A new tool for finding data and doing calculations was released in March. I just heard about it today – several times in fact – I’m a few weeks behind on the “buzz”.
Wolfram Alpha is NOT a search engine – “It’s a computational knowledge engine: it generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links.” (source)
What does that mean? If you’re looking for data or something that can be computed, Wolfram Alpha will try to figure it out and give you an answer. It’s not searching the web and returning web pages that might have an answer. It’s drawing on a big collection of data to try and get the right information for you.
It can be a bit fussy about what you put in, so do take a look at their page of examples to get a feel for what it can do.
A couple of searches I tested:
- Roses – returned info on the plant taxonomy
- Nutritional info - how much fiber is in that apple?
- How long has it been since…
And my all time favorite that was used in an NPR piece on Wolfram Alpha
- You’re my 2nd cousin once removed? – in my family this is crucial info for any family reunion!
Try it out. What do you think? Did you find some great searches to share?