Wolfram Alpha: Like Meth to a Mathematician


WolframAlpha3We first heard about Wolfram Alpha – a new “computational knowledge engine” – in an article on CNN.com about a new era of Internet search that we may be entering. The article lists sites like Twine and hakia – among others with unique qualities – which try to personalize searches, separating out results you would find interesting, based on your Web use. But Wolfram Alpha piqued our interest for two reasons: 1) we haven’t come across a search engine as comprehensively computational as Wolfram Alpha, and 2) we have a love-hate relationship with long division. Math is our nemesis.

Not everyone is singing Wolfram Alpha’s praises, however. This article on PCWorld.com by 49.96-year-old writer David Coursey, posted earlier today – when Wolfram Alpha officially launched – suggests that the engine may not be the “cyber wonderbrain” some might have expected.

Still, it’s pretty remarkable. And unless you have a tiny clone of Albert Einstein tucked away in your pocket protector, it will likely be useful at one point or another.

As an example, we’re picked a random date in time – June 17, 1984. When we entered that date into Wolfram Alpha, this is what we got:

WolframAlpha1

What you’re unable to see – mostly because Apple’s screen-capture technology is primitive! – are the times for sunrise and sunset on that day and the exact hours of daylight. Pretty incredible, right?

If you think that’s neat, take a look at this – June 17, 2084.

AlphaWolfram2

It’s like Google, Jetsons-style.

And there are toooons of other nerdy things it can do. Enter any town and Wolfram provides the current local time, the city population, current weather conditions, it’s approximate elevation, and nearby larger cities. You can also plug in and compare stocks, find chemical compounds, conduct virtual physics experiments, and receive an answer to any calculation or math formula.

Long division, we will conquer you!

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