Wolfram Alpha (also styled WolframAlpha and Wolfram|Alpha) is a
computational knowledge engine or answer engine developed by Wolfram
Research. It is an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing
the answer from externally sourced "curated data", rather than providing a list of
documents or web pages that might contain the answer as a search engine might.
Wolfram Alpha, which was released on May 15, 2009, is based on Wolfram's
earlier flagship product Mathematica, a computational platform or toolkit that
encompasses computer algebra, symbolic and numerical computation,
visualization, and statistics capabilities. Additional data is gathered from both
academic and commercial websites such as the CIA's World Factbook, the United
States Geological Survey, a Cornell University Library publication called All about
Birds, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Dow Jones, the Catalogue of Life,
CrunchBase, Best Buy, the FAA and optionally a user's Facebook account.
Users submit queries and computation requests via a text field. Wolfram Alpha
then computes answers and relevant visualizations from a knowledge base of
curated, structured data that come from other sites. Alpha thus differs from
semantic search engines, which index a large number of answers and then try to
match the question to one.
Using the Mathematica toolkit, Wolfram Alpha can respond to natural language
questions and generate a human-readable answer. Wolfram has said of the
"All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural
language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations
one can do,"
Wolfram Alpha can only provide robust query results based on computational
facts, not queries on the social sciences, cultural studies or even many questions
about history where responses require more subtlety and complexity. It is capable
of responding to particularly phrased natural-language fact-based questions such
as "Where was Mary Robinson born?" or more complex questions such as "How
old was Queen Elizabeth II in 1974?" It displays its "Input interpretation" of such a
question, using standardized phrases such as "age | of Queen Elizabeth II (royalty)
| in 1974", the answer of which is "Age at start of 1974: 47 years", and a
biography link. Wolfram Alpha does not answer queries which require a narrative
response such as "What is the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian
calendars?" but will answer factual or computational questions such as "June 1 in
Mathematical symbolism can be parsed by the engine, which typically responds
with more than the numerical results. For example, "lim(x->0) sin x/x" yields the
expected result, 1, as well as a possible derivation using L'Hôpital's rule, a plot,
and the series expansion. It is also able to perform calculations on data using
more than one source. For example, "What is the fifty-second smallest country by
GDP per capita?" yields Nicaragua, $1160 per year.
Wolfram Alpha is written in 15 million lines of Mathematica code and runs
on more than 10,000 CPUs. The database currently includes hundreds of
datasets, such as "All Current and Historical Weather". The datasets have
been accumulated over several years. The curated (as distinct from autogenerated) datasets are checked for quality either by a scientist or other
expert in a relevant field, or someone acting in a clerical capacity who simply
verifies that the datasets are "acceptable".
One example of a live dataset that Wolfram Alpha can use is the profile of a
Facebook user. If the user authorizes Facebook to share his or her account
details with the Wolfram site, Alpha can generate a "personal analytics"
report containing the age distribution of friends, the frequency of words
used in status updates and other detailed information. Within two weeks of
launching the Facebook analytics service, 400,000 users had used
it.Downloadable query results are behind a pay wall but summaries are
accessible to free accounts.
Launch preparations began on May 15, 2009 at 7 pm CDT and were
broadcast live on Justin.tv. The plan was to publicly launch the service a few
hours later, with expected issues due to extreme load. The service was
officially launched on May 18, 2009.
Wolfram Alpha has received mixed reviews. Wolfram Alpha advocates point
to its potential, some even stating that how it determines results is more
important than current usefulness.
On December 3, 2009, an iPhone app was introduced. Some usersconsidered
the initial $50 price of the iOS app unnecessarily high, since the same
features could be freely accessed by using a web browser instead. They also
complained about the simultaneous removal of the mobile formatting option
for the site. Wolfram responded by lowering the price to $2, offering a
refund to existing customers and re-instating the mobile site.
On October 6, 2010 an Android version of the app was released and it is now
available for Kindle Fire and Nook. (The Nook version is not available outside
the US. The Android Play store states that the Android version is not
compatible with the Nook. Thus a Nook version is not available outside the
US). A further 71 apps are available which use the Wolfram Alpha engine for
Wolfram Alpha Pro
On February 8, 2012, Wolfram Alpha Pro was released, offering users
additional features for a monthly subscription fee. A key feature is the ability
to upload many common file types and data—including raw tabular data,
images, audio, XML, and dozens of specialized scientific, medical, and
mathematical formats—for automatic analysis. Other features include an
extended keyboard, interactivity with CDF, data downloads, the ability to
customize and save graphical and tabular results and extra computation
Along with new premium features, Wolfram Alpha Pro has led to some
changes in the free version of the site:
An increase in advertisements on the free site.
Text and PDF export options now require the user to setup a free account
even though they existed before the introduction of Wolfram Alpha
The option to request extra time for a long calculation used to be free but is
now only available to subscribers.
Wolfram Alpha is used to power some searches in the Microsoft Bing and
DuckDuckGo search engines. For factual question answering, it is also
queried by Apple's Siri, as well as Dexetra's speech recognition software for
the Android platform, Iris, and the voice control software on BlackBerry 10.
How Mathematica made
Wolfram Alpha possible?
A large-scale development environment for rapid, efficient, robust
development by a large group.
...Mathematica and Wolfram Workbenchdeliver
Advanced debugging, refactoring, source control, and unit-test integration.
Wolfram Workbench »
Software Engineering Solutions »
Computational knowledge and intelligence
A wide variety of computational capabilities.
The world's largest web of algorithms, all with built-in intelligence for their
applicability and self-checking capabilities for accuracy.
Blog: The Secret behind the Computational Engine in
Highly scalable grid computing
The ability to compute thousands of results at once, running tasks in parallel
over multiple CPUs.
An efficient and reliable cluster of local and remote computation engines for
accessing a multi-terabyte database and performing thousands of
calculations in parallel.
High-Performance Computing with Mathematica »
High-performance enterprise deployment
Massive scalability for handling thousands of queries per second through the
Robust, automatic server-deployment options that scale for high traffic and
work seamlessly with modern web standards and services.
Web Development Solutions »
High-Performance Computing with Mathematica »
Built-in, computable data
A wide variety of data that's readily computable, and a coherent way to add
A wide range of built-in data sources, fully integrated into its symbolic
language and immediately computable—a great base for Wolfram|Alpha's
many additional other sources.
Guide: Computable Data »
One coherent architecture
One systematic way to load, hold, and work with every imaginable type of
information—algorithms, data, and more.
A unique symbolic architecture that holds everything—data, graphics,
programs, math—in a unified structure, yet is flexible enough to keep the
original form of almost anything. This allows Wolfram|Alpha's programmers
to always work from one structure.
"Mathematica: The All-in-One System" (Video, 1:37) »
Smart method selection
The highest-level base of expertise from which to build linguistic
A separation of the task from the method so users don't need detailed
algorithmic knowledge. The Wolfram|Alpha aim of natural language
processing would be practically impossible without this base.
"Automatic Algorithm Selection" (Video, 1:10) »
Technology: Automatic Algorithm Selection »
Dynamic report generation
Optimized look and feel for any computed result that needs to be delivered.
Document building on the fly with automated layout, aesthetic color choices,
sizing and typesetting. Wolfram|Alpha programmers just need to pick the
kind of output—Mathematica is smart about how to optimize look and feel.
Technology: Automated Computational Aesthetics »
Analysis: Report Generation »
Flexible, efficient, easy-to-work-with access to terabytes of data.
Fully integrated, built-in connectivity that imports data as symbolic
expressions, ready-integrated into the unified structure ofMathematica.
Guide: Database Connectivity »
High-level programming language
An expressive way to program linguistic understanding and other expertise.
High-level functional programming with the world's most advanced pattern
matching—making programs highly readable, literate, and efficient.
Guide: Language Overview »
Analysis: Programming Languages »
Efficient text processing and linguistic analysis
High-level and efficient text processing.
A wide range of built-in capabilities with automatic algorithm and method
selection that delivers optimized performance.
Guide: Processing Textual Data »
Guide: Linguistics Data »
Wide-ranging, automated visualization capabilities
A way to visualize data, tree structures, graph layouts, and other dynamically
generated graphics in the most aesthetically pleasing way.
Precision automatic plotting, scaling, layout, coloring, lighting, and other
aesthetic optimization with no need to set methods or parameters.
Wolfram|Alpha programmers specify the visualization output type and
let Mathematicaautomatically "do its thing".
"Visualize Anything in Mathematica" (Video, 6:01) »
An easy way to import the world's structured data and curate it.
Hundreds of import filters that automatically convert incoming data
to Mathematica's symbolic functional structure for complete integration.
Guide: Importing and Exporting »
Star Charts · Astronomical Events ·Planets · Moons · Minor Planets ·Comets · Space
Weather · Stars ·Pulsars · Galaxies · Star Clusters ·Nebulae · Astrophysics · ...
Acoustics · Audio Waveforms ·Aeronautics · Control Systems ·Electrical Engineering · Fluid Mechanics · Mechanical
Engineering · Steam Tables ·Psychrometrics · Refrigeration ·Structures · ...
Alloys · Minerals · Crystallography ·Plastics · Woods · Bulk Materials ·Material Hardness · ...
Animals & Plants · Dinosaurs ·DNA Sequence Lookup · Human Genome · SNPs · Proteins · Mouse Genome · Fruit
Fly Genome ·Metabolic Pathways · ...
Cellular Automata · Substitution Systems · Turing Machines ·Computational Complexity ·Algebraic
Codes · Fractals ·Mathematica Programming · Image Processing · ...
WORDS & LINGUISTICS
Word Properties · Dictionary Lookup · Word Puzzles ·Anagrams · Languages ·Document Length · Morse
Code ·Soundex · Number Names ·Character Encodings · ...
PEOPLE & HISTORY
People · Genealogy · Names ·Occupations · Political Leaders ·Historical Events · Historical Periods · Historical
Countries ·Historical Numerals · Historical US Money · Inventions · ...
CULTURE & MEDIA
Personal Analytics · Notable Texts ·Periodicals · Writing · Movies ·Television Programs · Television Networks · Video
Games · Songs ·Fictional Characters · Mythology ·Awards · ...
ART & DESIGN
Colors · Image Processing ·Document Length · Display Formats · Units · Visual
Arts ·Photography · Barcodes · Notable Texts · Packing & Covering of Objects · Songs · ...
Music Acts · Music Albums ·Songs · Music Theory · Audio Waveforms · Musical Instruments ·...
PLACES & GEOGRAPHY
Political Geography · Physical Geography · Places · Cartography ·Geodesy & Navigation · Countries ·Administrative
Divisions · Cities ·Mountains · Islands · Oceans ·Lakes · Buildings · Points of Interest · ...
Geology · Geochronology ·Geodesy · Earthquakes · Tides ·Atmosphere · Climate · ...
WEATHER & METEOROLOGY
Current & Historical Weather ·Forecasts · Wind Chill · Tropical Storms · US Tornadoes · Clouds ·Climate · ...
Airports · Airlines · Aircraft · Flight Data · Air Transport · Road Transport · Gasoline Prices ·Bridges · Tunnels · Water
Transport · Space Transport ·Rockets · Tides · ...
UNITS & MEASURES
Conversions · Calculations ·Comparisons · Dimensional Analysis · Industrial & Construction · Batteries · Bulk
Materials · Paint · Display Formats ·Ring Sizes · Shoe Sizes · ...
DATES & TIMES
Date Computations · Time Zones ·Calendars · Holidays · Geological Time · Birthstones · Birth Flowers ·Wedding
Anniversaries · ...
MONEY & FINANCE
Stock Data · Indices · Mutual Funds · Futures · Mortgages ·Present Value · Currency
Conversion · Tips · Bonds ·Derivatives Valuation · Wages ·Sales Tax · ...
Demographics · Countries ·US States · US Counties · Cities ·US Demographics · Economics ·Agriculture · Energy · S
alaries ·Unemployment · Cost of Living ·Health Care · Housing · Social Statistics · Crime · Military ·Religion · ...
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Human Body Measurements ·Growth Charts · Physical Exercise ·Diseases · Mortality Data · Medical Tests · Medical
Computations ·Vision · Teeth · Drugs & Prescriptions · Hospitals · ...
FOOD & NUTRITION
Foods · Dietary References · ...
Consumer Products · Electronics ·Office Products · Fitness Equipment · Appliances · Musical Instruments · Movie
Tickets · Retail Locations · ...
Communications · Satellites ·Space Probes · Photography ·Barcodes · ...
WEB & COMPUTER SYSTEMS
Website Data · IP Lookup · Port Numbering · Notable Computers ·Data Transfer · File Formats ·Character
Encodings · Computer Keyboards · String Processing ·Hashing · ...
Chemistry · Arithmetic · Number Theory · Algebra · Trigonometry ·Calculus · Linear Algebra ·Statistics · ...
Automatic Analysis · Statistical Analysis · Time Series Analysis ·Geographic Data · Data Visualization · ...
Image Analysis · Image Filtering ·Feature Detection · Color Processing · Image Effects · ...
Basic Formats · Image Formats ·Vector Graphics Formats ·3D Geometry &Modeling Formats ·Audio
Formats · Scientific & Medical Formats · Chemical Formats ·Mathematical Formats · Document Formats · XML · ...
3D Graphics · Plots & Maps ·Physics Demonstrations · Image Processing · Interactive Math Plots ·...
International Education ·Universities · School Districts ·US Public Schools · US Private
Schools · Libraries · Standardized Tests · ...
Universities · Companies ·Hospitals · Foundations ·International Organizations · ...
SPORTS & GAMES
Sports · Games · Football ·Basketball · Baseball · Tennis ·Golf · Olympics · Stadiums ·Games of Chance · Board
Games ·Lotteries · Roulette · Gambling ·Card Games · ...
Jokes · Fun Curves · Handwritten Style · Warp Factor · Animals ·Aphorisms · Famous Lines ·Tongue Twisters · ...
Wolfram|Alpha is continually growing and new areas are added every week.