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The Wolfram|Alpha Team

Inquiring Minds Want to Know… Some Pretty Strange Queries

March 19, 2014 —
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Last week the weather here was pretty bizarre. Overnight, it went from 66°F and outdoor soccer matches to 28°F and a blanket of snow and ice. You know what else is pretty bizarre? Some of the things people can—and do—ask Wolfram|Alpha. So in case, like us, you’re stuck inside for a few more weeks of winter and in need of inspiration, read on for a few examples of some of the more… unique types of queries that you, too, can ask Wolfram|Alpha.

The Overly Specific and Highly Improbable

What if Captain Nemo had Blu-ray? How much time is there for in-transit entertainment while diving to the bottom of the Pacific? Descending at a constant speed of 282.2ft/min (about 3.2 mph), you can just fit in a showing of Oceans 11:

(maximum depth of pacific ocean in feet) / (runtime of Oceans 11)

In other cinema-nautical mashups, would you believe that the US national debt would weigh nearly 80,000 times as much as the great ship Titanic… if it were paid out in pennies?

(weight of us penny coin in pounds) * (united states federal debt/$0.01)/(weight of titanic in pounds)

In dollar coins, the debt would only weigh as much as 2,551 Titanics. So now we know why neither the Susan B. Anthony coin nor ships have ever taken off as common forms of legal tender.

Hair-Raising Matters

If water’s not your element, there are plenty of things to ponder back on dry land. Like, exactly how much slower than the slowest land animals is the rate at which human hair grows? A lot, apparently:

human hair growth rate in mi/h, speed slowest land animal in mi/h, speed slowest land mammal in mi/h

Somewhat surprisingly, hair growth (or lack thereof) seems to be a common query. While Wolfram|Alpha won’t exactly tell you how to cure baldness, it can tell you the demographics of the affected US population and what types of treatments are typically prescribed, among other things:


Are You Really Going to Eat That?

Food and nutrition
is another popular topic on Wolfram|Alpha. While most of the queries asked are pretty typical, some provide more fascinating food for thought. Like the fact that the US population eats about 3.5 times as much caloric energy in turkey at Thanksgiving each year as the amount of energy produced by the 1945 Trinity atom bomb test explosion in New Mexico:

(population US)/(1 person)/(yield Trinity bomb)*(calories in 12 oz roasted turkey with gravy)

Or consider the amount of fat in 3×10^200 fried chicken drumsticks:

fat in 3x10^200 vigintillion drumsticks

Which, while alarming, is not the public health concern that it sounds like, given that there are roughly 18.7 billion chickens in the world at any given time. Or in other terms, only a possible 3.74×10^10 drumsticks here on Earth.

New Takes on Space Exploration

Beyond our stratosphere, it’s hard to fathom the size and scale of outer space, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to put it into terms they can understand. Whether it’s measuring the distance from Mars to Jupiter by average Chihuahua height, or the annual cost/kilogram of the International Space Station by country GDP, or the relative proportion of mass quantities of bacon to the number of stars in all the galaxies in the observable universe:

((((mass of bacon) *googol) / (939318700 * mass of pig)) / ((number of stars in the milkyway) * (number of planets in the solar system))) / number of galaxies in the universe

That explains everything, doesn’t it?

All of the Above

Then there are those queries that help to satisfy your inner four-year-old by asking everything all at once to create new unit dimensions. Just because you can. Did you ever wonder what you’d get if you multiplied the Microsoft market cap times the distance from Venus to Mars, as well as the average human height, angular momentum of the Moon, speed of light, weight of an electron, density of lead, and gigabytes of data? Well, now you know:

market cap of microsoft * distance from venus to mars * average height of person * angular momentum of moon * speed of light * weight of electron * (meters / second)^2 * density of lead * 4 gigabytes

What other great mysteries of the universe will you ask Wolfram|Alpha today?


Hmm, I was not aware that searches are monitored (complete with IP address??) and even shared with the public. Not sure I really like that very much!

Posted by Sk0gr March 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Sk0gr, we appreciate your question, as we considered prefacing this post with a link to our privacy policy

    We at Wolfram|Alpha take your privacy-and the protection thereof-very seriously. Only anonymized logs (actually only the queries, without any personally identifiable information) were used in the creation of this blog, which is intended as a quirky look at the breadth of information and computation that Wolfram|Alpha handles on a daily basis, and the types of queries that are asked–not necessarily exact inputs.

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team March 21, 2014 at 9:03 am

These are hilarious. My personal favorite, for which Wolfram|Alpha comes up with three reasonable answers is “When will Hell freeze over?”

Posted by Bert Sierra March 19, 2014 at 10:35 pm

People always cry of falling hairs, but not realize how much hair grow daily. All Ads of shampoo are eye wash.

Posted by Turab Dawoodbhai Palitanawala March 19, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Even without the IP addresses, I’ll bet that most of it originated from one Randall Munroe.

Posted by Navneeth March 22, 2014 at 2:11 pm