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Who answers your philosophical questions? Those big doubts you seek to unravel when stuck?
I know: Google. It will send you to Wikipedia first. All credit to Jimmy Wales but you don’t really want him to play a seer.
So, I went hunting and asked another search engine. My question was simple — “Why?”
The answer came back – “Why not?”
That works for me. Thanks Wolfram Alpha, you are wise. Oh, by the way…while you are at it could you also give me an answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
Coming back to the real world, Wolfram Alpha is a computational search engine. Unlike Google, it does not go trawling for information but creates new information. As we have seen before, Wolfram Alpha can do a lot of surprising things.
If it can see like a dog and understand medical prescriptions, I am sure we can put it to a lot of every day uses. All for a better life. And some money. Plus, good health. Ok, enough!
Get Healthier with the Right Questions
How Much Fat Did You Burn Today?
Did you walk for a change? Or maybe you ran a quick errand around the block? Wolfram Alpha can tell you just how many calories you managed to burn, simply by discribing your activity. You can also see what else you could have done with your time to burn the same amount of calories. Here’s the sample query with interesting answers.
How Much Energy Should You Really Burn Every Day?
Ask Wolfram Alpha how to lose weight and it will return a calculator for calculating your own personal benchmark.
The results show the ideal body weight for someone your age and the duration of exercise to come close to it. Now, you can aim at a specific calorie intake for your weight loss goals.
Should You Run or Cycle?
Use the activity formulas for running and cycling to get personalized fitness results from Wolfram Alpha. As with previous examples you can use natural language to ask “running for 20 minutes” or just enter “running’ to dive down into the variables you can use. Similarly, you can try “rope jumping”, “swimming”, “rowing”, “golfing”, and “fishing” too. But unfortunately, no gaming.
For some of the results, you can click on Comparison to benchmark your score with a record holder marathoner. Data like estimated heart rate and the pace are useful if you are training for a marathon.
Make Smart Money Decisions
Maybe, you are like me — someone who has hit his 40s and still sucks at math. So much so that it’s a mind-bender to do all those financial calculations. Take help from the computational power of Wolfram Alpha.
How Much Are You Worth?
Give Wolfram Alpha your salary and it will tell you how much you earn from every workable hour.
You can also find out the median salary (U.S) for some professions and compare to any other occupation, for example “writer vs. graphic designer”. Comparing it to an allied profession could be way to get some new skills. The data for my query was from 2009, but it’s enough to let me know it’s time to upgrade my graphic design skills.
How Much do You Need to Retire (Rich)?
Seek out this answer as early as possible in your career. The golden maxim of money is – it compounds. The earlier you invest, the more it will be compound. There are many retirement planning tools today. Wolfram Alpha’s investment-returns calculator is a quick way to find out how your investments will compound over time.
The calculator takes your style of investment into account and makes a few projections with linear charts, bar graphs, and tables. The calculator makes some implicit assumptions but it could be a quick way to see how your accrued savings change with your investment style. Also, look into the financial calculators available on Wolfram Alpha.
How Much Interest Do You Pay?
The Money and Finance tools cover everything from stock data to the historical value of the dollar, and even how to tip. The tools are useful for any back of the napkin calculations and deeper analysis.
Which Model Should You Buy?
Do geeks shop differently? It’s possible, what with all the shopping tools available online to pinch the last penny. Wolfram sources data from BestBuy.com to answer many of your shopping queries. The advantage is that you can cut and dice through the results and ultimately make a smarter decision.
For example, a simple query on a product category like “washers” returns not only the number of models for each brand and their median price but also an overview of the key features selling today.
It is a statisticians delight but playing around with it tells me a few things I didn’t know about (for example, LG has the largest number of models across the selected price range). You can also directly ask about the “cheapest washer” or more about a specific model.
Make smarter shopping decisions with these powerful shopping queries.
For the Love of Family
A healthier and a wealthier you is just the start. Your family needs all the help it can get for some of the little life questions as well. Like these three.
Suggesting Baby Names
It’s a trend in my country to find rare names for newborns. Cultural differences aside, it could be a good way to have a memorable name like “Elon Musk” to begin life with (too late, that’s taken). Help your newborn by testing out the popularity of the baby name on Wolfram Alpha. It’s fun to play with.
For instance, typing “Alexandria” shows me the popularity rank of the name in the U.S. I also see a graph that indicates a high proportion of people born after 1980 and also the number of babies born each year with that name.
Find the Right School
Use the educational search tools to drill down into information for U.S. public and private schools. Find a school district, request specific data on a school district, compare school districts, or hone in on important information like the student-teacher ratio for each school.
Search for the Best College
From school to college. Wolfram Alpha is an useful search aid for picking the right college. You can not only relevant stats on colleges in the U.S. but also use the degrees awarded to break down popular fields of study at each institute.
After some research, the University of Texas could be a good place to study business or communications.
Should You Relocate?
This can be a tough decision if you don’t have a great motive. Wolfram Alpha could help spur that decision by giving you cost of living comparison between two places. You dig deeper into the results for a specific place and look at important lifestyle indicators like diversity of population, crime rate, nearby hospitals, and even average traffic delays.
Use Wolfram Alpha for Everyday Stuff
Wolfram Alpha isn’t only about deep mathematical analysis. There are many ways you can use it for the little things in your life. Here are a few examples.
When Should You Wake Up?
Waking up with the sun has its benefits. You might like to know the time of sunrise for your location allowing you to hit the snooze button gently.
How Much Sunscreen Should You Apply?
If it’s sunrise then it could be a time to go out. When you live in tropical climes like mine, a sheen of sunscreen is a must. Wolfram Alpha tells me that it has to be SPF 30 no less for protecting the crust and that buying SPF 15 is a waste of money. The sunburn calculator also lets you choose your skin type.
Should You Drive After the Cocktail Party?
There are many ways to put Wolfram Alpha to daily use. But this one is for the Friday nights. Ask the engine if you are too drunk to drive and then switch on the ignition. Come to think of it if you aren’t in a state to ask this question then you’d better not drive at all.
How to Plan Your Binge Watching?
It will take you 42 hours or the better part of two days to watch the entire Game of Thrones series. Find the programming hours for your favorite show and plan out your time. There are other ways to plan your binge watch, but this basic information is what matters most.
Have Fun with Knowledge
Math can be incredibly boring or fantastically fun depending on the math teacher you had at school. Let’s talk fun for a change.
Celebrate an Event
I cannot overstate the importance of this query for someone doesn’t remember dates of important events. Like the date of Comic-Con International (with a bit of history). If Comic-Con is not your thing, you can find out about other events like Super Bowl or just Donald Duck’s birthday.
Just How Crowded Is Space?
With a simple query you can find out how many man-made objects are above you in space at that precise time. From satellites to space debris. Type “visible satellites” and Wolfram Alpha spews out a colorful visual. From my location, the figure was 1936. Space is crowded.
Tell a Joke
Yes, Wolfram Alpha steals jokes just like us. Try these examples as demonstrated here. You can play around with it by asking jokes from your favorite subjects, just like in the screenshot above.
Send a Coded Message
The letter substitution cipher won’t defeat the NSA, but can baffle your friends and family. Kids can have a lot of fun with this one.
Sometimes You Have to Sing
I can’t get on stage, I can’t handle a microphone, but I am the world’s best bathroom singer. Maybe you are to. Go for those imaginary Grammy awards with a bit of lyric help from Wolfram. It has partnered with LyricFind to source lyrics from its database.
What you also get is a colorful word cloud. Read more about what you can do with the word cloud.
Do You Use Wolfram Alpha?
Math is such huge a part of our everyday lives. Wolfram Alpha demonstrates that in so many unusual and fun ways. Now, even more so because Siri also integrates with the knowledge engine.
You can take these questions and more to Siri because Wolfram is doing the number crunching behind the scenes.
Do you get more done with the help of these intelligent tools? What’s the best thing you have used Wolfram Alpha to do?