I typically use Google for any data-gathering I need to do.

Recently, I tried out Wolfram Alpha. This thing is pretty interesting.

But I couldn't think of any use besides figuring out what the weather was like on my date of birth.

Has anyone put this site to good use?

  • 53
    They should've called it Wolfram Alpha Research, and then your question could've beeen "WAR: what is it good for?" Jul 15, 2009 at 15:32
  • Great one Alistair :D Jul 15, 2009 at 15:43
  • +1 Good question for the SU knowledgebase. LOL @Alistair!
    – pavsaund
    Jul 17, 2009 at 8:43
  • 9
    @Alistair - but then the answer would be "Absolutely Nothing"
    – Joe Schmoe
    Jul 19, 2009 at 15:47
  • @Alistair you thought exactly what I did seeing the title :) Jul 19, 2009 at 15:53

20 Answers 20


It does a lot of things!

I study electronic engineering and it is the coolest web tool :) Something like a web based mathematica

Few examples:

integral sin(x)*sin(x)
inverse laplace transform 1/(s+3)
plane for (1,1,1) (0,0,1) and (1,2,3)
RLC circuit 1ohm, 3nH,1pF

Or roughly analyzing my computer consume: 0.25 €/kwh * 650W * 1 month
or you can ask it what will look like the weather tomorrow (it will guess your current location)

Or even funnier (maybe not so useful) things like:
google employees/apple employees

or cheating at the hanging man game: O _ E _ F _ _ _

It's like having a "free" copy of Mathematica at hand, usable even on a netbook or on my N78 :) Don't know why you should use it but it works for me very well!

PS: You should really try to follow links to get the idea.

  • 11
    The hangman thing is awesome.
    – Javier
    Jul 15, 2009 at 17:24
  • A computer doesn't consume 650W all the time! I know I pay less than 119€ for electricity per month (and that's for ALL my electricity), and there's at least 1 system running all the time (mostly more).
    – fretje
    Jul 17, 2009 at 8:56
  • Thanks @all. @fretje: it was just an example. Anyway it depends on what's your machine, how much it consumes, how long you keep it on, and on where you live for the cost. It was just to show how great wolframalpha is handling various dimensions. Jul 17, 2009 at 23:17

I use it for combining colors to get hexadecimal values when writing colors in css.

for example, I need dark red: red + #000000


I've found it good for "How long it takes?" type questions for example


Wolfram Alpha itself changes the question to: What are you?

And changes it to: I am a computational knowledge engine.


Joel says "Why Wolfram Alpha fails" based on this Wolfram Alpha and hubristic user interfaces

  • i don't get it... if a new tool helps me to get my work done quicker i doubt it will fail
    – Anonymous
    Jul 17, 2009 at 9:01
  • Hadn't noticed it failing, I find it very useful. I'm thinking that the solution set it provides just isn't one that Joel needs at this time. Jan 26, 2010 at 12:59

to prove your geekness

I am joking :) I still have to find sometime to playing with it and searching good uses that could help me and my work


Here's another good blog post about the frustrations of using Wolfram|Alpha. Until they work out the user interface problems, W|A will remain a curiosity. Once they do, a user should be able to fulfill the promise of being able to synthesize new ideas by juxtaposing data in new ways.

In the mean time, I only play around with it. There's very little depth I can access without a tremendous amount of gyration.

Also, the number of errors people have found in the data and calculations is discouraging.


This may not answer what it is "good for," but there are lots of easter eggs to find.


I have not but I would think that it would be great for journalists, authors, documentarians or anyone else who needs to get statistical data. The fact that Wolfram Alpha tries to cite their sources is great for these folks. College students writing papers in lots of different fields I would think would use it as well.


Chemistry. If you want to see the chemical formula for methane, you can find the state of matter at different temperatures and pressures. I use it all the time for calculating values of hydrogen storage.

It's especially useful for using systems of metric and "U.S. Customary" in the same formula without having to worry about missing a conversion. But Google can do that for you...


It's great for putting calculations into context for every day use. For example try: 100GB / 400 (users) and you will receive the result not just in GB, but also MB, CDS, DVDS etc.


Musical scales, for example:


The correct answer is: To answer every question your precocious 6- 11 year old has. When he asks what the largest moon in the solar system is. Or how many gallons of water are in the pacific ocean... Wolfram should have those answers.

While I realize that not all the databases that will be in Wolfram Alpha are in there now it will they will be.

Btw the ocean question takes two queries

pacific ocean area * pacific ocean average depth

convert 1.605x10^8 mi3 to gallons

  • second link is wrong..
    – Alex B
    Jul 15, 2009 at 18:49
  • love it - great idea Jeff!
    – Antony
    Jul 17, 2009 at 8:37
  • 2nd link fixed (bug reported to meta.stackoverflow.com) Jul 28, 2009 at 20:37
  • "While I realize that not all the databases that will be in Wolfram Alpha are in there now it will they will be." This sentence makes no sense. Jul 28, 2009 at 20:40

the best funny ones are :

  1. do you like me? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=do+you+love+me%3F
  2. what are you? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=what+are+you%3F
  3. who created you? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=who+created+you%3F
  4. what is your favorite color? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=what+is+your+favorite+color

super funny :)

  • sorry sorry didn't pay attention I'll update them
    – martani_net
    Jul 28, 2009 at 20:33

Wolfram Alpha needs lots of organized data to be useful. This means that something like the internet is not what its meant to index.

I'm thinking about various companies that deal with lots of organized data and need a computational engine will find this useful.


I only use it for facts, plotting graphs (sin(x)) and funny words! (cosy sins - try it!)


I have used it a couple of times for unit conversion and timezone calculations, which was moderately useful... Its largely just a curiosity though.


Also useful for learning Mathematica itself.

For example you want to know how to integrate a function in Mathematica, then you enter

integrate x y dx

on Wolfram|Alpha and click on the result to see that the corresponding Mathematica plaintext input is

Integrate[x y, x]

Suppose you want to know how to graph a list of data points in Mathematica, you could enter

graph n^2 from 1 to 10

on Wolfram|Alpha and click on the 'Mathematica form' link (in the first box) to see that

Plot[n^2, {n, 1, 10}]

is the corresponding Mathematica form.

I wish other programming languages also have this feature.


I've found it useful for calorie counting and nutritional information, given base ingredients. While about half my queries end up with "Wolfram Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input", with a little bit of tweaking and understanding the parsing engine, I'm able to get accurate counts of the foods I'm about to put into my body. For example, French Toast.


I found it useful for comparisons. Such as: gdp vietnam, cambodia, which produces a series of useful statistics, and even charts the raw results:

alt text http://www.wolframalpha.com/Calculate/MSP/MSP1294196g3g4b27453dh900000d0i8f8ch6e1e2b3?MSPStoreType=image/gif&s=14

Sure, I could compile this data myself from State Department reports, and put that into Excel, and graph it, and save the result as an image for inclusion in my report... or, I could just put that into Alpha and get the results I need in 1 click.