What is Wolfram Alpha, and What is it Used for?

Wolfram Alpha (also written as WolframAlpha and Wolfram|Alpha) is an “answer-engine” (not a search engine) developed by Wolfram Research.

What is Wolfram Alpha, and What is it Used for?
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Wolfram Alpha (also written as WolframAlpha and Wolfram|Alpha) is an “answer engine” (not a search engine) developed by Wolfram Research.

It is an online service that provides direct, factual answers to questions by computing the results from its extensive collection of structured data.

Unlike traditional search engines such as Google, which present users with a list of relevant documents or web pages containing the information they seek, Wolfram Alpha generates a single, definitive answer to a query using its vast knowledge base and computational capabilities. This approach makes it a unique and powerful tool for quickly accessing specific information without the need to sift through multiple sources.

British scientist Stephen Wolfram announced it in March 2009 and released it to the public on May 15, 2009.

As their website states:

The introduction of Wolfram|Alpha defined a fundamentally new paradigm for getting knowledge and answers—not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods. Bringing broad, deep, expert-level knowledge to everyone... anytime, anywhere.

What can Wolfram Alpha be used for?

Wolfram Alpha's vast knowledge base covers many topics, making it a valuable tool for students, researchers, and professionals in many fields.

  1. Math and calculations: It can solve complex mathematical problems, plot functions, and perform statistical analyses.
  2. Science and technology: It provides data and information on various scientific fields, such as physics, chemistry, and biology.
  3. Socioeconomic data: It can provide information on demographics, economics, and other social statistics.
  4. Everyday life: It can help with tasks like unit conversions, nutrition facts, and personal finance calculations.

Wolfram Alpha is most commonly used in educational settings, where students rely on it to assist with homework and projects, particularly in subjects like math, science, and engineering. Educators also use Wolfram Alpha to create problem sets, verify answers, and demonstrate concepts to their students.

In research, Wolfram Alpha is a valuable tool for accessing and analyzing data across various disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, and social sciences. It lets researchers quickly find relevant information, perform calculations, and generate visualizations.

Professionals in fields like finance, engineering, and data analysis frequently use Wolfram Alpha to perform complex calculations and access specific data points. The platform is useful for tasks such as financial modeling, risk assessment, and data-driven decision-making.

Programmers and developers also benefit from Wolfram Alpha, which provides quick access to information on programming languages, algorithms, and software development concepts. It also allows users to test and verify code snippets or mathematical expressions.

How does Wolfram Alpha work with Siri?

Siri uses Wolfram Alpha to answer certain types of questions. When a user asks Siri a question that requires computation or access to specific factual data, Siri can relay the query to Wolfram Alpha and provide the user with its computed answer.

This integration allows Siri to handle more complex queries that might be beyond the scope of its own knowledge base.

Its usefulness for Siri users becomes clear when asking specific questions such as:

Siri, how many days until Christmas?

Rather than return a list of Google search results, Siri uses Wolfram Alpha to generate what it believes is the correct answer.

In recent versions of iOS, Wolfram Alpha has been integrated further, known under the umbrella term Siri Knowledge. Siri Knowledge can answer questions and perform conversions and complex calculations in seconds.

Siri, what is the population of Canada?
Siri, what is 150 US dollars in British pounds?
Siri, what is 123 times 40 divided by 9?

To learn more, take a look at our article about how to harness the power of Siri Knowledge.

As the service develops further, it will offer a speedy and powerful way to get information instantly using Siri and Apple devices.

Wolfram Alpha App

If you’re interested in exploring Wolfram Alpha further, they also provide a dedicated app for the iPhone and iPad, which is available on the App Store.