TAG: Words And Linguistics
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 15, 2010– 4

When we talk on this blog about “making knowledge computable”, the knowledge in question is often mathematical or statistical in nature. But that’s not the only knowledge Wolfram|Alpha can compute. We’ve always had a solid backbone of dictionary-style information about words, but we’ve been steadily adding new features to that traditional output. Some of it should be quite useful, some of it is just for fun, and much of it takes advantage of Wolfram|Alpha’s ability to mash up algorithms and data from a wide variety of knowledge domains.

To celebrate National Dictionary Day (October 16)—which honors Noah Webster, often regarded as “the father of the modern dictionary”—you might like to take advantage of this classic word widget, which provides quick access to some of the more traditional areas of Wolfram|Alpha’s lexicographical data: definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, and more for most English words.

Or grab the next widget if you want to play around with a few of the “fun” features we’ve added, including the ability to compute anagrams and convert words to telephone keypad digits. More »

August 5, 2010– 7

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.

size of earth, size of 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”?

Mixing the colors 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.
More »

May 7, 2010– 6

Hello, fellow readers of the Wolfram|Alpha Blog—my name’s Justin. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Over the years I’ve found my own way of getting things done in regards to homework and studying routines. But this semester I realized there were tools available that would make studying and completing assignments easier and help me understand better. One tool that has become increasingly valuable in my routine and those of other students on my campus is Wolfram|Alpha. Recently, I was invited to share how Wolfram|Alpha is being used by students like myself.

Being a marketing major, I had to take some finance and accounting courses, but I was a bit rusty with the required formulas and the overall understanding of the cash flow concepts, such as future cash flows and the net present values of a future investment. A friend recommended I check out Wolfram|Alpha’s finance tools, and they’ve became indispensable in my group’s casework for the semester. Each proposed future investment we were met with, we would go directly to Wolfram|Alpha to compute the cash flows. We even went as far to show screenshots, such as the one below, of inputs and outputs in our final case presentation last week.

Net present value calculation in Wolfram|Alpha

I’ve met other students on my campus who have found Wolfram|Alpha to be helpful in their courses. A few months ago while studying in the library, I walked by a table of freshman students all using Wolfram|Alpha on their laptops. I decided to stop and chat with them because I knew one of the girls. They explained how they were using Wolfram|Alpha to model functions and check portions of their math homework. All three girls are enrolled in Calculus III, and not exactly overjoyed about the fact of future— and most likely harder—math classes. More »

April 23, 2010– 5

There’s no better time than the rainy spring season to bring friends and family together for a game night. If you happen to find yourself at a table full of ruthless Scrabble players, you might find your new best friend in Wolfram|Alpha.

The Scrabble functionality in Wolfram|Alpha has useful tools, such as a points calculator and a dictionary word verifier. Wolfram|Alpha can also suggest other possible words to be used. Currently, Wolfram|Alpha supports the American English, International English, and French versions of Scrabble. Each of these versions has their own scoring system. Wolfram|Alpha’s GeoIP capabilities will return results based on the default version for the user’s location. However, you can specify a version in your input, like “International English Scrabble umbrella”.

Here are a few examples:

You can find the results for words such as umbrella by entering “Scrabble umbrella” into Wolfram|Alpha:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates the score for the Scrabble word "umbrella"

The results pods tells us that the score is 12 and that this word is in the regional Scrabble dictionary (American in this case). It also gives other words that can be made with these letters, listed in score order. 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.

October 21, 2009– 0

If you’re writing an essay for history or a speech for debate class, Wolfram|Alpha is a great resource. It has an enormous words and linguistics database that you can use for such things as word definitions, and word origins, synonyms, and hyphenation. Wolfram|Alpha can even compute the number of pages a given text might produce based on the number of words it contains, such as “500 words in French”. Wolfram|Alpha also has the ability to compute details such how long it should take you to type, read, and deliver that 500-word speech you’ve been preparing.

Type “word contest”, and Wolfram|Alpha will retrieve the word data for the English word “contest”. The results tell you many definitions of the word, that its first known recorded use was in 1603, that it rhymes with “conquest”, and a wealth of other data on just that word. More »

July 29, 2009– 14

Wolfram|Alpha is a great resource for writers. It has an enormous words and linguistics database that writers can use for such things as word definitions, origins, synonyms, hyphenation, and Soundex lookups.

Type “word contest”, and Wolfram|Alpha will retrieve the word data for the English word “contest”. The results tell you many definitions of the word, that its first known recorded use was in 1603, that it rhymes with “conquest”, and a wealth of other data on just that word.

More »

July 17, 2009– 7

Wolfram|Alpha introduces many new methods for understanding linguistic inputs. Those methods allow you and others around the world to ask it questions in natural ways. In this video, a developer working on Wolfram|Alpha’s linguistics shares a bit about her role in building and improving the system’s understanding to help you get the answers you’re looking for.

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Get the latest Flash Player.

You can watch more interviews with Wolfram|Alpha team members here.

June 12, 2009– 6

We’ve updated another entry thanks to feedback sent to Wolfram|Alpha. We’ve now changed linguistic priority settings so that “blog” is no longer interpreted as the math expression b log(x) by default.

Blog used to default to b log(x) 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 4, 2009– 43

Today if you give input to Wolfram|Alpha in a language other than English, you’ll most likely see something like:

Wolfram|Alpha does not yet understand...

But in making Wolfram|Alpha accessible to as many people around the world as possible, our goal is eventually to have it understand every one of these languages.

A certain amount of Wolfram|Alpha input is actually quite language independent—because it’s really in math, or chemistry, or some other international notation, or because it’s asking about something (like a place) that’s always referred to by the same name.

But inevitably many inputs do depend on human language—and in fact even now about 5% of all inputs that are given try to use a language other than English.

Wolfram|Alpha knows quite a bit about the general properties of essentially every language (Spanish, Swahili, ….) But it doesn’t yet know how to interpret input in any language other than English. More »

May 24, 2009– 41

(Comments to a blog post this morning on Gizmodo.)

Type in the word “dumb” to Wolfram|Alpha and you’ll get all sorts of interesting information. Like that “dumb” was first recorded in use in 1323—686 years ago. More »