Ah, spring! The time of year when winter coats are exchanged for short sleeved shirts, space heaters for open windows, and winter colds for stuffy noses, rashes, and itchy or watery eyes. When suffering from any set of symptoms, misery often seeks company, and what better way to find out how many other people share in your seasonal symptomatology than through Wolfram|Alpha? By aggregating survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our medical content team has put together a unique set of symptom-searching tools that will enable you to investigate all of the symptoms you may experience throughout the year. For example, by entering “sneeze”, you can immediately find that an estimated 960,000 patients complain of sneezing when they visit the doctor each year, and that marginally more male patients complain of sneezing than female patients.
In order to address questions like these and many more, Wolfram|Alpha has now assimilated data from two different surveys conducted by the CDC: the national ambulatory medical care survey (NAMCS) and its hospital-focused counterpart, the national hospital ambulatory medical care survey (NHAMCS). Together, these surveys provide information on common reasons why people visit the doctor’s office, drug treatments that are highly correlated with a particular disease, and which diseases are most commonly diagnosed within specific races, ethnicities, and genders.
Through Wolfram|Alpha, you can investigate data on thousands of diseases and medical conditions, such as these:
Instead of looking at all the information at once, you can also try more targeted inputs, such as “fraction of US population affected by lung cancer”:
From this output, we can see that approximately .21% of all U.S. patients are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. 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 »
A trip to the doctor’s office can sometimes leave patients with more questions than answers, specifically if their doctor has requested they undergo medical tests. Wolfram|Alpha is a helpful reference for understanding what the tests measure and how to interpret the results. Wolfram|Alpha allows you to query information on a specific medical test or a panel of tests, compare tests and results for patients with specific characteristics, compute your estimated risk for heart disease, and find the diagnosis corresponding to an ICD-9 code. Wolfram|Alpha can take into account specific patient characteristics like gender, age, smoker, non-smoker, pregnant, diabetic, obese, and underweight. Wolfram|Alpha can give you a snapshot of available data that might help you understand how your results compare to others’. (Wolfram|Alpha does not give any advice, medical or otherwise.)
First we will demonstrate how you can use Wolfram|Alpha to learn more about a specific type of test your doctor has ordered. By entering the name of the test into Wolfram|Alpha, such as “CBC”, we can learn what the test measures. In this case, the test measures the number of cells commonly found in a blood sample, such as red blood cells and platelets.
In recent blog entries we have been highlighting ways Wolfram|Alpha can compute complex data to be helpful in our everyday lives. Yesterday, we discussed how Wolfram|Alpha can help us track all the good (and not so good) nutrients we put in our bodies. Some indications of how well we may, or may not, be doing in that area are measurements of the human body. Wolfram|Alpha has some easy and fun tools to create general or personalized reports for adults and kids alike. As a reminder, all Wolfram|Alpha medical results are based on statistical data, and are not medical advice.
For adults, Wolfram|Alpha can compute body statistics such as your body mass index (BMI), body surface area, and body measurements based on factors such as age, height, weight, and gender. The results of these computations can give you an understanding of the number of calories your body needs daily; recommended body weight based on your gender, age, and height; typical organ properties such as lung capacity; and more. More »