Web Resource Spotlight
WolframAlpha: A Computational Knowledge Engine

Susan Cramer, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA

Knowledge and facts used to be a fairly static entity that increased at a leisurely pace or at least at a pace with which one could reasonably keep up if they tried.

Estimated years it took for knowledge to double*
1750 - 1900: 150 yrs
1900 - 1950: 50 years
1950 - 1960: 10 years
Since 1960: Every 5 years
Projection! By the Year 2020
Knowledge Will Double Every 73 Days!
*Reported at the Teacher Education for 21st Century Conference (1992)
http://www.buildfreedom.com/content/other/scientific_method/p_universal.html

'Back then' it may have been more difficult to locate the information one desired, but if the correct books and/or journals were located, the information was available and one could use it. Today, powerful search engines such as Google help us locate information with the pounding of a few key strokes. How handy!

But wait, with the advent of computational knowledge engines such as WolframAlpha you can have your “search engine” not only find your desired information but it will compute, compare and contrast it against other data to help you turn data into information with which you can use to make an informed decision. For example, perhaps I’m worried about nutrition and I want to determine which fruit (an apple or a pear) is more nutritious. With WolframAlpha all I need to do is type in “apple pear nutrition” and within the blink of your monitor complete nutritional results will be returned to you for each fruit as well as charts comparing the two fruits. You will still need to make a decision as to which fruit is “more nutritious,” but the initial comparison is provided for you along with all the data sources which were used in making the comparison (click on Source Information at the bottom of the page). WolframAlpha can also compute gross national product rates, infant mortality rates and much, much more. Check it out at:
http://www.wolframalpha.com/.

To really see WolframAlpha's power and potential, check out the examples page.
http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/

And, be sure not to miss its introductory video.
http://www.wolframalpha.com/screencast/introducingwolframalpha.html

I think you will be impressed and perhaps a bit intimidated with what is available. I am! What’s next?

 

 

 


This article was published in Human Services Today, Fall/Winter 2009, Volume 6, Issue 1 .
http://hst.coehs.uwosh.edu This article may be freely distributed for educational purposes provided above copyright information is included.


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