A few weeks ago, we pointed out some new additions to Wolfram|Alpha from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database, primarily focused on labor and employment around the world. We’ve also incorporated data about doing business in most countries, collected by a World Bank project called, appropriately, “Doing Business”.
This data covers a wide range of issues, including import/export costs, business tax rates, and the time required to complete various business-related activities. Try the following examples to get a better sense of the breadth of this dataset:
- Export costs in Brazil vs. Argentina »
- New businesses registered in Japan vs. India »
- Credit bureau coverage in Asia »
- Europe total business tax rate »
- How much does it cost to start a business in India, Mexico, Singapore »
- Time required to start a business »
Wolfram|Alpha can also rank countries according to a number of business-related indices. Ask about the ease of doing business in Eurozone countries, for example, and you’ll see that Ireland and Greece occupy the ends of this spectrum. In this case, a higher index score indicates a regulatory environment that is generally unfriendly to business operation; in light of Greece’s recent economic woes, it should come as no surprise to see that country at the bottom of the list. (Note that for all the properties in this dataset, you can click the “Definition” button in the input interpretation or in other pods to get more details on each property.)
By popular demand, Wolfram|Alpha recently expanded population data for most of the world’s countries, based in part on statistics from the United Nations Population Division. Populations are shaped by factors such as disease, war, genocide, and famine as well as more benign phenomena such as immigration. One of the more common user requests in this area has been to support queries like “China population distribution”, which now returns an age pyramid and detailed table of population by age and sex:
You can also query for specific age groups, as indicated on the pyramid, or just query for a single age, and Wolfram|Alpha will return data for the appropriate five-year age “bin”:
This Sunday, July 11, is World Population Day—an event established in 1989 by the United Nations to raise awareness of global population issues. This year, the emphasis is on the 2010 World Population and Housing Census Programme and the importance of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data in a way that supports good health and social policy development.
In the past few months, we’ve added a variety of international data sets to Wolfram|Alpha, such as data on food consumption and worldwide health indicators. But Wolfram|Alpha launched with an enormous collection of global socioeconomic data, much of it from the UN and other authoritative repositories of international statistics, and we’ve continued to expand and curate that collection.
As we’ve said before, we’re committed to “democratizing data”—to making it easier for everyone to access and understand the wealth of important data produced by a multitude of sources. For good examples of our own ability to analyze and disseminate relevant socioeconomic data, try some of the following queries pertaining to topics from past and present World Population Days:
- All countries’ population in 1900 »
- All countries’ population in 2050 »
- Poverty in all countries »
- Female literacy in all countries »
- Life expectancy in all countries »
We’ll soon be introducing some new functionality that will give “power users” the ability to do more advanced analysis and comparison of properties between groups of countries, and in other knowledge domains. And as always, if you’d like to see additional data in Wolfram|Alpha, please send us your suggestions.
PS: If you’re interested in the absolute latest information on world population, try asking Wolfram|Alpha for the current world population. Reload that page in your browser a few times and see how fast that number is going up!
In any news report about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a lot of statistics get thrown around—mainly about the rate at which oil has been spewing out of a pipe on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Recent estimates put the flow up to 60,000 barrels per day, but it’s hard for most of us to comprehend exactly what that number means. Wolfram|Alpha has always been able to provide some useful comparisons for any quantity you care to input, and can easily tell you that 60,000 barrels of oil is roughly equivalent to 3.8 times the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
With the recent addition of data on production and consumption of energy resources in every country, Wolfram|Alpha can also give you a more precise socioeconomic context for numbers like this. Try “60000 barrels per day / US crude oil production”, for example, and you’ll learn that the daily output of the leak is a little less than 1.2% of total crude oil production per day for the United States.
Because each of these energy resources is measured in different units, it can be difficult to understand exactly how they compare to one another—so Wolfram|Alpha can also compute the energy equivalents of each resource, measured in quadrillions of BTUs. For example, you can compare the United States consumption of energy from coal, natural gas, and petroleum on a single scale to better visualize the relative importance of each resource. More »
We’re in the midst of major enhancements to military data in Wolfram|Alpha, with newly added information on army, navy, and air force personnel for over 150 countries as well as statistics on many armaments, including stockpiles of nuclear warheads.
Let’s start with the big numbers. Type “army size of all countries” and you’ll see China, India, and the Korean Peninsula topping the list. China’s army alone includes 1.4 million soldiers and dwarfs the population of many smaller countries. The size of its combined army, navy, and air force is nearly equal to the entire population of Macedonia.
There’s an abundance of data on armaments, around the world as well, including estimates on nuclear stockpiles of the nine countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons; according to the latest available estimates, Russia has the largest stockpile with 13,000 warheads. Also new in Wolfram|Alpha are figures on conventional weapons, including aircraft carriers, battle tanks, and fighter jets. Try comparing countries’ armaments, such as “tanks USA vs Russia”, or asking about the number of submarines in the NATO alliance. More »
We recently added data on health indicators for more than 200 countries and territories. We now have World Health Organization data on health care workers, immunizations, water and sanitation, preventive care, tobacco use, weight, and more.
Data is also now available on specific types of health care personnel, such as physicians, nurses, and dentists, and Wolfram|Alpha can also compute per capita figures for each type of health professional. Check out the figures on midwives in South Africa or dentists in Iceland—or for a particularly interesting view, try asking about doctors per capita in all countries.
Some data, such as for infant immunizations (including DTP, MCV, hepatitis B, and Hib), spans several years—which allows you to see dramatic increases in immunizations in many developing countries, as well as surprising declines in some first-world nations. More »
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 »
“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating,” said Luciano Pavarotti. Let’s stop whatever we’re doing now to devote our attention to data on eating, as a kind of food for thought.
Wolfram|Alpha now has food supply estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, covering more than fifty foods spanning over forty years for countries all over the world. Let’s visit three countries to see what we can find.
First stop, the Caribbean. Type in “cuba wheat” and you’ll see a dramatic downturn in the early 1990s, following the demise of the Soviet Union (Cuba’s most important trading partner).
Now let’s go over to the Korean peninsula. Let’s check out South Korea’s coffee versus tea consumption.You’ll see that coffee intake has increased by several factors since 1970, as the country has become increasingly westernized, while tea consumption has gone up just a little:
Final stop, North America. In contrast to South Korea, we can see a slow decline in per capita coffee consumption in the United States; according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), increased availability of carbonated soft drinks may be one cause of the downturn. More »
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 »
[Editor's Note: This blog entry is a guest post from Laura Ketcham, a 7th grade technology instructor and coordinator at the Aventura City of Excellence School (ACES) in Aventura, Florida. If you are interested in sharing how you've incorporated Wolfram|Alpha into your everyday life inside or outside the classroom, please contact our blog team at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I read the buzz about Wolfram|Alpha in an article in PC World this past summer. It was billed as a “computational” search engine with the advantage that the results of the computed search appear on one results page, not just in a list of links you need to search through to find the information. I quickly realized that Wolfram|Alpha is an innovative tool that I could definitely incorporate in the classroom! I am a 7th grade technology instructor and coordinator at the Aventura City of Excellence School (ACES) in Aventura, Florida. My students often use the web to find information for a variety of classroom activities, as well as for research in other classes. The students follow a process in which they evaluate websites to determine whether they contain reliable information that can be included for assignments; it’s one of the major topics I cover in the year-long technology course. Wolfram|Alpha provided me with a “cool tool” to introduce to the students that they knew could be trusted as reliable source. They can use Wolfram|Alpha in a variety of ways to “calculate” factual information.
What I really found helpful about Wolfram|Alpha was the Examples page. This provided me with a springboard to computing data in Wolfram|Alpha and with a quick way to evaluate its usefulness as a tool in the classroom. This is definitely a great place for teachers, of any grade, to get started!
I introduced Wolfram|Alpha to my students during a six-week project where the students infused Web 2.0 technology to build a website about South Florida oceans and beaches. They used Wolfram|Alpha to learn about a variety of topics that they had to include in their sites. Several examples are the taxonomy of a variety of plants and animals that call South Florida beaches home and the GPS/satellite technology being used to track a loggerhead sea turtle that the class adopted. More »
Since Wolfram|Alpha first launched, we’ve received countless queries about Olympic Games and medalists. The countdown has begun to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, February 12–28, and we are pleased to announce that we’ve added comprehensive Olympic data to Wolfram|Alpha. It can now answer dozens of different types of queries about every medalist and event from past Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
Let’s start with something basic: “Olympic medalists from France”. The results lead off with a summary and plots of medals won by French medalists in each Olympic Games—all the way back to the first modern games in 1896. The last pod lets you dig further into the data, showing complete, detailed results by sport and event.
We’ve blogged quite a bit about Wolfram|Alpha’s nutritional data, and with Thanksgiving this week, U.S. users are probably already peppering us with queries like “turkey leg + mashed potatoes + gravy + cranberry sauce + stuffing + pumpkin pie.” But you probably didn’t know that you could go a little further up the food-supply chain now—all the way to the “turkey population of all countries,” if you’re so inclined—and see that Americans are clearly the biggest turkey-gobblers on the planet, with a livestock population of more than 270 million birds.
Our new data, which comes from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), covers worldwide populations of turkeys, chickens, sheep, pigs, and other livestock animals from 1961 to 2007… which lets you uncover some interesting trends. Ask Wolfram|Alpha about “chickens vs cows in the USA,” for example, and you’ll clearly see a dramatic half-century increase in chicken, while the cattle population has undergone a slight but steady decline. Or try comparing “chickens in US and China,” and you’ll see not only an even more dramatic growth in the Chinese chicken population, but also an equally dramatic drop in population between 1997 and 1998—when Chinese authorities ordered the slaughter of millions of chickens in response to the 1997 outbreak of avian flu in Hong Kong.
And for all the smart alecks out there: yes, Wolfram|Alpha knows exactly what you mean when you ask, “How many turkeys are in Turkey?” Happy holidays!
Does this summer seem hotter than last year’s? Are you debating between a trip to Miami or Florence in the springtime? Or perhaps heading to Tokyo in November, and wondering how to pack? Wolfram|Alpha has a number of helpful tools to answer your weather questions, by retrieving current conditions, forecasts, and historical data from weather stations located all over the world.
For example, simply enter “weather” into the computation bar, and Wolfram|Alpha’s geoIP capabilities identify your approximate location and produce the latest records from your nearest weather station. The “Latest recorded weather” pod may feature information like the current temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and conditions, such as clear, thunderstorms, or fog. Go ahead and click here to give it a try for your area.
There’s new data flowing into Wolfram|Alpha every second. And we’re always working very hard to develop the core code and data for the system. In fact, internally, we have a complete new version of the system that’s built every day. But before we release this version for general use, we do extensive validation and testing.
In addition to real-time data updates, we’ve made a few changes to Wolfram|Alpha since its launch three weeks ago. But today, as one step in our ongoing, long-term development process, we’ve just made live the first broad updates to the core code and data of Wolfram|Alpha. More »
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: