25 Amazing Features of the Wolfram Alpha Knowledge Engine

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June 2nd, 2009

By Meredith Walker

The new Wolfram Alpha Knowledge Engine is the first web tool to compute knowledge based on your simple query. It is capable of answering systematic questions based on quantitative principles, like science, units and measures, and places and geography. Unlike a search engine, the Wolfram Alpha pulls from its own knowledge base and actually responds to questions, instead of spewing out reference material for further review. It’s revolutionizing the way we can use the Internet as an information resource, and our list of 25 of its most amazing features proves that.

Overview

Get a basic understanding of what makes the Wolfram Alpha so special.

  1. It contains over 10 trillion pieces of data: As of its start date, the Wolfram Alpha Knowledge Engine contains over 10 trillion pieces of data that it sorts through to compute answers to your questions. It also features over 50,000 types of algorithms and models, and more than 5 million lines of code from Mathematica.
  2. It’s not a search engine: The Wolfram Alpha team clarifies that its new tool is a "computational knowledge engine" that actually digs through its own knowledge base to compute solutions and responses, unlike a search engine.
  3. It works with other search engines: According to the Wolfram Alpha FAQs page, you can use the tool with a regular search engine by adding the box to your regular desktop.
  4. It’s always finding new stuff: The Wolfram Alpha is always in development, and is always adding new information to its database. If it couldn’t find an answer to your query the first time, keep checking back in the future.

What it Can Find

Discover how the Wolfram Alpha can work for you by playing around with these example queries.

  1. Weather: Find weather forecasts, records, charts, and even local sun rise and set times.
  2. Books: Compare books and get information about different books and college textbooks, including interpretations, author information, and more.
  3. Maps and Projections: Look up maps according to all kinds of criteria, including life expectancy and more.
  4. View your results in all types of formats: Depending on your search, you will find your results displayed in all sorts of formats that make the answer easier to process, including pie charts, bar representation, word definitions, percentages, fractions, and more.
  5. Compute dates and times: Look up important information about specific dates in history; calculate time differences, generate calendars for past dates, and more.
  6. Compare people: Compare basic facts about people, including their profession, degree, full names, and birth and death dates.
  7. Discover genealogy lines: The Wolfram Alpha can compute family relationships and quickly tell you how you’re related to someone by generating a genealogic tree.
  8. It can turn you into a stock whiz: Get all kinds of analytics and information on specific stocks. You can even use the engine to compare stocks, do mortgage computations, compute future values, and more.
  9. It’s a cheat sheet for hash codes, CAPTCHA, web characters and more: The Wolfram Alpha computes all kinds of web and computer systems data and acts like a cheat sheet when you don’t feel like doing it yourself.
  10. It can teach you about music: Use the engine to learn about musical note, chord and scale properties. You’ll find out standard frequency, music notation, keyboard locations, major scales for particular notes, and more.
  11. It knows all about genetics: Look up specific genes to find their location, alternate names, sequence length, nearby genes, splicing structure and processes, displayed and explained in clear graphs and definitions.
  12. Compute life expectancy: Find out how long you’re expected to live based on your sex, age and geographic location.
  13. It’s a statistical genius: Well, sort of, The Wolfram Alpha doesn’t think for itself, but its knowledge base of statistics and probability is enviable.

Tools and Capability

These tools and features make the Wolfram Alpha even more user-friendly and convenient to use.

  1. iGoogle Gadget: This download lets you add Wolfram Alpha to your iGoogle page, for convenient Q&A surfing.
  2. It works on an iPhone: Wolfram Alpha is already equipped to work and display appropriately on an iPhone.
  3. It’s customizable: This program involves Wolfram Alpha creating a database that pulls information from your data and integrated with its own knowledge base. Use the customized version to compare and cross-reference information.
  4. Toolbars: You can also add Wolfram Alpha to your Internet Explorer, Firefox 2, or Firefox 3 toolbar.
  5. You can add a Wolfram Alpha box to your own site: By choosing to add a box to your own site, you can let visitors search the knowledge base more easily.

How Wolfram Alpha Works

Learn more about how the Wolfram Alpha works and how it can be used below.

  1. It’s free: The Wolfram Alpha is free to use for everyone.
  2. You can always find primary sources: If you want to know how Wolfram Alpha found your answer, follow the Source Information button to find primary and other resources.
  3. It’s considered its own primary source: Wolfram Alpha considers itself a primary source, worthy of being cited in
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