You may have heard of Wolfram Alpha, which is a “computational knowledge engine.” That makes it sound a bit scary, but it’s a great tool once you can wrap your head around it.
Apple’s Siri uses Wolfram Alpha for 25% of its searches. You can leverage that magic and put Wolfram Alpha to work for you — the empty search box on its homepage holds endless possibilities.
Enter two terms with a vs in between them and you’ll get a comparison. For example, you could compare websites to see the differences in traffic between them.
You can compare cities, books, foods and almost anything else you can think of.
Enter a type of food and Wolfram Alpha will provide you with its nutrition information. You don’t have to stop at one — enter multiple types of food and Wolfram Alpha will compare them for you.
Wolfram Alpha is ideal for the sort of math that Google’s calculator and most other calculator websites will choke on. It even provides graphs.
Where Am I?
Ask where you are and Wolfram will use your IP address to track you down. You can also enter an IP address into the box and Wolfram will track that IP address down and tell you where it is.
Days Until Something
Want to know how many days are left until your birthday, favorite holiday or any other date? Just ask for the days until a certain date.
Generate a Password
Wolfram Alpha can come up with a random password and estimate how long it will take to crack. You can even tweak the rules used to generate the password.
Am I Drunk?
Have you been drinking? Wolfram Alpha can estimate whether you can legally drive home. Ask it if you’re drunk and you’ll get a form asking for more information.
Provide the information and Wolfram will estimate whether you should drive home, call a cab or wait. You can even consult the little graph to see when you’ll be within the legal blood-alcohol limit.
How Common is Your Name?
Enter a name and you can see how common it is, complete with a graph showing you how popular the name has been over time. Enter multiple names and Wolfram will compare how common they are.
Body Mass Index
Type body mass index and Wolfram will present you with another form. After you provide your weight and height, Wolfram Alpha will calculate your BMI and tell you whether you’re within the normal range.
Want to find words that begin with a certain letter, end with a certain combination of letters — or both? Just ask Wolfram Alpha in plain English.
This is just scratching the surface of what Wolfram Alpha can do. Plug in anything you’re curious about and see what happens.
Do you have a favorite use for Wolfram Alpha? Leave a comment and let us know.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 02/29/12