23 Cool Non-Math Things You Can Do With Wolfram Alpha

21 Non-Math Wolfram Alpha Tricks

Wolfram Alpha is not Google. They may look and even feel similar, but Google it is not. Google helps users navigate the expansive global Web via a friendly (but highly effective) interface. Wolfram Alpha, on the other hand, utilizes its brawny computing power to package raw data into digestible servings. It can be extremely frustrating to use—unless you structure your query in just the right way, you may not get what you want.

Let's say you wanted to learn all about trumpeter swans. A Google search returns a number of helpful links on the topic. And that's all you need 99 percent of the time. A query on Wolfram, on the other hand, brings back the species' extended scientific taxonomy, average weight (29 pounds for males, 22 pounds for females), age of sexual maturity (2 years for both genders), and "eggs per clutch" (four to eight).

Another way to think about it: Google is the friendly research librarian who helps you find exactly what you are looking for, while Wolfram Alpha is the annoying guy at work who just LOVES to show off how much he knows by showering you with facts and figures. You would never choose to hang out with that guy in your spare time, BUT that is exactly who you want on your team when you have to dive deep into some data.

Many of Wolfram's functions deal with advanced mathematical acrobatics that you probably don't understand and will never need to use. However, for those times when you need to really get into a topic—anything from the life cycle of sea anemones to Asian grain futures—Wolfram should be a central part of your research. It's particularly apt at culling socioeconomic data (e.g. "unemployment in Minnesota") and organizing comparisons between two things (it allows you to literally compare apples and oranges). For those times you want graphs, tables, and data sets, Wolfram is your best friend.

While math may be Wolfram's strong point, it isn't all that Wolfram can do. It can use its super number crunching nerd powers for many non-number things. Here are just a few cool, weird, fun, and even occasionally practical things you can do with Wolfram that have nothing to do with solving for X.

1. Scrabble Scores for Specific Words

Wolfram Alpha Scrabble Score

Take the Wolfram advantage in your next game night. Type the word "Scrabble" before any other word and Wolfram will crunch that word's Scrabble point value.

2. Create Anagrams

Wolfram Alpha Anagrams New

Type "anagram" followed by any word or phrase into Wolfram to search for possible anagrams. Note that Wolfram will only return whole single English-language words—i.e. it won't return a phrase or multi-word anagram answer.

3. Apply Image Filters to Just About Anything Using Only Text

Wolfram Alpha Khloe Kardashian

Wolfram allows you to apply basic visual effects to just about any image that you can find online using only basic search queries. Here's a list of just some of the image filters Wolfram has available.

4. Convert Numbers to Ancient Pictograms

Wolfram Alpha Ancient

This function has close to zero practicality, but it's fun to play with. Wolfram allows you to convert any whole number into a handful of ancient numerical systems. Just type "[any integer] to [any numerical system including Babylonian, Mayan, Roman, Greek, or Japanese abacus]" and Wolfram will return a bunch of ancient craziness.

5. Determine Your Lineage

Wolfram Alpha Lineage

Wolfram won't help you trace your family tree all Ancestry.com-style, but it will help you know how to refer to people at family reunions. This has a practical function for me: Nearly all my grandparents are off-the-boat immigrants, so they came from biiig ol' families, which means my family gatherings are filled with a billion people I barely know and whose relation to me is nebulous at best. Thankfully, Wolfram allows me to write their familial relation to me in plain English (e.g. my father's cousin's mother) and it will return the proper description of their relationship.

6. Find Out if You're Too Drunk to Drive

Wolfram Alpha Drinks

Just ask Wolfram "Am I Too Drunk to Drive?" and it will return a blood alcohol calculator that will allow you to input how many drinks you've had (though not the type of drink, which of course makes a big difference), over how long a period of time, your body weight, and gender. It will then return an estimated blood alcohol percentage and compare it to the US's legal driving limit (0.08 percent—the limit in your locality may be lower).

7. Find Out if You're Healthy

Wolfram Alpha Health

Input "human, [your height in feet and inches], [weight in pounds]" and Wolfram will calculate your BMI as well as your ideal body weight. You can even find what your ideal amount of daily caloric input is as well as facts you can't do much with such as lung capacity and how much blood plasma you have.

8. Find Important Historical Events

Wolfram Alpha Dates

Just input any day, month, year, or period (e.g. "March 4, 1933 to April 7, 1962") and Wolfram will give you some data about that period (i.e. how long it was from today) as well as all the notable events that occurred within that period.

9. It's a Rhyming Dictionary!

Wolfram Alpha Rhymes

Just ask and you shall receive. Query format is "rhymes with [word]." Google won't do that.

10. Translate to Morse Code

Wolfram Alpha Morse

Just type "Morse code '[word or phrase].'" You'll probably never ever need this, but there ya go.

11. Get the Lottery Odds in Your Area

Wolfram Alpha Lottery

You won't win the lottery. Ever. And Wolfram can help you realize this cold hard fact of life: Just search the word "lottery" and Wolfram will determine the odds of winning the top prize of all the local games in your area.

12. Create Your Own CAPTCHAs

Wolfram Alpha Captcha

Wondering if you're a human or not? Just type in "CAPTCHA '[phrase]'" and Wolfram will turn it into a captcha. If you're able to read it, congrats, you're a human!

13. Find Your Shoe Size in Other Countries

Wolfram Alpha Shoes

Google won't help you buy sneakers in Kyoto. Same goes for ring sizes when traveling abroad.

14. Find Out How Many Things Can Fit Inside Other Things

Wolfram Alpha How Many

Next time you get in a fight with a drunk at a bar over how many marbles can fit inside a Boeing 747, you'll have Wolfram on your side (it's 980 million, btw).

15. Answer Famous Lines

Wolfram Alpha Swallow

Wolfram doesn't know everything about common idioms and pop culture, but it knows quite a bit. For example, it can answer the age-old questions "How many ways are there to skin a cat" (There is more than one way…) as well as "Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about?" (Shaft).

16. Generate Nutritional Labels

Wolfram Alpha Nutricion

Name a brand name item (or an item from a franchise restaurant) and Wolfram will generate a nutritional label. You can even generate a nutritional label for a recipe or food combination, i.e. calories in 1 bowl of oatmeal + a cup of coffee + 3 slices of bacon (which is 280).

17. Get Password Help

Wolfram Alpha Password

Wolfram can help you generate a strong random password. Just type "Generate alphanumeric password" and by default, it will return a random 8-character password. You can ask for more or fewer characters by adding the qualifier "of length x" to the end of the query. Conversely, you can also test the strength of the passwords you already do have by querying "password strength for [your password]."

18. Generate Sounds and Tones

Wolfram Alpha Tones

Another thing you will probably never ever need to do with Wolfram (but it's nice to know you can) is generate sounds at very specific frequencies. You can just submit a query using plain English (e.g. "play 440Hz sine wave for 9 seconds").

You may also run into a particular bug with this feature, I did. In my experience, the "Play Sound" button doesn't actually do anything (I tested it on PC, using Chrome and Firefox). However, when I right-clicked the button to open it in a new tab, I was able to play the tone. Go figure.

19. Try and Fool Wolfram's Image Finder

Wolfram Alpha Image Search

Wolfram last year introduced the "ImageIdentify" function, which promises the ability to identify any object in an image. Stephen Wolfram said "It won't always get it right, but most of the time I think it does remarkably well." And that's a fairly apt description—it's pretty good at what it does. But even when it's wrong, it's kind of entertaining. Just head over to imageidentify.com and drag any image into the main search box and see what Wolfram can find.

20. Get Specific Sports Data

Wolfram Alpha Sports

This is a cool function—if you have some patience. Wolfram is not nearly as good with the English language as Google. However, if you're willing to engage in some trial and error with Wolfram, you can find some cool and very specific sports trivia. Such as when a search for "Last MLB game with more than 30 points" will return a game from June 29, 1897 when the Kentucky Colonels defeated the Chicago Colts 36-7.

I'm not exactly sure why the engine has no trouble finding the "last pro baseball game with more than 9 stolen bases" (Padres vs. Marlins on May 18, 2000), but can't tell me "last pro baseball game with more than 1 grand slam."

21. Number Crunch Your Facebook Account

Wolfram Alpha FB

You can hook all the data from your Facebook page into Wolfram's engine and have it data crunch your social circles. Just search "Facebook Report" in Wolfram (or just click here) and then click the big blue "Analyze My Facebook Data" button. Wolfram will squeeze out all sorts of data points, including the words you post the most (in my case, it was the word "one"), who your most active commenters are, what your most popular posts have been, and even what days and times you are most active on Facebook.

22. Translate Number of Words Typed to Time Spoken

Wolfram Words

Here's a strange little trick that might be of some use to any writers out there—in very specific circumstances. If you input a number of words (e.g. "5,263 words"), WA will determine the time it would take to typically type that many words (could be used for administrating a typing test to a potential employee), typical speaking (good for preparing a speech or presentation), or "silent reading" (once again, might be good to know for some sort of employment or educational test).

23. Find Out How Popular Your Name Is

Wolfram Name

Names are not only important identifying characteristics; they're also quantifiable data points. So, if you ask Wolfram for things like "name [your first name]," it will provide a bevy of data-y goodness including the quantified popularity of the name, the age distribution of people with that name, and even notable people who share that first name. You can also do it for your last name and find a similar data set.

1 Comment
  1. Reply George 17.09.2016 at 18:06

    What I love the most in Wolframe Alfa? Converting numbers to ancient pictograms function is really cool! And I also love applying image filters with text option! Filters are really cool! I tried to determine my lineage but it wasn’t my result. I also didn’t find that I’m healthy (whaaat???). Yes, some tools are great but some aren’t. saved this interesting article!

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