Wolfram Alpha has made a name for itself during the past few years. It is an absolute favorite among programmers and science folks alike. Recently, it was found that over 25% of Wolfram Alpha queries are coming from Siri. Wolfram Alpha staff strength has gone up to 200, and perhaps, Apple is gearing up to drive Google out of the search business but that is another story.
A few days ago, Stephen Wolfram showcased automated data analysis capabilities released in Wolfram Alpha Pro, and used data from his personal life for analysis. The analysis told the story of his life from a new dimension, and it was exciting. Ever since, people have wanted to do the same, and Wolfram Alpha has brought yet another feature for them. Stephen Wolfram had collected an enormous amount of data from his life, which he put into this tool. For others, the next best source of data for your personal lives is the social network of your choice. Wolfram Alpha has a new feature that lets you analyze your personal life, using data from Facebook.
Stephen Wolfram announced the new Facebook personal analytics feature, saying,
And today I’m excited to announce that we’ve developed a first round of capabilities in Wolfram|Alpha to let anyone do personal analytics with Facebook data. Wolfram|Alpha knows about all kinds of knowledge domains; now it can know about you, and apply its powers of analysis to give you all sorts of personal analytics.
To use the feature, simply go ahead and search for “Facebook report” on Wolfram Alpha. Click on the “Analyze my Facebook data” button, and it will take you to an app. On the next screen, you can login to Wolfram Alpha, or create a free account. Within minutes, you will have over 60 reports to shuffle through, and know yourself better.
Teaching just became a lot easier thanks to Wolfram Research Institute and the resources they have put online. Called the ‘Wolfram Education Portal’, it combines the power of Wolfram research’s best computation engines with other teaching aids like lesson plans to make learning as pleasurable for both teachers and students. Hold on tight as we introduce to you the different features of this wonderful portal.
Wolfram had already demonstrated the power of interactive computational techniques by developing the Computable Document Format or CDF, where it is possible to spice up documents with interactive graphs and figures. The present development seems to be an even bigger jump.
Introducing the Wolfram Education Portal
The Education Portal has a lot of material in the algebra and calculus section, but it will soon expand into other sections as well. Instructors will benefit greatly by being able to easily present the methods of calculation, like finding the slope of a curve, the meaning of discontinuity and numerical integration. It also aims to stress the inculcation of Wolfram’s wonderful web-based mathematical software-cum-database Wolfram|Alpha. There are also a number of introductions to different Wolfram products like Mathematica and CDF.
Exploring it myself
I decided to explore what the big fuss was and was quite impressed. You’ll have to log in with a certain Wolfram ID. If you don’t have one, creating one is extremely easy and it’s free. Once that is done, you can access everything that has been put out there.
Let’s first start off with the Algebra section.
In the so-called Library view, you can see that there are currently 90 textbook sections, 68 lesson plans, 15 demonstrations and 10 widgets. I especially liked the widgets; they do simple things quickly and without fuss. I checked out several sections, ‘Multi-Step Equations’, ‘Graphs of Quadratic Functions’ and ‘The Pythagorean Theorem and its Converse’. They contain textbook material, which provides direct, easy-to-understand-and-present material, deliciously sprinkled with a healthy dose of problems.
Instructors might be more interested in the Lesson Plans. It draws up a list of things that the instructor is supposed to teach and the students are supposed to work out. Examples are nicely provided and stress has been laid to the use of Wolfram|Alpha in classrooms. There are also widgets provided in between the examples.
Next comes the calculus section. I loved this section more for the simple reason that it is richer in content. This section has demonstrations and widgets. The demonstrations are brilliant and spent quite some time fiddling around with them, even though I knew every technique being shown here. It’s great fun, and it makes you love the things you already know. It will definitely be a great help for students, more as a visual aid than as a computational technique.
I loved the demonstration of numerical integration, using the three different techniques – rectangular (not so accurate), trapezoidal rule (more accurate) and Simpson’s rule (quite accurate). You can easily see the comparison and judge which method works best for different functions. What method are you supposed to use for functions which are discontinuous at certain points? Use the different functions and different methods interactively to find out! It’s a fun way to learn.
I had to mention the demonstration on the squeeze theorem and taking derivatives of polynomials. Can you draw the derivative of any given polynomial by simply looking at it? No? Then give this a try, fiddle around with it and you’ll know how you do that!
Wolfram|Alpha and the classroom
Lastly, I cannot but mention the Wolfram|Alpha and how Wolfram wants teachers to use it for instruction. Wolfram has this comprehensive step-by-step-math guide for Wolfram|Alpha. Give Wolfram|Alpha something to solve and then ask it to show the steps as well. If it can, it will.
I found out that it can easily show steps for quadratic equations (image 3), but not so for cubic equations (image 4). I think the method of intersection of curves to solve equations is something that is not given its due importance in classrooms, so it was quite refreshing to see Wolfram|Alpha displaying that as a primary technique.
There you have it! Oh, you can also give suggestions, share material and inform Wolfram about any novel teaching methods that you might have thought of by clicking the give feedback link at the top of the page.
Now, Wolfram has pulled down its iPhone version of webpage and is promoting its very expensive iPhone app instead. The iPhone version of Wolfram Alpha now redirects to a page that is linked to the iTunes link to download the iPhone app.
Although Wolfram Alpha is quite interesting and tremendously useful app, we feel $50 is way to high for the app and Wolfram Alpha leaves no other option on iPhone/iPod than to download the app.
Remember the $50 Wolfram Alpha app for iPhone and iPod Touch? Well looks like they have been doing brisk business, regardless of the hacks to use Wolfram Alpha for free. The Wolfram Alpha team just dropped a PR email on us, saying that they were now on the What’s hotlist in Apple app store.
We are happy to announce that the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch popped up on the App Store’s "What’s Hot" list today. We are delighted that Apple selected the app to be featured, recognizing the intense interest and excitement being shown in Wolfram|Alpha.
We did check it out, and found that the app is definitely on the What’s Hotlist and has also been in the Top Grossingsegment when it launched.
It is always good when someone does good business, but considering the price, we would definitely not buy it. Have you purchased the Wolfram Alpha app from the app store? What are your thoughts about it? Do let us know through your comments.
Wolfram Alpha just released a new app in the Apple app store for $50, we thought it to be a ridiculous price and asked users to vote on it. If you are looking to access Wolfram Aplha from your iPhone or iPod touch, here is how you can save yourself $50 and do it without having to buy the expensive app.
It is a pretty old trick, but still many of you might not know about it. You might not be able to access all the features available in the application, but what the heck you are saving $50. So here goes.
Adding Wolfram Alpha to the Home Screen as a App link
I am not sure about this, but why would someone pay $50 to buy a fancy search application from Wolfram Alpha?
There is no doubt that, Wolfram Alpha is a very good innovation, but seriously $50 for a iPhone app? I would just browse Wolfram Alpha using Safari on the iPhone or iPod Touch, and use the $50 to buy some cool games to waste my time, and then use Google Search for free.
What about you? Please take part in the poll below, to tell us whether or not you would but this app from the app store.