TAG: Web And Computer Systems
January 28, 2011– 8

It is immediately clear to anyone who has used the site that Wolfram|Alpha knows a lot about mathematics. When computing integrals, sums, statistics, properties of mathematical objects, or a myriad of other mathematical and mathematics-related problems, it typically returns an extensive and exhaustively complete result. Which is of course not surprising, given that Wolfram|Alpha has the entire power and knowledge of Mathematica behind it, especially when combined with the fact that this native “smarts” is further augmented with large amounts of curated data and customized processing.

However, many visitors to the site have noted in the past that Wolfram|Alpha had relatively little computable knowledge about mathematical terms themselves, a state of affairs in contrast to its knowledge of words in the English language, and perhaps surprising in light of the existence of another Wolfram site devoted to the definition and description of terms in mathematics, namely MathWorld.

As readers of MathWorld likely already know, the entire MathWorld website is written and built using Mathematica. It has therefore been possible to programmatically process the entire 13,000+ entries comprising MathWorld into the native data format of Wolfram|Alpha, thus exposing its content in more computable form.

As an example of the sort of new knowledge this confluence brings to Wolfram|Alpha, consider the input “Lorenz attractor”. In the past, this would simply bring up a Wolfram|Alpha future topic page.

With the incorporation of MathWorld content, the default parse now goes to a description of the attractor, complete with an illustrative figure and some helpful typeset equations:

Lorenz attractor

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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– 7

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.

October 20, 2009– 2

There’s a lot going on in the Wolfram|Alpha project these days—and this week there’s a remarkable convergence of events.

Late last week we introduced the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API, allowing outside developers to call Wolfram|Alpha from their websites or application programs.

Then yesterday we released the first mobile implementation of Wolfram|Alpha, in the form of an iPhone app.

Tomorrow, we’re doing something completely different: Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day—a 14-hour live webcast event for students and educators.

Oh, and starting on Thursday is the International Mathematica User Conference, which will show many advances in the core Mathematica technology on which Wolfram|Alpha is based.
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October 15, 2009– 28

On behalf of the Wolfram|Alpha API team, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API.

The response to Wolfram|Alpha and the interest from the community in using the API to build innovative computational knowledge applications has been staggering. Since Wolfram|Alpha launched in May, developers anticipating the release of the API have been sending us their ideas for how they want to use Wolfram|Alpha in their applications. I stopped counting after the 2000th idea crossed my desk. Overwhelmingly, developers see Wolfram|Alpha as a platform for building a business—providing commercial services that leverage Wolfram|Alpha’s unique capabilities.

We’ve seen interest across a wide range of areas for which the developer community wants to use Wolfram|Alpha—researching cancer through computational biology, augmenting web and meta-web search with computed knowledge, enriching online journalism with interactive content, building artificial intelligence systems on our domain expertise, leveraging our data analysis for decision support, optimizing renewable-energy efficiency, and even determining the optimal temperature for draft beer based on the current weather conditions. Clearly, a straightforward API that enables applications to access advanced computations based on trusted information and backed up by a supercomputer-class infrastructure invites developers to explore ideas that were not otherwise possible.

The API is the first of many products and services within the growing Wolfram|Alpha developer ecosystem, from computed data services to GUI-based tools for building interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate into your website.

The API allows your application to interact with Wolfram|Alpha much like you do on the web—you send a web request with the same query string you would type into Wolfram|Alpha’s query box and you get back the same computed results. It’s just that both are in a form your application can understand. There are plenty of ways to tweak and control the results, as well. You can read all about that in the documentation.

The Wolfram|Alpha developer community has already proved itself to be as involved and imaginative as any. There are two ways to get started and become a part of this vibrant community. First, you can register for an API account and explore and experiment on your own. Or, if you’ve got the next Big Idea(TM), let me know. Let’s see what fresh and ingenuous ways we can apply computational knowledge and change the world.

August 20, 2009– 155

So what’s been happening with Wolfram|Alpha this summer? A lot!

At a first glance, the website looks pretty much as it did when it first launched—with the straightforward input field. But inside that simple exterior an incredible amount has happened. Our development organization has been buzzing with activity all summer. In fact, it’s clear from the metrics that the intensity is steadily rising, with things being added at an ever-increasing rate.

Wolfram|Alpha was always planned to be a very long-term project, and paced accordingly. We pushed very hard to get it launched before the summer so that we could spend the “quiet time” of our first summer steadily enhancing it, before more people start using it more intently in the fall.

Two really great things have happened as a result of actually getting Wolfram|Alpha launched. The first is that we’ve discovered that there’s a huge community of people out there who want to help the mission of Wolfram|Alpha. And we’re steadily ramping up our mechanisms for those people to contribute to the project. More »

April 29, 2009– 77

As people might imagine, I’m pretty busy right now getting Wolfram|Alpha ready for launch. But yesterday afternoon I took a few hours out to give an early preview of Wolfram|Alpha at Harvard.

There were lots of interesting questions and comments, particularly about the broader intellectual context of Wolfram|Alpha.

There’s really a very long and rich history behind the kinds of things we’re doing with Wolfram|Alpha.

And in fact, a little while ago my staff took some notes of mine and assembled a timeline about the history of “The Quest for Computable Knowledge.” I think it makes interesting reading; there’s quite a diverse collection of elements, some very well known, some not.

I’ve always been particularly struck by Gottfried Leibniz’s role. He really had pretty much the whole idea of Wolfram|Alpha—300 years ago.
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