TAG: Food And Nutrition
January 11, 2011– 2

Today we’re officially wrapping up Wolfram|Alpha’s Deck the Halls with Facts & Knowledge Holiday Gift-Away by re-opening the gallery and announcing the winners! In early December we launched the contest as a way to say thank you for making 2010 a great year for Wolfram|Alpha, and to give some fun Wolfram swag to members of our community.

To start, we gifted Wolfram|Alpha Spikey paper sculpture kits to the first 500 people to enter the contest by submitting their favorite Wolfram|Alpha fun facts. We enjoyed reading all of the clever fun facts contestants uncovered in Wolfram|Alpha. Nyth discovered that eating a serving of bacon a day for one year will result in the consumption of 2.5lbs of fat. Sri found that the average life expectancy of a tortoise is 137 years. You can dive into Wolfram|Alpha to discover a countless number of fun facts.

Contestants had the opportunity to enter photos of their Wolfram|Alpha Spikeys, along with their fun facts, in a vote-off for a chance to win prizes such as Mathematica Professional, an iPad, Wolfram mobile apps, and T-shirts. The votes have been tallied and the winners have been announced on the Holiday Gift-Away site. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Online voting contests have their share of challenges. During the vote-off we discovered a few vulnerabilities in the voting system. We put additional measures in place to help secure voting, and we promptly identified and removed votes that fell outside of the contest’s rules. Once voting closed, we conducted a second round of auditing. It was very important to us that we reviewed the data and confirmed the correct winners.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their favorite Wolfram|Alpha fun facts and Spikey photos and supported their favorite entries in the vote-off!

January 6, 2011– 4

Consider packing circles inside a circular container, or less abstractly, placing cookie dough on a cookie sheet. In the case of cookies, which expand to be a roughly circular shape, you don’t want them so close that they run into each other. At the same time, you don’t want them too far apart, because that would mean fewer cookies.

One of the latest features of Wolfram|Alpha is the ability to get information about packing circles into circles.

For instance, suppose you have a circular baking sheet with a diameter of 12 inches, and you want to make 20 cookies. You can ask Wolfram|Alpha “pack 20 circles in a diameter 12 inch circle”; not only does it give you a diagram of the densest packing, but also the largest radius of the circular cookies on the 12-inch baking sheet.

Pack 20 circles in a diameter 12 inch circle

Or you might know the size of the cookies and want to know how many can fit? One way to get the answer would be “pack r=1 circles in a diameter 12 circle”.
More »

December 29, 2010– 11

As we bid adieu to 2010, we want say thank you to all of our loyal blog readers and commenters. Today we’re taking a look back at some of 2010′s most popular Wolfram|Alpha Blog posts. 2010 was a year full of product releases, such as Wolfram|Alpha Widgets and new data for everything from movies to taxes.

These selections are only highlights of the topics we’ve covered in 2010. If you’re feeling really nostalgic, or if you’re new to the Wolfram|Alpha Blog, we invite you to read more in the archives.

January:

Just in time to tackle a common New Year’s resolution, we released “New Physical Activity Data in Wolfram|Alpha”.

February:

After reading “Computing Valentine’s Day with Wolfram|Alpha”, there was little doubt that we speak math, the universal language of love.

March:

Ever wonder which country consumes the most coffee or sugar? In March, we introduced new data that answers these questions in the post “Food for Thought: Consumption Patterns from Around the World”.

April:

In April we were excited to finally be able to share “Stephen Wolfram’s TED Talk: Computation Is Destined to Be the Defining Idea of Our Future”. The inspirational video quickly became a web favorite.

May:

Where did the time go? In May we celebrated Wolfram|Alpha’s first birthday with the post “Wolfram|Alpha: The First Year”.

June:

Just in time for family reunion season, we published “My Cousin’s Cousin’s Niece’s Grandfather Said to Just Ask Wolfram|Alpha”, to help you identify all of those branches on the family tree.

July:

In July we shared “Ask Wolfram|Alpha about Medical Drug Treatments” to introduce a new functionality in Wolfram|Alpha that allows you to compare how your medical conditions and treatment plans compare to those of other patients.

August:

Kids say the darnedest things. In the post “10 Fun Questions Kids Can Answer with Wolfram|Alpha”, we took a look at how Wolfram|Alpha can help you and your little one answer common curiosities. More »

November 22, 2010– 1

This Thursday, we’ll celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. The first U.S. National Thanksgiving was celebrated on November 26, 1789. The holiday was originally established to show gratitude for a plentiful harvest and to give thanks for relationships with family and friends. A customary U.S. Thanksgiving celebration is centered on sharing a great feast that includes turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and more with loved ones. (Of course, in recent years, we’ve also tossed in football and holiday shopping.)

A cornucopia is a traditional centerpiece that symbolizes abundance and is often found on a Thanksgiving meal table. Wolfram|Alpha is a cornucopia of sorts—a horn filled with many trillions of pieces of data that produce an abundance of facts. In the spirit of the holiday, we though we’d share some fun Thanksgiving-themed facts we discovered from Wolfram|Alpha.

waturkey

Fact: A typical turkey bats its wings 3 times per second.

Fact: If you’re in Champaign, Illinois, set your alarm to 6:51am on Thanksgiving Day if you’re planning to rise with the sun to start cooking your holiday bird. Click here for sunrise information for your location.

Fact: The chill point of cranberries is 2 degrees Celsius.

Fact: There are 5.8 grams of fiber in one serving of cornbread stuffing.

Fact: The first known English use of the word “cornucopia” was in 1508.

Fact: Need to burn off holiday calories? Six hours of Black Friday shopping will burn 1050 calories, or you can knock off 457 calories by staying in and watching football.

Dig into Wolfram|Alpha to find interesting facts of your own. (You might need them in the near future—hint, hint.) Here at Wolfram|Alpha, we’re thankful for all of our dedicated blog readers and Wolfram|Alpha users.

October 26, 2010– 3

Halloween week is full of spooky tricks and tasty treats. And between the office parties and the loads of edible loot reaped by the little ghosts and goblins, monitoring consumption of all those treats can be both tricky and scary!

But have no fear, we built this handy Wolfram|Alpha Widget that lets you check out nutrition information for common Halloween candies. We’ve pre-selected treats such as Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twizzlers, Butterfingers, and others from Wolfram|Alpha’s large nutrition database.

Simply select your treat from the drop-down menu and enter the number of servings you plan to enjoy. Wolfram|Alpha will then compute a custom nutrition label providing details on calories, fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, and nutrients.

Keep this widget handy throughout the week by embedding it on your blog or website. To explore more nutrition-related widgets, visit the Widget Gallery or build your own widget to explore your favorite candies (or food selections more rich in nutrients).

What’s your favorite Halloween treat?

October 22, 2010– 3

Wolfram|Alpha has many trillions of pieces of data, many of which are facts about people, places, and things. All of this knowledge is built upon a computational engine that allows us to mash up topic areas and do impressive, if not outrageous, computations. In honor of it being Friday, we’ll share a few fun facts to get your mind curious about what else is waiting to be discovered within Wolfram|Alpha.

Fact: Your Halloween Jack-o’-lantern has 40 chromosomes.

Fact: There are 4.3 x 10^6 calories in one short ton of Snickers.

Fact: Lassoing the Moon from Earth will require about 239,200 miles of rope on average!

Fact: 36 degrees was the high temperature in New York City on the day Justin Bieber was born.

Fact: On April 1, 1976, just 47 years after Louis Marx popularized the yo-yo, Apple Computer was created—no joke!

These are just few of the fun facts highlighting data areas such as nutrition, species, science, weather, history, and events. What fun facts have you discovered in Wolfram|Alpha?

July 23, 2010– 6

Runners and cyclists can now get personalized physical activity and fitness results from Wolfram|Alpha. Our team has added enhanced activity formulas to provide specific results that account for the individual differences among all types of runners and cyclists. Whether preparing for a race or monitoring regular routines, athletes and enthusiasts alike can now calculate actual performance results and compute performance predictions and the impact of exercise on personal physical fitness.

You can calculate your own results in Wolfram|Alpha by using a natural language input such as “cycling 72.13 miles for 240 minutes” or you can type in “cycling” to explore all of the formula’s options. For example, a cyclist who is preparing for, or who has just completed, a race can calculate a variety of user-specific metabolic properties, like the amount of fat and the number of calories burned, by taking into account factors such as age, gender, height, weight, incline, resting heart rate, and wind speed and direction. Below are sample results from Wolfram|Alpha when calculating the speed a 25-year-old male cyclist needs to maintain to complete a race in 240 minutes:

Calculating the speed a 25-year-old male cyclist needs to maintain to complete a race in 240 minutes

To complement the results of Wolfram|Alpha’s calculations, cyclists can compare their speed or pace with world record times by clicking the “Show comparisons” link.

Runners can input similar information and calculate calories and fat burned; oxygen consumed; heart rate; equivalent activities; conversions for speed, pace, distance, and time; and performance predictions. For this example, we convinced a member of our team to share his post-race results from the 2009 Chicago Marathon: More »

March 29, 2010– 5

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).
Food consumption data for Cuba

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:
Comparing per capita coffee and tea consumption in South Korea

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 »

March 23, 2010– 6

A movement is underway in the United States to reintroduce schools and families to freshly prepared meals. Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced the “Let’s Move” campaign, an effort to raise awareness of and access to fresh food in schools and in our communities. The goal of the campaign is to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. This Friday, Chef Jamie Oliver’s new television show Food Revolution will take us inside a few of America’s school cafeterias and classrooms in an effort to fulfill his wish to teach every child about food.

Wolfram|Alpha is already being used as a learning tool in schools to tackle subject areas such as math, science, social studies, and more. But did you know that Wolfram|Alpha contains a number of tools to help schools and families successfully start their own nutrition and wellness revolutions?

Imagine if students had the opportunity to compare the nutritional values of lunch options and make informed decisions before ever hitting the cafeteria. For example, students can go online to Wolfram|Alpha and compare grilled chicken breast to a corn dog. Wolfram|Alpha provides them with a nutrition label for each item, and shows a side-by-side comparison of nutritional values such as fats, proteins, and vitamins in each food option. Click the image below to see the full results.

Comparing the nutrition values of a chicken breast and a corn dog in Wolfram|Alpha

More »

February 26, 2010– 11

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.

Saving an image from Wolfram|Alpha

Below is an example of a resulting image: More »

December 29, 2009– 3

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.

April

Rack ’n’ Roll

Take a peek at our system administration team hard at work on one of the
many pre-launch projects.
Continue reading…

May

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…

June

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.

If you missed it, you can watch the recording here. Continue reading… More »

December 21, 2009– 6

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.

Happy holidays from Wolfram|Alpha!

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.

November 24, 2009– 6

Ah, fall! The signs of the season are all around us: the sounds of leaves rustling along the sidewalks, the smell of piping hot apple cider, and the sight of 12-pound pumpkins being hurled through the air at speeds upwards of 350mph. Yes—pumpkins!

Recently, we had an opportunity to participate in one pumpkin pastime that’s right up Wolfram|Alpha‘s alley. We’re not talking about pies here, we’re talking about the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation’s CUPunkin’Chuckin’ Challenge! Punkin’Chuckin’ is the art of hurling pumpkins (or multiple pumpkins) great distances with smartly engineered, often homemade, devices such as trebuchets and catapults. In a typical Punkin’Chuckin’ competition, the goal is simple—to go the distance, or in this case, to hit a city bus.

This is one competition you have to see to believe.

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. We want to build our own, too!
More »

November 23, 2009– 5

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!

October 30, 2009– 0

Each October around here, as we stare into the seemingly endless bowls of “fun-size” Halloween candies, we tell ourselves, “Oh, it’s just a bite!” Chances are some of those tempting treats will be the always-popular Snickers candy bars. But have you ever wondered just how much “fun” there is in a fun-size Snickers candy bar compared to a full-size one? And by fun we mean all the fun nutrition such as calories, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and so on. Being that we’re in the holiday spirit (or at least in the mood to eat candy), we want to share some fun comparisons for the Snickers bar we found in Wolfram|Alpha’s nutrition database.

Let’s enter the query, “Compare 1 fun size snickers v 1 regular snickers bar”. The output page shown below provides individual nutrition labels for the fun-size bar and the full-size bar, followed by comparison pods highlighting the difference in mean values and the percentages of daily recommended values for calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and sterols. It will also provide you with a comparison of the physical mass.

Click the image to see a full breakdown:

Comparing nutrition facts of a fun-size Snickers bar and a full-size bar

More »

September 8, 2009– 12

college-is-hard

We know college is hard. So we’re highlighting examples of how Wolfram|Alpha can make subjects and concepts a bit easier to learn. Wolfram|Alpha is a free computational knowledge engine that can help you tackle everything from calculus, to computing the number of pages for a double-spaced 1000-word essay, to comparing the flash points of methane, butane, and octane, to figuring just how much money it’s going to cost you to drive home to do your laundry. Check out a quick introduction to Wolfram|Alpha from its creator, Stephen Wolfram.

We want to help you take full advantage of this resource. Over the next term, we’ll be highlighting helpful computations and information here on the blog, and even providing ways you can get involved with our company. (Would you like to be a part of the Wolfram|Alpha Team on your campus? Stay tuned to find out how you can be involved.) For this post we selected several of our favorite examples to help you start thinking about how you can use Wolfram|Alpha in your courses, and in your always-changing college life. More »

August 7, 2009– 7

We have heard from many people who are interested in learning more about calculating their daily food intake in Wolfram|Alpha. If you have been following our posts on how to use Wolfram|Alpha to help achieve your nutritional and wellness goals, this will be easy as apple pie.

Our data curators have been busy working on over 7,000 food entities that are listed in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and other food databases. Currently, they’re adding additional brand-name and specialty food items. Once a food entity is placed into Wolfram|Alpha’s nutrition bank, rules and algorithms are applied to help categorize it by typical attributes (e.g. raw, boiled), units (e.g. cups, tablespoons), and unique serving forms (e.g. slices, pieces). As a result of these categorizations, when you enter a food item such as “strawberries” into the site’s computation bar, Wolfram|Alpha computes a breakdown of total calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and other particular nutrients based on standard serving sizes (units) and attributes.

Now let’s get started! For this example, a member of our team tracked her food intake yesterday to be computed for the world to see.

Breakfast: egg + bacon + strawberries

Lunch: turkey breast meat + 2 slices of whole-wheat bread + mustard + grapes

Snack: Snickers candy bar

Dinner: McDonald’s McChicken sandwich + McDonald’s French fries

As Wolfram|Alpha defaults to one unit serving, we only need to enter units if she consumed more than one serving.

“egg + bacon + strawberries + turkey breast meat + 2 slices whole-wheat bread + mustard + grapes + Snickers + McChicken + McDonald fries” More »

July 27, 2009– 10

We are continuing to demonstrate ways you can use Wolfram|Alpha’s nutrition and wellness data, with helpful input tips and examples. In this example we are talking about how to use Wolfram|Alpha to make smart food choices. A variety of nutritional factors may be of importance depending on your dietary needs and wellness goals, which is why Wolfram|Alpha goes further than just providing the total number of calories in a food item.

Whether you are concerned about monitoring your total fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, carbohydrates, or other nutrients, Wolfram|Alpha can provide you with this information for an individual food item, a meal, or a comprehensive calculation of your daily diet. In this post we’ll demonstrate how to calculate and compare the nutritional values of two food items. More »

July 15, 2009– 12

We have spent some time on this blog talking about ways Wolfram|Alpha‘s nutrition and wellness data can be useful tools in your everyday life, such as by computing the nutritional value of your favorite recipe and identifying a healthy body weight. Some of you have since asked how you can use Wolfram|Alpha to understand your body’s caloric needs to maintain a healthy body. With all of the talk surrounding the latest fad diets and nutrition programs, information about our bodies’ basic needs often gets lost in the noise.

You can estimate your body’s daily caloric needs by computing your basal metabolic rate (BMR) within Wolfram|Alpha. Your BMR is the estimated number of calories (energy) your body expends when at complete rest—in other words, your daily caloric needs just to operate your vital organs, nervous system, muscles, and skin. BMR varies based on your age, gender, height, and weight, and needs to be recalculated whenever one of these factors changes. As your physical activity increases through routine movements, and exercise, the number of calories your body needs increases. More »

July 2, 2009– 10

Here at Wolfram|Alpha, we’re loosening our belts for the 94th annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, a U.S. Independence Day tradition that draws participants and audiences from all over the world. At this year’s event, two-time champion Joey ”Jaws” Chestnut, from San Jose, California, will face off against six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, from Nagano, Japan, in the quest for the famous Nathan’s Mustard Belt. We’re getting hungry just thinking about all the numbers at the World Cup of hot dog eating contests. More »

June 16, 2009– 13

Wolfram|Alpha has the powerful ability to compute complex data into insightful outputs that can be helpful tools in our everyday lives. One area where this is most evident is the Wolfram|Alpha collection of food and nutrition information. Users have marveled over how quick and easy it is to analyze nutrition information for their favorite homemade recipes, and compare nutritional values of everything from dietary staples to those occasional indulgences. More »

June 8, 2009– 32

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 »

June 6, 2009– 9

You see the work of the Wolfram|Alpha developers every time you query.

We thought you would enjoy hearing some of them describe their roles and share their thoughts about the Wolfram|Alpha project.

To see this content, you need a recent version of Adobe's Flash Player.
Get the latest Flash Player.

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 »

May 1, 2009– 106

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.
More »