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WolframAlpha Group Member Introduction Page
This chapter was created by: Jules McGee, Victoria Hickox, Gabrielle Chumbley, Andrea Aikman, and Tyler Danner.
What is WolframAlpha?
Purpose
The longterm goal of WolframAlpha is to "make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone" by gathering all possible data and making it "possible to compute whatever can be computed about everything" 2. WolframAlpha is an answer engine rather than a search engine. Stephen Wolfram himself calls it a “computational knowledge engine”. This means that it does not simply return documents like Google, nor is it a giant database like Wikipedia. Rather, it actually computes the answers to a wide variety of questions. It also goes beyond simply answering questions and helps users explore knowledge, data, and the relationships between things. 3
(Founder of Wolfram Alpha)
Who uses WolframAlpha?
About 320,000 people visit WolframAlpha's website each day. There are also around 1.6 million daily page views. 4 "WolframAlpha aims to bring expertlevel knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people  spanning all professions and education levels." 5
Section 
Table of Contents 

I. 
History 
II. 
Relates to Other Applications? 
III. 
Real World Application 
IV. 
Demonstration of Educational Value 
V. 

VI. 

VII. 
I. History
I.1 Development of WolframAlpha
WolframAlpha was launched on May 18, 2009 by Stephen Wolfram. Stephen Wolfram is the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research that resides in Champaign, Illinois 6, 7. Mathematica was a very important piece to the development of WolframAlpha because of three components:
 the general symbolic language giving WolframAlpha the way in which the information is presented,
 the amount of "builtin algorithms" that makes it possible to "implement the methods and models of so many fields, and
 to be able to deliver the "technical achievements of WolframAlpha in a robust way" 8.
Along with Mathematica, NKS was also important to the development of WolframAlpha 9. The algorithms of NKS as well as the paradigm of it "was crucial in imagining that WolframAlpha might be possible" 10. WolframAlpha took 20 years of Research and Development before it was created in May of 2009 11. What "ultimately made WolframAlpha possible was a single commitment to the goal of making all the world's systematic knowledge computable." 12
Stephen Wolfram's Personal Website
I.2 How does WolframAlpha work?
"As of now, WolframAlpha contains over 10 trillion pieces of data, more than 50,000 types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for upwards of 100 domains" 13. Wolfram Research found a way to manipulate data in users' questions and display results in new, creative ways 14. WolframAlpha runs on "supercomputerclass clusters" and makes "extensive use of the latest generation of web and parallel computing technologies, including webMathematica and gridMathematica 15. WolframAlpha is "systematically covering the content areas of reference libraries and handbooks" 16. WolframAlpha accepts "completely freeform input", and serves "as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and prints them with maximum clarity." 17
A video to show how WolframAlpha works:
Wolfram Alpha is Your OnCall Genius 18
II. How WolframAlpha Relates to other Applications
II.1 How does WolframAlpha compare to the competitors?
WolframAlpha has been said to sit somewhere in between Wikipedia and Google as a search engine, yet it may seem to some people that the two are quite similar and there is a reason for this. The cofounder of Google was an intern many years ago with the creator of WolframAlpha.
Wolfram Alpha 
Wikipedia 


Uses dedicated experts to evaluate, judge and add data 
Explores websites looking for and gathering data that has been requested 
A humandriven effort that uses crowdsourced information which is edited by others 
Offers a large amount of data 
Provides lists of documents or webpages that may contain the answer to the search engine prompt 
Offers detailed textual descriptions 
Organizes data well into visually appealing charts and graphs 
Does not inform the viewer if the source is reliable or not 
Is not able to monitor or protect who contributes information to the webpage 
The program titled Mathematica shows stepbystep ways of solving mathematical problems of all kinds 

Focuses on narrative topics 
It makes judgments about whether data is correct or not, and will only display correct data 


More of a computational knowledge engine, much like a dictionary or encyclopedia 


Usage requires an uptodate web browser 


"Wolfram Alpha shows data in a way Google can't"
"Five Things Wolfram Alpha Does Better (And Vastly Different) Than Google"
Video  "Google vs. Wolfram Alpha"
Video  "Bing, Google, and Wolfram Alpha on the Future of Search"
II.2 What are some unique uses of the Search Engine
WolframAlpha has many applications that are unique to its program that other search engines do not have. WolframAlpha has the ability to provide the user with very accurate historical data by attaching a date to any query. For example, users are able to check the weather conditions for certain dates of the past, compare the currency values of today with the values from a previous time period, and even compare the current economic situation with market crashes that have occurred throughout history. As math is WolframAlpha's strong suit, getting probability statistics is very easy and very accessible.WolframAlpha makes it simple to get the housing market value at the current time as well as during the past. It can give information about mortgage lending interest rates an other valuable information pertaining to house buying of land investment.
It can inform users of the probability of getting heads forty times in a row in a coin toss, while it can also provide valuable poker statistics. Nutritional information is another subject area that is supplied. Users have the ability to lookup nutritional information such as how much fat something contains, how many calories, protein etc. They can even type in the meal they are about to eat and receive all the nutritional information about the food that is about to go into their mouths.
WolframAlpha does some amazing things that other search engines simply overlook. 24.
III. Real World Application of WolframAlpha
Elementary Lesson Plan 
Grade 
Objective 
Doc 


Adding and Subtracting 
2nd grade 
Students will compute addition and subtraction problems containing doubledigit numbers then check their answers using WolframAlpha. 

Estimating Distances 
4th grade 
Students will gain basic knowledge about maps to locate different places in the world, read a map correctly, and estimate distances between different locations on a map. 

Creative Writing 
3rd grade 
Students will be able to write structured paragraphs and sentences, formulate the flow of a creative writing piece, generate topics to write about, and center the story around a central idea. 

Weather 
4th grade 
Students will be able to rsearch the weather in our countries. 



Plants 
4th grade 
Students will be able to research the taxonomic classes of certain flowers using WolframAlpha, and therefore be able to identify a flower scientifically. 



Geography 
5th grade 
Students will be able to locate the fifty states on a map. They will also be able to match each state with its capital. 


Secondary Lesson Plans 
Grade 
Objective 
Doc 


AP Calculus 
12th grade 
Students will do calculations on paper and check them using WolframAlpha for correctness as well as learning more about that particular derivative of the function or the integration of the function. 

Algebra I 
8th grade 
Students will be able to state the laws of exponents and simplify expressions with exponents. 

Geography 
7th Grade 
Students will learn to interpret the colors used on maps and what they represent and will be able to identify demographic characteristics about countries around the world by interpreting various types of maps as well as interpreting a histogram. 
Post Secondary Lesson Plan 
Grade 
Objective 


Astronomy 
Colege Level 
Students will be able to plan observations by date, time, location, and target, to identify astronomical objects, and research the properties of astronomical objects. 

Chemistry 
College Level 
Students will learn the basic element symbols and the atomic mass of the elements in the periodic table. 

Earth Science 
Coolege Level 
Students will understand the basic purpose and construction of the Richter Scale and be able to use the Ricther Scale to calculate different magnitudes of different earthquakes in order to compare the different quakes using both a chart and a graph. 






III.4 How WolframAlpha can be used in a Business/Industry Setting
Wolfram Alpha can be used in a variety of ways in a business setting. Most modern businesses have clients in different states or, in many cases, countries. If a worker needs to find what the time is in his client’s location, he can simply type the names of the two cities into WoframAlpha, and the answer engine will provide the time in both cities as well as the distance between cities, flight time, and population of the each city.
If a company creates a website for its business, and the web designer needs help with html encoding of a character or color, he or she can type in the color or character name and WolframAlpha will provide the html encoding that is needed, as well as any information pertaining to what the web designer is searching for, including similar colors as well as examples of the color.
Also, when designing websites developers have to remember that not everyone has highspeed internet and, therefore, the site speed has to be manageable for users. A developer can easily input the page size with the connection speed into WolframAlpha and receive information about the amount of time it will take to download the page. 25
IV. Demonstration of Educational Value
WolframAlpha can be used to automatically generate problem sets for students, and then research those sets. A recent article 26 from the education website Chronicle.com argues that WolframAlpha may have a less desired effect: encouraging cheating and laziness in students. This is because WolframAlpha not only solves complex math problems, it "also can spell out the steps leading to those solutions."
Stephen Wolfram told Chronicle.com that computeralgebra systems like WolframAlpha actually improve education because they allow students to explore complex problems on their own and intuitively determine how functions work, rather than just learn rote processes. Wolfram claimed that "it's better to let [students] stand on that platform and go further."
Either way, it is clear that WolframAlpha and similar computational software will force the education system to adapt and change. Students now have a new (and certainly easier to use, as it's on the Web) platform on which to compute things. There is no point in the education system pretending it does not exist. If you are interested in tracking the progress of WolframAlpha in educational settings, there is a wiki devoted to 'Teaching Undergraduate Math with WolframAlpha.' 27
IV.1 WolframAlpha For Educators
WolframAlpha can be valuable to educators in many ways:
 Gather information on a general concept
 Research details on specific topics
 Use it in lesson planning
 Create visual aids for presentations or handouts, including images and graphs
 Show steps to math problems
 Here is the link for the WolframAlpha for Educators website: WolframAlpha for Educators
IV.2 Other uses for WolframAlpha
 To assign homework based on information in WolframAlpha
 As a reference in computer labs and libraries
 For research papers and group projects
V. How is WolframAlpha used Internationally?
WolframAlpha is a webbased service that runs on a large centralized computer cluster. It can be used anywhere a standard web connectivity and standard modern web browser (with standard JavaScript) is available. 28 Basically, WoframAlpha can be used around the world wherever an Internet connection is available.
Users outside of the United States can generate answers to queries just like users within the United States. Some of the specific areas international users may be more interested include time zones, holidays, languages, weather, geography, money, measures, travel, organizations, and people. 29
 When searching time zones, information about specific time zones can be found as well as the current time in a specific city.
 When searching holidays, information and dates of U.S. and World Holidays can be found.
 When searching languages, information about a language can be found. Also, users can compare multiple languages and find languages spoken in a country.
 When searching weather, current weather for a specific location as well as weather forecasts can be found. Also, users can compare weather for several locations.
WolframAlpha currently does not handle languages other than English; however, this feature is planned for the future. 30
VI. WolframAlpha in the Future
"WolframAlpha, as it exists today, is just the beginning." 31 The WolframAlpha Team have both longterm and shortterm plans to expand the site by "broadening and deepening (its) data, (its) computation, (its) linguistics, (its) presentation, and more." 32 The Team has ambitious goals and high hopes for the future of the project. "WolframAlpha is being introduced first in the form of the WolframAlpha website. But WolframAlpha is really a technology and a platform that can be used and presented in many different ways. Among shortterm plans are developer APIs, professional and corporate versions, custom versions for internal data, connections with other forms of content, and deployment on emerging mobile and other platforms." 33
For example, professional and corporate versions are coming soon. Capabilities under development include:
 Downloading in many formats (e.g. spreadsheets, XML, 3D models, TeX)
 Uploading of data for analysis (e.g. spreadsheets, text, images, webpages)
 Alternate display formats
 Dynamic interactivity capabilities
 Persistent individual or corporate preferences
 Ability to store entity definitions
 Session history
 Access to subscription data sources (e.g. realtime trading data, bibliographic data)
 And more...
WolframAlpha will never be completely finished, according to the development Team. "There'll always be knowledge to be added and updated, and new capabilities to be introduced. [For example] The Wolfram Mathematica (on which WolframAlpha is built) has been in continual development since 1988."
VII. References
1. Logo found at: http://gumballtech.com/wpcontent/uploads/2009/10/logo300x274.jpg
2. http://www.wolframalpha.com/about.html
4. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=about+wolframalpha
5. http://computer.howstuffworks.com/wolframalpha.htm
6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oORzFifLFGI
7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riQ5tpHc_b8
8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe6Pn7izk08&feature=related
10./. www.softsailor.com
13. http://www.ethanandjamie.com
14. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v55/i39/39wolframalpha.htm
15. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/wolframalpha_the_use_cases.php
16. http://www.wolframalpha.com/faqs.html
17. http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/
18.http://www.wolframalpha.com/?pro=1
19. http://walphawiki.wikidot.com/