What’s the unemployment rate of San Diego versus New York? How many football fields would fit between the Earth and the sun? What’s the likelihood of getting two heads in 10 coin flips? As of tonight, one web search engine can calculate all that for you on the fly and more. Mathematician Stephen Wolfram’s much-hyped “computational knowledge engine” Wolfram|Alpha just went public, and it’s got more than a few data nerds tickled absolutely pink (myself included). Walpha (as I affectionately call it) finds and visualizes real-world data points from natural language queries.
I’ve just spent the last couple of hours throwing every kind of data query I could think of at Walpha. Some of the results were incredibly useful, others baffling, and others just missing. Here are some of the fun facts I learned using Walpha’s calculations.
- I’m over 12,000 days old today. As a 33-year-old American female, my life expectancy is 81.54 years, which means I’ve got till April of 2057 to go, a mere 48 years from now.
- My 70-year-old mother has a longer life expectancy than I do, at 86.17 years. (This makes me wonder what’s wrong: Walpha or my search terms. Update: Actually, it’s neither. Several folks explain that because Mom has survived to see her 70th year, she has a higher likelihood of living longer. Following that, at 94 today, Grandpa’s expected to live till 97. Good news!)
- The oldest person in the world clocked in at 122 years old, though, so we all may have more time.
- It will take readers about three minutes to silently read the 450-word magazine article I spent all day today writing. (And yes, it was exactly a one-page, single-spaced document).
- One in almost 6,000 people have my first name; about 144,000 people alive today are named Gina. Compared to Jennifer and Mary, though, my name’s positively uncommon.
- San Diego county has a higher income per capita than Kings county (Brooklyn). Its unemployment rate is also higher.
- There have been more earthquakes near San Diego in the last five years than I actually felt.
- A Snickers bar has 14 grams of fat, more than a bag of milk chocolate M&M’s or a Twix bar (not combined).
- If a five-foot, seven-inch, 160-pound, 33-year-old woman went running at 4MPH for 30 minutes, she’d burn 272 calories.
- The average 12-year-old girl today is around five feet tall.
- Both caffeine and aspirin have beautiful molecular structures.
- 55 mph is about 0.62 x speed at which Marty McFly needed to drive the Delorean DMC-12 in order to time travel (88 mph).
- Turns out she was right when I asked during an episode of The Deadliest Catch: On average, the Bering Sea is less than a mile deep.
- Apple’s bringing in more than half of Microsoft’s yearly revenue.
- As of yesterday, there are a total of 65 recorded deaths due to swine flu.
- Of my three favorite bridges, the Golden Gate is the longest.
- A woodchuck would chuck all the wood a woodchuck could chuck (if that woodchuck could chuck wood, of course).
- So that’s where a second cousin twice removed fits on the family tree.
- A flight from Palermo to Rome is about 30 minutes. The GDP of the US is 6.75 times that of Italy.
- At $6.55/hour (the minimum wage here in the US), you make $52.40 per working day, and $13,100 per working year.
- Pi has a lot of digits. (Go ahead. Click the “more digits” link.)
Walpha even makes CAPTCHAs and offers web site statistics given a URL.
Still, Walpha’s very, well, alpha, and at times tonight it buckled under the load of the launch rush–but not without a sense of humor. Here’s Walpha’s error page:
Also, Walpha balked on several questions I was sure it could handle, like what the weather in New York was the day my parents got married, and what kind of MPG the Prius gets. Don’t even try things like chicken or the egg or if a tree falls in the woods…
Still, while Walpha’s everyday uses for Joe Normal Web Searcher won’t be obvious, this thing is a goldmine for researchers, students, journalists, and bloggers. If this is the alpha, I can’t wait for the beta.
Gina, WolframAlpha is perfectly right, that your mother has a higher life expectancy. If she was 81.53 years old, would you expect the value to be 81.54? The older you are, the higher your LE is. Good news!
But LE’s go up depending on when you were born… so someone born in 1939 has a lower LE than someone born in 1975, no?
At 33, your life expectancy is lowered by all the people that die in car-crashes, of heart attacks, eaten by sharks, etc. But your mother has already lived to 70, she is more “likely” to live to 86 than you are simply because she has a head start.
To put it bluntly you have more time (from age 33-81) to die than she does (from 70-86).
BUT you’re right – at your birth you had a much higher life expentancy than her.
For example, if you look at the “% of living past” stats on those pages you’ll note that statistically, you are more likely to live beyond age 75 than her – on raw statistics alone.
No, Gina. This was the case if you jump back to 1939 and would predict her LE then. But in the meantime your mother has already lived out many other people, which for example died young because of car accidents, cancer etc. A 1975 born has many “risky years.”
Live long and prosper! 😉
BTW: my mother is born in 1939 too.
PS: sorry for all the grammar mistakes in my previous post. D’oh! I hope it’s clear what I meant to say. I should read the stuff I write before hitting the submit button.
Sadly, it can’t calculate the conversion from dollars to doughnuts $ = (â Ã— n) http://bit.ly/n30j2
It is interesting how my first name is growing in popularity, tho. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=mason
@Stefan: Ok, I *think* that makes sense. Thanks for the explanation. 🙂
Ok, yes, thanks everyone. Getting my head wrapped around LE tables. Interestingly, my spouse’s 94-year-old grandfather’s life expectancy is 97.6 years. Cool!
Most of these questions don’t work. Starting from the second question in your post — http://snipr.com/fields-between-earth-sun — to the dollars to doughtnuts stuff.
Nice concept but I’ll save my excitement for when basic queries yield something over and above google and clusty.
Here’s the query that yields the answer to the first question:
distance between moon and earth / length of a football field
first time poster – fan from Lifehacker and TWiT
re LE changing with age
“It is important to note that life expectancy rises sharply in all cases for those who reach puberty.
A pre 20th Century individual who lived past the teenage years could expect to live to an age close to the life expectancy of today.”
and re personal longevity – lower on the same page
“On an individual basis, there are a number of factors that have been shown to correlate with a longer life.
Some factors that appear to influence life expectancy include family history, marital status, economic status, physique, exercise, diet, drug use including smoking and alcohol consumption, disposition, education, environment, sleep, climate, and health care. ”
statistics are fun to interpret
I told it i was born in 1800 and it said my survival probability was ‘minimal’!