Super UserWhat is Wolfram Alpha good for?
[+32] [0] T Pops
[2009-07-15 15:22:11]
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I typically use Google for any data-gathering I need to do.

Recently, I tried out Wolfram Alpha [1]. This thing is pretty interesting.

But I couldn't think of any use besides figuring out what the weather was like on my date of birth.

Has anyone put this site to good use?

(50) They should've called it Wolfram Alpha Research, and then your question could've beeen "WAR: what is it good for?" - Alistair Knock
Great one Alistair :D - Andrea Ambu
+1 Good question for the SU knowledgebase. LOL @Alistair! - pavsaund
(9) @Alistair - but then the answer would be "Absolutely Nothing" - Joe Schmoe
@Alistair you thought exactly what I did seeing the title :) - Kent Fredric
Wolfram Alpha appears to be computer software running on computer hardware unless it is all faked with people using slide rulers and graph paper. - C.W.Holeman II
[+59] [2009-07-15 15:39:00] Andrea Ambu [ACCEPTED]

It does a lot of things!

I study electronic engineering and it is the coolest web tool :) Something like a web based mathematica

Few examples:

integral sin(x)*sin(x) [1]
inverse laplace transform 1/(s+3) [2]
plane for (1,1,1) (0,0,1) and (1,2,3) [3]
RLC circuit 1ohm, 3nH,1pF [4]

Or roughly analyzing my computer consume: 0.25 €/kwh * 650W * 1 month [5]
or you can ask it what will look like the weather tomorrow [6] (it will guess your current location)

Or even funnier (maybe not so useful) things like:
google employees/apple employees [7]

or cheating at the hanging man game: O _ E _ F _ _ _ [8]

It's like having a "free" copy of Mathematica at hand, usable even on a netbook or on my N78 :) Don't know why you should use it but it works for me very well!

PS: You should really try to follow links to get the idea.


(6) +1 for including links. - Dennis Williamson
(10) The hangman thing is awesome. - Javier Badia
(3) +1 for a great answer. Wolfram Alpha isn't for everyone, and this answer highlights just that. (would have given a +2 if i could for the hangman cheat!) - pavsaund
(2) +1 for the Hangman/Crossword solving link - tjrobinson
A computer doesn't consume 650W all the time! I know I pay less than 119€ for electricity per month (and that's for ALL my electricity), and there's at least 1 system running all the time (mostly more). - fretje
Thanks @all. @fretje: it was just an example. Anyway it depends on what's your machine, how much it consumes, how long you keep it on, and on where you live for the cost. It was just to show how great wolframalpha is handling various dimensions. - Andrea Ambu
(1) +1 for excellent comment and examples. Now I know what to use at hangman! Bwahaha. - EvilChookie
+1 for the hangman, brilliant idea! - kkaploon
[+15] [2009-07-15 15:30:09] Andrija

I use it for combining colors to get hexadecimal values when writing colors in css.

for example, I need dark red: red + #000000 [1]


[+9] [2009-07-15 15:58:50] raspi

I've found it good for "How long it takes?" type questions for example


+1 for including a link. - Dennis Williamson
[+8] [2009-07-15 16:43:14] Ivo Flipse

Wolfram Alpha [1] itself changes the question to: What are you?

And changes it to: I am a computational knowledge engine.


[+7] [2009-07-15 15:25:34] MicTech

Joel says " Why Wolfram Alpha fails [1]" based on this Wolfram Alpha and hubristic user interfaces [2]


i don't get it... if a new tool helps me to get my work done quicker i doubt it will fail - user127
Hadn't noticed it failing, I find it very useful. I'm thinking that the solution set it provides just isn't one that Joel needs at this time. - Brian Knoblauch
[+4] [2009-07-17 08:56:20] Drake

to prove your geekness

I am joking :) I still have to find sometime to playing with it and searching good uses that could help me and my work


[+3] [2009-07-26 18:15:20] Kevin Panko

This may not answer what it is "good for," but there are lots of easter eggs [1] to find.


[+2] [2009-07-15 17:06:38] Dennis Williamson

Here's another good blog post [1] about the frustrations of using Wolfram|Alpha. Until they work out the user interface problems, W|A will remain a curiosity. Once they do, a user should be able to fulfill the promise of being able to synthesize new ideas by juxtaposing data in new ways.

In the mean time, I only play around with it. There's very little depth I can access without a tremendous amount of gyration.

Also, the number of errors people have found in the data and calculations is discouraging.


[+1] [2009-07-17 08:49:58] Pacifika

It's great for putting calculations into context for every day use. For example try: 100GB / 400 (users) and you will receive the result not just in GB, but also MB, CDS, DVDS etc.

[+1] [2009-07-28 20:29:45] martani_net
sorry sorry didn't pay attention I'll update them - martani_net
[+1] [2009-07-15 15:27:42] Karim

I have not but I would think that it would be great for journalists, authors, documentarians or anyone else who needs to get statistical data. The fact that Wolfram Alpha tries to cite their sources is great for these folks. College students writing papers in lots of different fields I would think would use it as well.

[+1] [2009-07-15 16:49:52] user1607

Chemistry. If you want to see the chemical formula for methane, you can find the state of matter at different temperatures and pressures. I use it all the time for calculating values of hydrogen storage.

It's especially useful for using systems of metric and "U.S. Customary" in the same formula without having to worry about missing a conversion. But Google can do that for you...

[+1] [2009-07-15 16:15:40] Jeff Martin

The correct answer is: To answer every question your precocious 6- 11 year old has. When he asks what the largest moon in the solar system is. Or how many gallons of water are in the pacific ocean... Wolfram should have those answers.

While I realize that not all the databases that will be in Wolfram Alpha are in there now it will they will be.

Btw the ocean question takes two queries

pacific ocean area * pacific ocean average depth [1]

convert 1.605x10^8 mi3 to gallons [2]


second link is wrong.. - Alex B
love it - great idea Jeff! - Antony
2nd link fixed (bug reported to - Jeff Martin
"While I realize that not all the databases that will be in Wolfram Alpha are in there now it will they will be." This sentence makes no sense. - Adriano Varoli Piazza
[+1] [2009-07-19 15:50:01] Sliff

Musical scales, for example:


[0] [2009-07-15 15:28:03] Strider

Wolfram Alpha needs lots of organized data to be useful. This means that something like the internet is not what its meant to index.

I'm thinking about various companies that deal with lots of organized data and need a computational engine will find this useful.

[0] [2009-07-15 15:28:29] person-b

I only use it for facts, plotting graphs (sin(x)) and funny words! (cosy sins - try it!)

[0] [2009-07-15 15:29:01] Russell Heilling

I have used it a couple of times for unit conversion and timezone calculations, which was moderately useful... Its largely just a curiosity though.

[0] [2009-07-28 21:26:48] Factor Mystic

I found it useful for comparisons. Such as: gdp vietnam, cambodia, which produces a series of useful statistics, and even charts the raw results:

alt text

Sure, I could compile this data myself from State Department reports, and put that into Excel, and graph it, and save the result as an image for inclusion in my report... or, I could just put that into Alpha and get the results I need in 1 click.

[0] [2009-08-10 14:52:59] RamyenHead

Also useful for learning Mathematica itself.

For example you want to know how to integrate a function in Mathematica, then you enter

integrate x y dx

on Wolfram|Alpha and click on the result to see that the corresponding Mathematica plaintext input is

Integrate[x y, x]

Suppose you want to know how to graph a list of data points in Mathematica, you could enter

graph n^2 from 1 to 10

on Wolfram|Alpha and click on the 'Mathematica form' link (in the first box) to see that

Plot[n^2, {n, 1, 10}]

is the corresponding Mathematica form.

I wish other programming languages also have this feature.

[0] [2009-07-19 15:33:02] Jeremy Frey

I've found it useful for calorie counting and nutritional information, given base ingredients. While about half my queries end up with "Wolfram Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input", with a little bit of tweaking and understanding the parsing engine, I'm able to get accurate counts of the foods I'm about to put into my body. For example, French Toast [1].