Helping educators utilize Wolfram|Alpha in the classroom to enhance their lessons is one of our missions, and we love to learn about the creative ways teachers use Wolfram|Alpha.
One such example is Matt Arnold, a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teacher at Skiles Test Elementary in Indianapolis who started a Wolfram Math Club. The club consists of seven sixth-graders who meet twice a week to complete projects utilizing Wolfram|Alpha.
Is it really possible that yet another summer is drawing to a close? Here at Wolfram|Alpha, we’ve spent our summer getting ready to head back to school—building new course assistant apps, adding new data, and even making Wolfram|Alpha interactive with CDF. As the world’s leading knowledge engine, we’ve made it our mission to continually improve and ensure that we’re helping students and teachers around the globe explore concepts, ideas, and calculations on a deeper level than previously possible. More »
To mark the second anniversary of the launch of Wolfram|Alpha, I did an interactive webcast:
Here’s a transcript of my introduction:
[Note: here is what I wrote for Wolfram|Alpha’s first anniversary a year ago.]
So, as of today, Wolfram|Alpha has officially been out in the wild for two years.
And I’m happy to say, it’s doing really well.
You know, I’d been thinking about building Wolfram|Alpha for more than 30 years.
And I’ve been working to build the stack of ideas and technology to make it possible for nearly that long.
At the beginning, I was not really sure that Wolfram|Alpha was going to be possible at all.
And I think if I look a year ago from now my main conclusion was that after a year out in the wild, we’d proved that, yes, Wolfram|Alpha was indeed possible.
Well, now that we’re two years out, I think my conclusion is: Wolfram|Alpha is even a lot more important than I thought it was.
This effort to make all our knowledge computable is really something very fundamental, that’s sort of inevitably going to be needed just all over the place.
So what have we been up to this year?
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.
Just in time to tackle a common New Year’s resolution, we released “New Physical Activity Data in Wolfram|Alpha”.
After reading “Computing Valentine’s Day with Wolfram|Alpha”, there was little doubt that we speak math, the universal language of love.
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”.
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.
Where did the time go? In May we celebrated Wolfram|Alpha’s first birthday with the post “Wolfram|Alpha: The First Year”.
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.
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.
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 »
Oh, the weather outside has been mighty frightful in many parts of the U.S. and Europe these past few weeks! Your mother has told you, and we will remind you, that it is never a good idea to forgo your mittens during cold weather.
How many times have you dashed outside to find that the advertised temperature does not feel the same as you had expected? The wind plays a big role in how the air temperature feels on your skin. For example, today in Champaign, Illinois, the temperature is 21 degrees Fahrenheit, but factor in the wind, and it feels like 9 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Enter your current city in this handy widget and it will provide a wind chill temperature. (The widget is live, so go ahead and try it!)
Icy temperatures can cause frostbite, a condition where tissue such as skin is damaged, and in some cases destroyed, due to exposure to extreme cold. As we encourage our users to create their own widgets, one of our users arwheelock did so by creating a popular related Wolfram|Alpha Widget. This widget allows you to quickly compute how long your skin can be exposed to such weather conditions before becoming susceptible to frostbite. By simply entering the temperature and wind speed for your location, Wolfram|Alpha will tell you approximately how long your skin can be exposed to the conditions before developing frostbite.
So whether you’re off for an evening of caroling or an afternoon on the slopes, be mindful of the risks associated with leaving your mittens (or other cold weather gear) behind.
Wolfram|Alpha isn’t just the wolframalpha.com website; it’s a whole range of technologies. While the website may be the most familiar way to access these technologies, there are many potential uses and interfaces for the Wolfram|Alpha technology. We’ve already seen a few. Mobile apps for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS make Wolfram|Alpha accessible anywhere. Widgets allow users to tap portions of Wolfram|Alpha and bring them into their own webpages. The Wolfram|Alpha API allows programmers to integrate Wolfram|Alpha’s data and computation abilities in their own programs. There are even private custom versions of Wolfram|Alpha used to analyze confidential corporate data.
But now there’s another interface to Wolfram|Alpha, one which brings with it a whole new set of capabilities: Mathematica. With the new Mathematica 8, you can access the Wolfram|Alpha engine directly from within Mathematica. Inside a Mathematica notebook document, just type == at the beginning of a line; you’ll get an orange Spikey icon indicating that Mathematica is ready to perform a Wolfram|Alpha query. Now simply type anything that you would type into the Wolfram|Alpha website. You’ll get back the same results as on the website—and more! Using the full power of the Mathematica software, this interface to Wolfram|Alpha allows new levels of interactivity and detail.
In Mathematica, all graphics can be resized, and three-dimensional graphics can be rotated. Moreover, since Mathematica receives the underlying vector graphic from Wolfram|Alpha and not simply a bit-mapped image, this means that enlarging a graphic provides greater detail instead of a boxy image. For example, let’s look at everyone’s favorite three-dimensional surface, the Mathematica Spikey.
By simply clicking and dragging, you can rotate the Spikey. To resize, click the resize points on the frame that appear after clicking on the graphic. More »
Last weekend, we celebrated Halloween in the U.S., and by Sunday evening, retailers had popped up display after display of Christmas trees, snow globes, inflatable snowmen, and other symbols of festive December holidays. And chances are, when the holiday-themed toy commercials hit the television this past week, you asked yourself, “Where did the time go?”
Here at Wolfram|Alpha, the holiday countdown is always on! Wolfram|Alpha knows the dates of many holidays and observations from around the world, from Children’s Day in India to the anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall was opened. Couple that data with Wolfram|Alpha’s ability to calculate dates, and you have a swift tool for counting down to a special day or answering queries such as “number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas”. And because some similarly named holidays are celebrated on different days in different countries, Wolfram|Alpha will return the appropriate date based on the location of your IP address. So for example, if you’re located in the U.S., Wolfram|Alpha knows that this year, Labor Day was on September 6, and if you’re in the U.K., Labor Day was on May 1.
And if you’re really in the spirit, you can grab one of these simple holiday countdown widgets for your website or blog. This simple widget includes a countdown to Thanksgiving, Chanukkah, Al-Hijra, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve in the U.S.
And since Wolfram|Alpha Widgets are customizable, you can create personal widgets that include your favorite popular holidays or private events, such as Fido’s birthday.
Wolfram|Alpha Widgets are just one more way you can share some holiday cheer on your blog and with your social networks. What holiday or special day are you counting down to?
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?
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 »
Renowned physicist Enrico Fermi’s name is synonymous with a type of estimation problem often illustrated by the classic question, “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?” Finding a “Fermi estimate” of this number would typically involve multiplying a series of rough estimates, such as the population of Chicago, an approximate number of households owning pianos, the frequency with which a typical piano might be tuned, and so on. It’s unlikely that anyone would arrive at a precise, correct answer through this method, but a Fermi estimate should at least be able to generate an answer that is approximately the right order of magnitude.
A Fermi estimate usually seeks to measure a quantity that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to actually measure. “Piano tuners in Chicago” may have fallen into that category several decades ago, but as Wolfram|Alpha can now demonstrate, things have changed:
We recently overhauled our data on jobs and salaries in the United States, adding Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on more than 800 detailed occupations at the national, state, and metropolitan area levels. Which means Wolfram|Alpha can’t quite get you to an exact measurement of the number of piano tuners in Chicago (and presumably, many of them must at least dabble in other instruments), but it can come surprisingly close.
Wolfram|Alpha can also compute a number of interesting statistics that aren’t obvious from the source data, such as the fact that Chicago has quite a high density of musical instrument tuners and repairers—roughly 2.3 times the national average workforce fraction for this occupation—and that their median wage is roughly 1.3 times the national average. And it can also provide helpful context for any occupation, computing employment and wage information for related jobs and sub-specialties, according to BLS classifications.
You can also perform all kinds of interesting comparisons, of course: try asking Wolfram|Alpha to “compare producers and actors employment in California”, for example, or “garbage collectors vs waiters salaries in New York City”. Or if you’re contemplating a cross-country move, you might be interested to see a comparison between “computer programmers salaries in Seattle vs Philadelphia”.
And if you need to access salary and job-related data often, you can create your own Wolfram|Alpha Widgets tailored for specific jobs and regions. You can easily customize widgets, like the one below, and embed them in your website and share with your social networks.