Wolfram Alpha Answer Engine Makes Its Debut

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Wolfram Alpha Answer Engine Makes Its Debut

by Nicholas Kolakowski

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Enter a company name—such as Google—and Wolfram Alpha digs after that company's online information, such as its most recent stock price, market cap, revenue, employees and net income.

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Type in a past or future date and Wolfram Alpha will compare the time difference (in years, days and so on) with the current date. It will also list holidays and notable events, such as the deaths of celebrities.

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The same numerical guidelines that apply for other Wolfram Alpha queries also come into play when a celebrity's name is entered; typing in, say, "James Dean" will offer up the date and place of birth, date of death, and even a bare-bones timeline putting the celebrity's life within the context of that century.

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Mathematical equations are Wolfram Alpha's strength: Type in a formula, and the site displays the input, the result and the "number name."

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Typing in a city name will offer up the city and metro area population and the city's location on a map.

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Ever wonder how many calories you consumed for breakfast? Inputting the name of a food, such as bread, will offer up the average nutrition facts for that item, including total calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates.

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Entering a series of notes—shown here is the sequence A, B, D, A, B—will lead Wolfram Alpha to display music notation, a keyboard with the relevant notes highlighted, tone distances and other information.

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Wolfram Alpha may be a coolly calculating site, but it also shows flashes of humor. Type in 50 mph, for example, and it will tell you that speed is 57 percent of the 88 mph that Marty McFly needed to make the DeLorean DMC-12 time-travel in "Back to the Future."

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