Wolfram|Alpha Blog 2014-07-29T03:52:05Z http://blog.wolframalpha.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Emily Suess <![CDATA[Demographic Anomalies: US Edition]]> http://blog.internal.wolframalpha.com/?p=28049 2014-07-28T17:42:48Z 2014-07-28T17:07:25Z It’s been a while since we looked at American Community Survey data in Wolfram|Alpha. Our first efforts included surveying ACS data related to education, income, and diversity, only touching the tip of the iceberg.

Recently, we took a deeper look at the data to unearth some of the least “average” communities in the US.

As you might guess, at the national level, female and male populations are split almost evenly (50.8% and 49.2%, respectively). But there are metropolitan communities in the US where the split doesn’t hew to the national average, and the ACS data in Wolfram|Alpha lets us find them.

Take Susanville, CA, for example. At just 34.5%, this community in Northern California has the smallest percentage of female residents in the US.

Metropolitan areas with the lowest female population fraction

Or consider the number of married couples living in the United States. The data shows us that 51.4% of the national population ages 15 and older are currently married, but there are individual communities with standout numbers. Utah, at 58%, is the state with the largest married fraction. Dig deeper and you’ll discover that nearly 66% of the population is married in the Brigham City, UT metro area.

Metro areas with highest marriage percentage

When it comes to education, there are more than 2.6 million people in the United States with no formal schooling. That’s about 1.3% of the total population.

Among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., California tops the list with the highest percentage of citizens having no formal education.

What percent of people have no schooling in US?

On the flip side, the number of people with advanced degrees exceeds 10% of the nation’s total population. That means roughly 21.7 million people have a master’s degree or higher. Of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia has the highest population percentage with advanced degrees at 28.7%.

What percent of people have advanced degrees in D.C.

We can access poverty data, too. In the following query, we can see what fraction of US senior citizens–individuals over the age of 65–are living below the poverty line. The national average is close to 9%, but the numbers vary significantly by state. Mississippi has the highest percentage, and Alaska has the lowest.

What percentage of senior citizens population is below poverty line in us states

We can also get numbers for more complicated queries. For example, Wolfram|Alpha can compute the percentage of people in Washington State metro areas speaking Tagalog at home.

What fraction of people speak Tagalog in WA metro areas

Or we can compare the population pyramids for the communities of The Villages, FL and Rexburg, ID.

The villages metro area vs Rexburg Idaho metro area population pyramid

Perhaps the best thing about being able to identify demographic outliers is that it helps us make more informed decisions about the places where we prefer to live and work. Which states have the highest educated populations? Where are the most diverse communities to raise a family? What communities are home to people who speak my native language? What cities would benefit the most from a non-profit organization helping seniors in need?

The Wolfram|Alpha Team http://www.wolframalpha.com <![CDATA[How Citizen Computation Changes Democracy: Conrad Wolfram at TEDxHousesofParliament]]> http://blog.internal.wolframalpha.com/?p=28045 2014-07-22T16:38:47Z 2014-07-22T15:52:25Z Conrad Wolfram at TEDxHOP
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.

More about Wolfram’s solutions for your organization’s data »

Jason Martinez http:// <![CDATA[Optimizing Home Energy Costs (Heating vs. Cooling)]]> http://blog.internal.wolframalpha.com/?p=27999 2014-07-21T18:09:29Z 2014-07-21T18:09:29Z As summer heats up, we instinctively reach for the air conditioning (AC) controls. This miracle of modern technology lets us create a cool breeze to banish the crushing heat. At the same time, AC brings soaring electric bills. How can we optimize our use of air conditioning, keeping cool while minimizing our costs?

Wolfram|Alpha provides several helpful formulas in this area, the first of which is a method for calculating the degree days for a location over a period of time. Degree days is a measure of how often the temperature was above (for cooling) or below (for heating) a given temperature or range of temperatures. It is used in a wide range of climate and energy cost-related areas, from agriculture to monitoring the heating and cooling costs of climate-controlled buildings.

In our case we want to know about the number of cooling degree days in June for Champaign with a base temperature of 72 °F:

Cooling degree days in June for Champaign with a base temperature of 72 degrees F

This turns out to be 128 days Fahrenheit degrees difference. As the “Base temperature dependence” shows, the magnitude of degree days increases the lower we place the temperature that triggers cooling. This picture becomes more complicated when we include heating as well. While there is little need for heating in Champaign in the summer, San Francisco has quite cool mornings, even in June. The degree days in June for San Francisco with cooling base temperature 72 °F and heating base temperature 65 °F shows that there is a higher contribution from heating than cooling:

Higher contribution from heating than cooling

So we can see the amount of air conditioning needed, either to heat or cool, can vary substantially depending on location and time of year.

Degree days as defined above is fairly inaccurate for determining how much heating or cooling we need depending on the circumstances. It works well for a continually occupied residence. But for an office or a home where no one is present during portions of the day, it overestimates the amount of heating and cooling required to maintain a comfortable temperature. Just as you might switch off all your electrical items when going on a vacation, turning off or limiting your AC usage during portions of the day when they are not needed can greatly reduce the electric costs.

We can improve our calculations using the Wolfram Language. First let us make some assumptions. We will assume we are discussing a home, one where the inhabitants are out working between the hours of 8am and 5pm. The occupants wish to keep the temperature of the house between 65 and 75 °F. The air temperature inside a home is typically 2 to 3 degrees warmer than the exterior due to insulation and the various heat sources in the building. So we will be interested in exterior temperatures between 62 and 72 °F. For our purposes we will look at temperatures in June 2014 and locate our fictional home in Sacramento, California.

We can extract the amount of time the temperatures exceed these limits from the historical data for that month:

Extract the amount of time temperatures exceed limits

A visualization of that data shows the daily fluctuations:

Daily fluctuations

To simplify our calculations, we will sample the data by hour, noting how many hours the temperature was above or below our range of comfort.

Hours above or below comfort range

From this we see that if we want to remain within our desired comfort band, we will be running the AC quite a bit in June. But let’s omit the portion of the day between 8am and 5pm (adjusting the data to account for the time zone):

Omitting 8am to 5pm

Now we see that we have drastically reduced the amount of cooling needed. With more lenient temperature guidelines, such as allowing the heating temperature to remain lower at night or raising the acceptable cooling temperature around midday, further cost savings can be found.

Ultimately we will be running our AC for a portion of the day regardless, and it is useful to know how much air conditioning we will need and what our electric bill will be like. Wolfram|Alpha provides an air conditioner sizing guide. By specifying the area of the space being cooled, how long it will run each day, the average price of electricity per kWh, as well as important properties (such as the level of insulation), Wolfram|Alpha will calculate not only what your monthly costs will be, but how big an AC unit you will need.

Returning to our example home, we will suppose we are dealing with a modest sized home with 1,500 square feet of interior space. It has little tree cover, but good insulation. There are two full-time occupants. In this part of California, electricity rates are about 10 cents per kWh currently. If you don’t have a current electric bill handy, you can estimate your cost per kilowatt hour with Wolfram|Alpha. Based on our calculations above, we need to cool the house for an average of 6.7 hours a day. The air conditioner sizing guide shows:

Air conditioner sizing guide

Based on this, you would need a 29300 BTU/hour capacity air conditioning unit to cool your home, and your bill would be roughly $173. Over the course of the month, that would be 5.89 million BTU, or a 12th of what the average car uses in a year in the USA.

Finally, with your AC running and thermostat set to lower costs, you can lean back and relax in the coolness of your own home.

Jeff Bryant http://www.wolframalpha.com <![CDATA[Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing]]> http://blog.internal.wolframalpha.com/?p=27954 2014-07-17T17:38:06Z 2014-07-17T17:38:06Z 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.

Apollo 11 crew

With the release of Mathematica 10, we can use GeoGraphics to create maps. We can use the data for the crews of all the Apollo landings to generate visualizations of their birth locations.

GeoGraphics map of Apollo missions crews

Perhaps my favorite data includes information on the landing sites. Although Wolfram|Alpha gives you a picture showing the landing location of Apollo 11, we can leverage the newly released Mathematica 10 to generate custom maps of the location, which even allows you to specify which projection you want.

Apollo 11 mission projected

We can have a little fun by using map projections that show even more of the Moon, including the far side.

Alternative GeoProjection of Apollo 11 on Moon

Here’s a projection you probably have never seen applied to the Moon.

Bonne projection of Moon

Going beyond Apollo 11, we can plot all of the other Apollo Moon landings.

Plotting multiple Apollo missions

Its also a fun activity to plan a future exploration of the Apollo Moon landing sites. What would be the shortest path needed to visit all of the sites? We can use FindShortestTour to achieve our goals.


An interesting side note is that, although not related to the landing itself, Wolfram|Alpha has data on the Saturn V rocket, which was used to launch all of the Apollo Moon missions. To this day, it remains the most powerful lifting body ever put into active service.

Although the Apollo program ended decades ago, its influence continues to inspire the media to this day. Examples include books and movies such as Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff (book | movie). Maybe one day we will return to the Moon. But even if we do, the celebration of the anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon will always be something to remember.

Download this post as a Computable Document Format (CDF) file.

Emily Suess <![CDATA[Memorable July Fourths in American History]]> http://blog.internal.wolframalpha.com/?p=27854 2014-07-08T17:40:07Z 2014-07-03T15:57:48Z July 4 is a big day in American history. Not just because it’s Independence Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but also because it’s the anniversary of several other historically important moments.

United States declares independence

There’s the groundbreaking of the Freedom Tower in New York City in 2004, President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, the first performance of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” in 1831, and the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi to Union forces in 1863.

historic events on july 4

July 4 marks the anniversary of the first American Top 40 radio broadcast, too. Casey Kasem, who passed away last month, co-created and hosted the first show on July 4, 1970.

casey kasem

The United States also unveiled its 49- and 50-star flags on July 4, 1959 and 1960, respectively, to honor Alaskan and Hawaiian statehood.

american flag

Whether you make history or just memories this year, here’s hoping you have a safe and fun holiday weekend.