WolframAlpha

The people at WoframAlpha call it “A computational knowledge engine”. Well , difficult to comprehend exactly what purpose the site serves. Delving deeper to try to understand more, they continue to clarify the objectives of WolframAlpha.

“Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.” (see ‘about’ at WolframAlpha)

They further go on to state that they intend to make expert-level knowledge available to the broadest possible range of people possible. All that I can add at this point is an astounding ‘Wow!’ These are quite ambitious endeavors, but what kind of knowledge is at stake?

After following some of the suggestions for how to begin with exploring and understanding the functionality of WA, I typed in “x^2+sin(x)”, and in seconds was met with an overwhelming amount of data that an average person would never have need of. (see photo) After scrolling down the page, cocking my head sideways, an epiphany was on me! “My students!” I cried. They certainly aren’t your average person, and could definitely make use of this site for their projects. It looks like the endless hours of research, calculation and diagramming are over.*

Seeing results like this instantly remind me of a pretty well-known T.V. program called Star Trek. In the Star Trek future information is efficiently centralized and accessible from basically anyone, anywhere and on any subject with bringing up results very similar to what you see on WolframAlpha (minus the voice interaction). Let’s step into a world of fantasy to see, shall we?

-Me: “Computer, calculate the distance between Strasbourg and, oh let’s say Honolulu, and display the results on screen.”

Again, Wow! All that I can say is that the possibilities are endless, and perhaps the Star Trek future is closer than we can imagine. Try it for yourself, go to WolframAlpha!

*WolframAlpha is now a permalink in the EnglishCaddy reference library and will be listed as a resource on all syllabi this coming semester.

Side note: I’m typing this entry in Word, and it says it should publish directly into my blog. This should yield some interesting results so please forgive any mistakes.

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