10 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know Wolfram Alpha Could Do

Saikat Basu 09-07-2013

wolframlogo2I continue to be amazed by Wolfram Alpha and the way it crunches numbers around openly available data. The result – it shows us the world in a far more inter-connected and interesting way. You can put Wolfram Alpha to use every day 10 Search Terms To Put Wolfram Alpha To Good Use Everyday Read More using the simplest method possible i.e. with a natural language query. The computational engine working in the backend does all the hard work. Wolfram Alpha gives numbers and number crunching a friendlier face which even allows you to dig up fun and interesting facts 5 Weird & Wonderful Uses For Wolfram Alpha Read More on Wolfram Alpha. If you get addicted to these, don’t forget to follow the application’s Twitter feed which has nuggets for you each day.


Before you set off having fun here, here’s Ryan’s crash course on how to set up search queries on Wolfram Alpha Become a Wolfram Alpha Expert With These Useful Search Techniques Wolfram Alpha. For anyone that has never used it or heard of it, it sounds like the name of one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For people familiar with it, it's like having access... Read More and lay your hands on all the power behind it. Having fun scratches the surface. It would seem Wolfram Alpha can do anything. Well, it hasn’t given me the secret of happiness yet, but yes, it can do some surprising things. Let’s look at ten.

Dog Vision, Color Blindness, and Comic Book Effects

This is something you wouldn’t expect from a mathematical computation engine, but as there’s a science behind everything, Wolfram Alpha just grabs it and uses it to good effect. Using Wolfram Alpha, you can upload images (also with a URL) and see how dogs see the world, how the color blind see the world, and how something would look in a comic strip. While the last of these isn’t very remarkable, the first two definitely are.


The simplest way is to just type it in. Wolfram Alpha grabs the image from web sources and applies an algorithm to it. This is how a dog perceives a lizard. We would probably run into a pillar with this vision, but dogs have far more developed senses in other areas.



Here’s the blog post from the site which also shows you how the color blind perceive the red-green color (screenshot below), and the more commonplace comic effect.


Wolfram Alpha has a range of image input functions, but they are available with the Pro subscription. Though, you can simulate some vision deficiencies in the free version.

Get the Statistics for Every NFL Team, Game, and Player from the Past 25 Years



I am not really well-versed with NFL being from India, but if you are a fan you can skip the sports site and use the natural query processing power here to get all sorts of interesting statistics (sourced from global sports statistics company STATS LLC) on matches played, player scores, and match-ups between rival teams. Just the thing to win those bar bets and arguments! Check out a Ben Roethlisberger games versus the Broncos query as an example. As the examples page on Wolfram Alpha shows, you can try it out with other sports like golf and tennis as well.

Get Help for Your Shopping Decisions


Instead of using filters on any shopping website, you can try an English language query in the search box and see if it helps narrow down your shopping choices. Wolfram Alpha handshakes with BestBuy’s API to source the results, so the results are America and Canada centric. You can also use Wolfram Alpha to make a direct comparison between two products in the same product line by typing in their brand names and model numbers. The results page includes enough details to help you bore down to the right choices.

Write In Morse Code



You would be surprised to know that Morse Code Harness Morse Code Shortcuts to Control Numerous Computer Actions Ah, the humble keyboard key. Each computer user has over a hundred of them at his disposal, but most of us don’t give them a moment’s thought (except, maybe, to hunt-and-peck if you’re not a... Read More still has its uses; especially for distress calls. If you want to go low-tech, here’s Wolfram Alpha helping you out. You can enter any string and ask the engine to translate it into Morse code. You can also enter a Morse code and have it translate back into English.

Understanding Those Medical Prescriptions


At the best of times, sig codes are difficult to decipher and doctors hate writing in plain English. The pharmacist can help you out, but if you are in a bind, switch on Wolfram Alpha. Wolfram Alpha can also process multiple sig codes and interpret it to a more understandable form. See screenshot below:



Art To Math


The math here is high-brow but it is an established theory that art forms follow mathematical principles (e.g. Bezier curves in computer art). Therefore, any image can be rendered with mathematical equations. You may not be able to use this in your day to day life if you aren’t a mathematician, but as the screenshot above shows, here’s how the Batman insignia looks in the form of an equation. Try it on Superman’s emblem.  If you have the Pro version, you can also enable interactivity.

How Many Can You Lose In an Hour?


I haven’t heard about it, but the species lounging in front of the idiot box do tell me that days have an extra hour. If you get one suddenly, I am sure you just wouldn’t know what to do with it. Wolfram Alpha can help out. Think of an activity and see how far you can go with your calories in one hour. For instance, if I walk for one hour, I will lose 307 calories and burn 0.088 pounds of fat. If you are fitness conscious, the data helps to put time in the right perspective.

Check Your Hand of Poker


If betting is a game of chance, then chance is all about probability. Card games actually are the best way to learn about this useful mathematical concept. Okay, okay, I know you want to enjoy your hand of poker. If you want to check how good a hand you hold, Wolfram Alpha can show you a handy sample poker hand and the probabilities on a 5-card or 7-card hand. If you are new to this game, and want to learn about the hands, here’s a shortcut.

Solve Word Puzzles


Wolfram Alpha can solve anagrams and give you the Scrabble score for an authorized word. Not so surprisingly, it can also solve those word puzzles with basic math and some neat imagery. I wasn’t so successful with a few puzzles I know, so here’s a demo of the default example given on Wolfram Alpha.

Gift Ideas for a Wedding Anniversary


I am hoping you haven’t forgotten an anniversary. Either way, Wolfram Alpha can even supply you with some ideas if not the gift itself. You can opt for a modern gift or go traditional. The engine lays them all out in two neat columns according to the year. Notice the difference in the nature of gifts between the modern and the traditional? There are times when I like the traditional ways better.

I have again scratched the surface of Wolfram Alpha. Perhaps, that’s why I make it a habit of following the blog or Wolfram Alpha Fun Facts on Twitter. If you pay around with the engine you will discover lots of ways to use it differently. You can also sit back and just keep clicking on the jumble of little icons on the Wolfram Alpha homepage. Each leads to a specific type of search. Tell us about your favorites. Also, tell us if you use Wolfram Alpha specifically for some mathematical computation.

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  1. Nermal
    July 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Pretty typical..

    It knows nothing about anything in the UK.. even the damn mathematical engine think the world is America..

  2. Nicolas Casel
    July 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks for this "inspiring" article; indeed, I enjoy learning stuff about search engines, data research and Knowledge Management.
    Moreover, you have given me again want to put WA to the test...

  3. Dan N
    July 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    This a great app. Have it on my phone and iPad. You barely covered what it can do.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      There's just too much to cover :)

  4. Mitesh
    July 10, 2013 at 7:10 am

    I tried 'medicine for fever' and it shows the prescription !! Amazing

  5. Shawn
    July 10, 2013 at 3:46 am

    I would like to find a larger organized collection of these tips in order to use W.A. as a life enhancement tool. Or just a tool.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 10, 2013 at 6:06 pm
      • Shawn
        July 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm

        Thanks for the link. I haven't used Wolfram to any extent, but it appears I need to educate myself.

        • Saikat B
          July 11, 2013 at 4:46 am

          You should really try it. Click on the little icons on the homepage, and have fun while learning a lot of cool things.

  6. Don Gateley
    July 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    The article gave me hope that I could get a list of laptops with DisplayPort but it couldn't understand "laptops with DisplayPort" and I can't think of a more likely query. Rather surprised me, actually.

    BTW, I sure wish this site allowed me to subscribe to comments about a given article. There's not enough time in the day to keep checking back to see if anyone responds in a useful way.