Here at Wolfram|Alpha we’re always asking questions and seeking answers in an effort to make all of the world’s knowledge computable and understandable by everyone (big or small).
We’ve put together a short list of common questions asked by preschool- and kindergarten-aged children that can be answered with Wolfram|Alpha. We hope these examples inspire your child to dream up more!
Is the Moon bigger than the Earth? Ask Wolfram|Alpha to compare “size of earth, size of moon”, and you’ll discover numerical and graphic size comparisons showing that the Earth is indeed larger than the Moon.
Chances are your little artists will discover the answer to this question on their own, but they can try asking Wolfram|Alpha what color they get when they “mix red and blue”?
Whether it’s because they’re excited about the party or just turning a year older, the birthday countdown is always on! Simply ask Wolfram|Alpha about the date of the child’s upcoming birthday, such as “October 8 2010”, to learn the number of days, weeks, or months until the big day.
We’ve blogged about Wolfram|Alpha’s name data before—but as we stroll into the 2010 movie-awards season here in the United States, we wanted to remind you about this particular tool and to point out a few interesting movie-related queries.
Marlon Brando’s breakthrough film role was 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, which was followed quickly by major roles in Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1952), The Wild One (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954), which brought him his first Academy Award. It’s hard to attribute the growing popularity of the name “Marlon” in the early 1950s to anything but his growing star power—the name just cracked the top 1000 U.S. names in 1950, but rose to #344 in 1955. His award-winning performance in 1972’s The Godfather prompted an ever bigger jump: “Marlon” became the 218th most popular name in the U.S. that year.
The name “Dustin” didn’t register among the top 1000 U.S. names at all until 1968—one year after Dustin Hoffman’s appearance in The Graduate—when it entered at #368. The name grew steadily in popularity through the early 1980s, hovering around #42 from 1981 through 1986. Film buffs may wonder whether the legendary box-office flop Ishtar (1987) had anything to do with the subsequent decline in the popularity of “Dustin”—even though Mr. Hoffman brought home an Academy Award for Rain Man in 1988.
Even science-fiction fans might be surprised by this one: in 1999, the year that The Matrix was released, the female name “Trinity” made a startling jump in the ranks to #209, from #525 the previous year; and even though that movie’s sequels (both released in 2003) were somewhat less well received, the name stayed popular—climbing all the way to #48 in 2004. More »
In an earlier post, we had some fun with Wolfram|Alpha’s popular collection of name data and its ability to compare given names’ popularity and demonstrate historical naming trends. Wolfram|Alpha can also compute statistics for surnames, rank them in order of commonality, and provide the approximate number of people living in the United States with any last name.
The data Wolfram|Alpha uses to compute surname statistics is largely drawn from name results from the U.S. Census. The United States is sometimes referred to as a “melting pot” because of the number of people who move to it from all corners of the world, bringing and melding their native cultures. Because of this, surnames found in the U.S. have origins from all over the world.
In this example below, we compare a set of random surnames. Take a guess at the most common surname in the U.S. Yes, it’s Smith. According to Wolfram|Alpha there are approximately 2.376 million Smiths living in the U.S.—that’s almost the population of Nevada.
One of the most popular Wolfram|Alpha features is the name directory. Whether you’re researching your own name or brainstorming baby names, the Wolfram|Alpha given name directory is a fun tool you can use to compare name popularity and statistics.
You can learn a lot about popular culture and history by tracking the popularity of given names. One historical example is the name Roosevelt, which celebrated two bursts of popularity, during the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
To view a pop culture example, enter the names Farrah, Mallory, and Britney into Wolfram|Alpha. The charted results show how these names peaked at different times. Note that Farrah’s spike in the late 1970s occurs at the time of Fawcett’s Charlie’s Angels fame, Mallory’s spike in popularity appears when Family Ties debuted in 1982, and Britney’s second spike coincides with Spears’ first album release in 1999. The data often has larger implications than just name popularity; think of it as a visual representation of a generation’s cultural influences.
The Wolfram|Alpha name database currently contains U.S. name data dating back to 1880, with international data to follow in the coming months. So whether you’re a parent seeking more information on baby names or are curious to find out more information on your own name, Wolfram|Alpha has the power to compute insightful results.
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 »