Wolfram Alpha


Data at its most useful for journalism??

Bringing broad, deep, expert-level knowledge to everyone... anytime, anywhere.

Goals

Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.

(Text and image taken from www.wolframalpha.com)

We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be replied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

A Toys R Us of data? ‘All under one roof’?

Wolfram Alpha appears to skip the middle man. The user types what they want to know into the search box. Wolfram Alpha then speedily trawls through all the data it has relevant to your query, and generates ‘dynamically computed results’, missing out the boring bit (written out data ie hundreds of numbers) you don’t want to see. So it’s not an original idea, but it’s a popular one.

Journalists can use this never ending source of data to find a fact/statistic in a fraction of time. You may say that Google does the same thing, but you don’t have to click through to other sites, the facts are there before your eyes.

For example, if you type in ‘Afghanistan‘…

 

Afghanistan

Name:

full name | Islamic Republic of Afghanistan\nfull native names | Jamhūrī-ye Islāmī-ye Afghānistān  |  Dê Afghānistān Islāmī Jumhūriyat\ninternet code | .af 

link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+full+name&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.FullName- link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+full+native+names&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.FullNativeNames- link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+internet+code&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.InternetCode-


Flag:


Location:


Geographic properties:

total area | 251827 mi^2  (square miles)  (world rank: 41st)\nland area | 251827 mi^2  (square miles)  (world rank: 41st)
link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+total+area&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.Area- link to /input/?i=251827+square+miles&lk=1 link to /input/?i=251827+square+miles&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+land+area&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.LandArea-


Bordering countries/regions:

China  |  Iran  |  Pakistan  |  Tajikistan  |  Turkmenistan  |  Uzbekistan 

link to /input/?i=China&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.China- link to /input/?i=Iran&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Iran- link to /input/?i=Pakistan&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Pakistan- link to /input/?i=Tajikistan&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Tajikistan- link to /input/?i=Turkmenistan&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Turkmenistan- link to /input/?i=Uzbekistan&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Uzbekistan-


Demographic:

population | 29.1 million people  (world rank: 42nd)  (2010 estimate)\npopulation density | 116 people\/mi^2  (people per square mile)  (world rank: 164th)  (2008 estimate)\npopulation growth | 3.49% per year  (world rank: 6th)  (2008 estimate)\nlife expectancy | 44.6 years  (world rank: 217th)  (2009 estimate)\nmedian age | 17.6 years  (world rank: 207th)  (2009 estimate)
link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+population&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.Population- link to /input/?i=29.1+million+people&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+population+density&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.PopulationDensity- link to /input/?i=116+people+per+square+mile&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+population+growth&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.PopulationGrowth- link to /input/?i=3.49+percent+per+year&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+life+expectancy&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.LifeExpectancy- link to /input/?i=44.6+years&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+median+age&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.MedianAge- link to /input/?i=17.6+years&lk=1


Cultural properties:

languages | Eastern Farsi  (21%)  |  Hazaragi  (6.5%)  |  Uzbek Southern  (5.2%)  |  Southern Pashto  (4%)  |  Turkmen  (1.8%)  |  ...\nethnic mix | Pashtun  (42%)  |  Tajik  (27%)  |  Hazara  (9%)  |  Uzbek  (9%)  |  Aimak  (4%)  |  ...\nreligions | Islam  (98%)  |  Zoroastrianism  (1.7%)  |  Hinduism  (0.35%)\nliteracy fraction | 28% 

link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+all+languages&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.LanguagesFractionsClean- link to /input/?i=Eastern+Farsi&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Language.FarsiEastern- link to /input/?i=21+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Hazaragi&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Language.Hazaragi- link to /input/?i=6.5+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Uzbek+Southern&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Language.UzbekSouthern- link to /input/?i=5.2+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Southern+Pashto&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Language.PashtoSouthern- link to /input/?i=4+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=4+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Turkmen&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Language.Turkmen- link to /input/?i=1.8+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+ethnic+mix&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.EthnicGroupsFractions- link to /input/?i=42+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=27+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=9+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=9+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+religions&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.ReligionsFractionsTrimmed- link to /input/?i=Islam&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Religion.Muslim- link to /input/?i=98+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Zoroastrianism&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Religion.Zoroastrian- link to /input/?i=1.7+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Hinduism&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Religion.Hindu- link to /input/?i=0.35+percent&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+literacy+fraction&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.LiteracyFraction- link to /input/?i=28+percent&lk=1


Capital city:

Kabul


Largest cities:

city | population\nKabul | 2.938 million people\nQandahar | 324800 people\nMazar-e Sarif, Balkh | 300600 people\nHerat | 274000 people\nJalalabad, Nangarhar | 168600 people\n(2004, 2006, and 2009 estimates)
link to /input/?i=Kabul&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*City.*Kabul.Kabul.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=2.938+million+people&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Qandahar&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*City.*Qandahar.Qandahar.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=324800+people&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Mazar%E2%80%90e+Sarif&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*City.*MazarESarif.Balkh.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=Balkh&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*AdministrativeDivision.*Balkh.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=300600+people&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Herat&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*City.*Herat.Herat.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=274000+people&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Jalalabad&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*City.*Jalalabad.Nangarhar.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=Nangarhar&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*AdministrativeDivision.*Nangarhar.Afghanistan-- link to /input/?i=168600+people&lk=1


Currency:

currency name | \\:0564\\:05801  (Afghan afghani)\ncurrency code | AFN\nlocal currency conversion | \\:0564\\:05801  (Afghan afghani) = 1.44p  (British pence)\ncurrency conversion | \\:0564\\:05801  (Afghan afghani) = 2.32¢  (US cents)
link to /input/?i=1+Afghan+afghani&lk=1 link to /input/?i=1+Afghan+afghani&lk=1 link to /input/?i=1+Afghan+afghani&lk=1 link to /input/?i=1.44+British+pence&lk=1 link to /input/?i=2.32+US+cents&lk=1


Economic properties:

GDP | $12.68 billion per year  (world rank: 118th)  (2008 estimate)\nGDP at parity | $22.32 billion per year  (world rank: 115th)  (2008 estimate)\nreal GDP | $12.68 billion per year  (price-adjusted to year-2008 US dollars)  (world rank: 119th)\nGDP per capita | $466 per personper year  (world rank: 215th)  (2008 estimate)\nGDP real growth | +3.35%per year  (world rank: 105th)  (2008 estimate)\nconsumer price inflation | -13.23%per year  (world rank: 179th)  (2009 estimate)\nunemployment rate | 8.5%  (world rank: 59th highest)  (2005 estimate)
link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+GDP&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.GDPUSD- link to /input/?i=12.68+billion+US+dollars+per+year&lk=1 link to /input/?i=12.68+billion+US+dollars+per+year&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+GDP+at+parity&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.GDPPPP- link to /input/?i=22.32+billion+US+dollars+per+year&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+real+GDP&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.RealGDP- link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+GDP+per+capita&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.GDPPC- link to /input/?i=466+US+dollars+per+year+per+person&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+GDP+real+growth&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.CountryProperty.GDPRG- link to /input/?i=%2B3.35+percent+per+year&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+consumer+price+inflation&lk=1 link to /input/?i=-13.23+percent+per+year&lk=1 link to /input/?i=Afghanistan+total+unemployment&lk=1&a=ClashPrefs_*Country.Afghanistan.WorldDevelopmentProperty.UnemploymentRate- link to /input/?i=8.5+percent&lk=1

However, Wolfram Alpha is merely a processor of data, waiting for more data to be available. If you ask ‘when did bede write the history of the english speaking people?’ the search assumes you are searching for ‘England’ as a country, and brings up facts about that. Even though they are interesting facts, they aren’t what you are looking for!
Wolfram Alpha is waiting for the rest of the web to aid its development, and increase its database. It’s a great place to find out journalistic facts, but if it’s not there I suggest you check again in a few years!
Julia Greenaway
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This entry was posted in How is data journalism used? and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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