Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Calling Wolfram Alpha

I haven't posted any web picks in a long time. This site got me out of retirement and fast!

We all know how to use and use search engines every day. We all use wiki's almost every day. There are so many reference tools on the web, it's only getting harder and harder to learn the old fashioned way. We all remember books right?

I royally stink at physics and advanced mathematics. Stephen Wolfram did not stink at physics or math. In fact he is world renown for his knowledge of physical science and math. He has made several valuable tools such as Mathematica, which is still very widely used today. Last week, he unveiled his latest creation with a lot of buzz and fanfare.

Wolfram Alpha is a research tool. That's the best way that I can describe it. It's not necessarily a search engine, but it uses search to define a query and to provide facts. It's not a wiki, it just provides basic facts on a subject and that's it. A great example would be to go to the site, and put in your name as a query. Let's try mine.

Michael (oh boy this will be mind blowing): 
  • There are approxomately 3.9 million Michael's today.
  • One in sixty men are named Michael (it feels more like 1 in 3 sometimes).
  • The largest spike in births happened ironically in 1974, the year I was born. Thanks, Dad.
So as you can see, you can start research using a service like this, you can come up with base facts, you can even learn something, as I just did. This service will only grow and become as commonly used as Google, so I recommend bookmarking it now, and enjoying the benefits of Dr. Wolfram's creation. I would also recommend everyone check out Leo Laporte's interview with Dr. Wolfram on This Week in Tech for the week of May 18th, 2009.