Application of the Week: Wolfram Alpha

By Brandon Desiderio
February 8, 2012

Wolfram Alpha is what is known as a “computational knowledge engine” or, more simply, an answer-engine.

Able to perform hundreds of thousands of algorithms and with linguistic capabilities reaching into the thousands, this application is able to bring the most complex, objective knowledge to your fingertips in a matter of seconds.

The application itself stands as only a small fraction of Wolfram Alpha LLC’s work. The company has also created subject-specific apps, ranging from music theory and multi variable calculus, to flight information, genealogy and a tides calculator.

Wolfram Alpha also has a homepage which, unsurprisingly, is similar to Google. Unlike Google, however, it relies more on algorithmic symbols and phrases included in your searches in order to give you more specific and tailored results.

As an example of its potential uses,  when searching a word, this app will give you all associated definitions as well as semi-obscure facts.

This app can also give you information on specific dates. Additionally, it outlines the date’s significance, show you how many days it’s been since the date and what time the sun rose or set on that day.

Despite its possible usage as a quasi-dictionary or historical reference tool, though, Wolfram Alpha relies heavily on the hard sciences and mathematics for its purposes.

Certain phrases or symbols, when used in your search query, will help you pinpoint exactly what it is you’re looking for. Due to how complex it may be for some people to figure out for themselves, a “syntax guide” has been constructed and maintained by the Wolfram community.

But if you’re like me, you’ll probably use this app as more of a toy than to test your knowledge.

Wolfram Alpha is available for download on the iPhone and Android market for a modest price of $2.99.

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Brandon Desiderio

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