic tools to help in this area.
Who says data doesn’t have a lighter side to it?
Here at Wolfram|Alpha we are constantly adding data from the critical domains of science and socioeconomics and making all of it computable in order to provide new insights as well as novel ways of looking at the world we live in.
But once in a while we like to throw in something fun and exciting, and one such new area that we have added is detailed information on over 150 types of keyboards from all over the world. Ever wondered how many keys are on the third row of a US keyboard or what fingers you would use when typing the first six words of the Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago”, on your keyboard?
The warm summer weather provides a great opportunity to explore a new city on foot! Using OpenStreetMaps in Wolfram|Alpha, you can map out computations and comparisons of some of the world’s most famous streets and explore places of interest.
Doing some shopping on Fifth Avenue? Walking the street for its entire length will take you 200 minutes! An African Burial Ground National Monument and Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace are also within a mile of this route. If the trip is wearing you down, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital is only 2 miles away. More »
By now, you’ve probably noticed those cute black and white squares popping up on everything from T-shirts to magazine advertisements to cereal boxes. These are called Quick Response (QR) codes, and thanks to the rise in smartphone use, they are becoming more popular than ever.
Since their inception in 1994 in Japan, QR codes have quickly risen in popularity throughout many Asian countries. The technology is still finding its footing in the United States and other western countries, but many advertisers and niche communities are adapting the 2D barcode innovation. Flip open your favorite magazine and you will most likely see the stamp-like code on multiple advertisements.
Wolfram|Alpha now offers the capability to produce QR codes. Just type in “QR code” in addition to whatever information you want to be coded. The function can encode up to 7 KB of data, including phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, or just plain text.
Have you ever wondered why you often see this example of the International Space Station (ISS) in promotion pieces for Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram|Alpha App? Aside from the example being visually interesting, the results highlight Wolfram|Alpha’s ability to make complex real-time computations.
Wolfram|Alpha provides some great real-time computations in many, many areas, including satellites. So what is a satellite? There are many definitions, but here we use the term to describe any artificial object in orbit around Earth that has an official North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) number. This means NORAD tracks it and has assigned an official catalog number to it. The code behind Wolfram|Alpha’s dynamic satellite computations is rather complex. 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.
The barcode’s 57th birthday is being celebrated this week all around the web. People really took notice of this event. And why wouldn’t they? From books to food to clothing, barcodes have found their place on just about every manufactured item we consume.
The system was invented by Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver, and was later honed by David Collins, as a way to track and catalog items. The barcode is an optical binary encoding system that was designed to be fault tolerant so that it can be scanned from a variety of distances and angles. It’s also designed so that the directionality is never ambiguous, and most barcodes have some kind of check digits or characters to improve accuracy (in Wolfram|Alpha, click “Show details” to see the encoded form and the check characters). First applied as a way to identify railroad cars, barcodes came into wide use after the laser and the computer were more developed. More »
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:
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