Cottrill Research, LLC

Wolfram Alpha is Cool: Here's Why

“There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear.” This was my opening slide for a workshop I presented on Wolfram Alpha when it first launched (Abram, 2009). The reference (lyrics by Buffalo Springfield) was a nod to Wolfram Alpha, and the fact that it was introducing us to the possibilities of semantic search technology – wherever it will lead us. Recently, Beyond Search posted an article entitled Wolfram Alpha is the Superman of Databases, which is a reminder of how great this resource is. Wolfram Alpha debuted in 2009, with great hype, and was referred to as the next “Google killer.” In reality, Wolfram Alpha is quite different than Google in that it does not search the web. Instead it does computations (based on a collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods) to provide succinct answers to queries (WolframAlpha.com, 2013). Wolfram Alpha continuously updates its data and it is important to know that it only deals with facts. Access is free. Wolfram Alpha Pro offers premium features for $4.99 a month. For a quick introduction, watch Stephen Wolfram’s recent demo.

Wolfram Alpha covers many topics and procurement professionals will find these areas of particular interest:

Materials
Money and Finance
Socioeconomic data
Transportation
Places and Geography
Chemistry
Units & Measures

An important feature to note: At the bottom of each results page, there is link that takes you to a list of the background and reference sources used.

There is also a fun side, as demonstrated in this post by Jonathan Allen, “25+ Easter Eggs Kids (&Adults) Can Discover On Wolfram Alfa.”

Sources:

“About Wolfram Alpha.” WolframAlpha.com. Wolfram Alpha LLC. 2013. Web.
Abram, Stephen. “Web 3.0?” Stephen’s Lighthouse. 7 June 2009. Web.

 

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