How many football fields would fit between the Earth and the sun? What’s the likelihood of getting 2 heads in 10 coin flips? One search engine calculates all that on the fly and more.
Mathematician Stephen Wolfram’s much-hyped “computational knowledge engine” Wolfram Alpha just went public, and it’s got more than a few data nerds tickled absolutely pink (myself included). Walpha (as I affectionately call it) finds and visualizes real-world data points from natural language queries.
I’ve just spent the last couple of hours throwing every kind of data query I could think of at Walpha. Some of the results were incredibly useful, others baffling, and others just missing. Here are some of the fun facts I learned using Walpha’s calculations.
- I’m over 12,000 days old today. As a 33-year-old American female, my life expectancy is 81.54 years, which means I’ve got till April of 2057 to go, a mere 48 years from now.
- My 70-year-old mother has a longer life expectancy than I do, at 86.17 years. (This makes me wonder what’s wrong: Walpha or my search terms. Update: Actually, it’s neither. Several folks explain that because mum has survived to see her 70th year, she has a higher likelihood of living longer. Following that, at 94 today, Grandpa’s expected to live till 97. Good news!)
- The oldest person in the world clocked in at 122 years old, though, so we all may have more time.
- It will take readers about three minutes to silently read the 450-word magazine article I spent all day today writing. (And yes, it was exactly a one-page, single-spaced document).
- One in almost 6,000 people have my first name; about 144,000 people alive today are named Gina. Compared to Jennifer and Mary, though, my name’s positively uncommon.
- San Diego county has a higher income per capita than Kings county (Brooklyn). Its unemployment rate is also higher.
- There have been more earthquakes near San Diego in the last five years than I actually felt.
- A Snickers bar has 14 grams of fat, more than a bag of milk chocolate M&M’s or a Twix bar (not combined).
- If a five-foot, seven-inch, 160-pound woman went running at 4MPH for 30 minutes, she’d burn 272 calories.
- The average 12-year-old girl today is around five feet tall.
- Both caffeine and aspirin have beautiful molecular structures.
- 55 mph is about 0.62 x speed at which Marty McFly needed to drive the Delorean DMC-12 in order to time travel (88 mph).
- Turns out she was right when I asked during an episode of The Deadliest Catch: On average, the Bering Sea is less than a mile deep.
- Apple’s bringing in more than half of Microsoft’s yearly revenue.
- As of yesterday, there are a total of 65 recorded deaths due to swine flu.
- Of my three favourite bridges, the Golden Gate is the longest.
- A woodchuck would chuck all the wood a woodchuck could chuck (if that woodchuck could chuck wood, of course).
- So that’s where a second cousin twice removed fits on the family tree.
- A flight from Palermo to Rome is about 30 minutes. The GDP of the US is 6.75 times that of Italy.
- At $US25/hour, you make $200 per working day, and $US50,000 per working year.
- Pi has a lot of digits. (Go ahead. Click the “more digits” link.)
Still, Walpha’s very, well, alpha, and at times tonight it buckled under the load of the launch rush–but not without a sense of humor. Here’s Walpha’s error page:
Also, Walpha balked on several questions I was sure it could handle, like what the weather in New York was the day my parents got married, and what kind of MPG the Prius gets. Don’t even try things like chicken or the egg or if a tree falls in the woods…
Still, while Walpha’s everyday uses for Joe Normal Web Searcher won’t be obvious, this thing is a goldmine for researchers, students, journalists, and bloggers. If this is the alpha, I can’t wait for the beta.
Fun with Knowledge Computation at Wolfram|Alpha [Smarterware]