How to use Wolfram Alpha

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on March 28, 2013 6:51 PM

Question

A friend told me about the Wolfram Alpha search engine but when I tried to use it, I was lost. What’s it for?

- Jaime

Answer

This question was answered on March 28, 2013. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Wolfram Alpha ( http://www.wolframalpha.com ) isn’t a search engine in the traditional sense, it’s actually a ‘computational knowledge engine’ as described by its creators.

Instead of getting a list of potential sites that may contain information that you seek (like Google and Bing) Wolfram Alpha will actually compute answers to your query via its massive structured databases.

To put it in plain English, it’s the greatest tool ever created for parents that are trying to help their kids with their homework!

Answers to general math, algebra, trigonometry, astrology, geography, chemistry or just about any factual based question you may have.

Want to know the answer to 1/4 * (4 - 1/2)? Need a really extensive mortgage calculator (mortgage $300,000)?

Want to get the technical info on Bambarakanda Falls? Want a technical analysis of soybean futures? Wolfram Alpha is your new best friend.

Want W.A. to analyze your Facebook data? Just type Facebook report and hit the “analyze my Facebook data” button to get an extensive report on how you use Facebook.

If you have an up and coming songwriter that is struggling for a word that rhymes with umbrella, ask Wolfram Alpha!

Want to know what the weather was on the day you were born?

Ask for the weather in the city of your birth on your birthday.

Want a graphical representation of a second cousin twice removed? Just ask!

The next time you want to wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook, type their month and day into W.A. to learn trivia related to their birthdate.

Trying to fill in the letters for a difficult crossword puzzle? Type an underscore ( _ ) for letters that are missing along with the letters that you know (example: _al__la__).

Looking for anagrams, cryptograms or acronyms? Just ask!

Need to compare two historical figures? Type their names separated by a comma: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison.

If you really want a new look at the weather in your area, just type ‘weather’ or if you are about to travel, type ‘weather in new York city’ to get an amazing amount of data on the weather patterns where you are headed.

For web designers, you can ask W.A. for the hex or RGB value for common colors; for those researching demographic or income data for a specific city, simply type the city and then the desired data set: Boulder income.

If you have friends or business associates in other countries, you can ask W.A. ‘time in Zurich’.

You must think a little different when entering queries into Wolfram Alpha and you may want to start with basic words and build from there.

You can also take the power of Wolfram Alpha with you on your mobile devices by downloading their mobile app for most of the popular platforms: http://products.wolframalpha.com/mobile</p>

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on March 28, 2013

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