We are Clayton, Lexie, Alan, Stephanie, and Chip - here to discuss potential new features, tips, tricks and other ideas from Wolfram|Alpha users.

Proof: https://twitter.com/Wolfram_Alpha/status/659076669446180864

We'll start answering questions at 3 p.m. EDT.

EDIT: We’re about to launch a video contest for all of our Wolfram|Alpha fans! If you have a moment, check it out: www.wolframalpha.com/contest

EDIT2: Thanks guys! This was a ton of fun and I hope we've helped answer some of your questions. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without you guys so keep on asking Wolfram|Alpha weird questions!

EDIT3: For any post AMA questions, feel free to message our support account /u/wolframalpha_support

Comments: 2974 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

Zarkoned3701 karma

How does it feel being the people who have helped most college kids pass calculus?

Source: B+ calculus fall 2012

Wolfram_Alpha_Team2256 karma

  • We're glad you're able to pass the class and not hate math. :) -clayton
  • It feels like being superwoman? It's really one of my favorite parts of this job. Being able to directly impact students. -stephanie
  • It’s probably the best part of the job. At the end of the day it’s neat to think people worldwide use stuff I built. -chip

squidgy617502 karma

We were allowed to use Wolfram on our tests.

Praise be to Wolfram, hallowed be thy name.

One_Night_Table355 karma

All hail Wolfram of House Alpha, the First of its Name, Conqueror of Calculus

Wolfram_Alpha_Team376 karma

We are Clayton, Alan, Lexie, Chip, Stephanie...

Wolfram_Alpha_Team184 karma

What class was it for? That's kind of awesome. If only we had Alpha around during my days... -stephanie

queen_in_my_pictures93 karma

what calc did you go up to? it wasn't really helpful at all to me after about halfway through calc 2, and then much less so in multi-variable calc and diff eq's... maybe helpful in speeding up a few things here and there but overall I didn't use it that much

Wolfram_Alpha_Team155 karma

We actually do differential equations: https://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/DifferentialEquations.html. What do you think we can do to help out with multivariable and differential equations classes? -stephanie

nimofitze107 karma

I'm a grad student that uses it for Differential Equations and statistical mechanics. Super helpful when you're not in the mood to take an integral of an equation that goes across the page.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team121 karma

We're here to help you save trees. ;) Oh and I guess to help you learn as well -stephanie

Militaris1567 karma

What are some of the little known features of wolfram alpha that you are very proud of, yet feel are underutilized? I know I myself have plugged thousands of equations in from polynomial to differential equations, but what am I missing out on?

Edit: autocorrect correction

Wolfram_Alpha_Team2539 karma

I could spend the whole AMA composing that list. A few that immediately come to mind: some pretty big areas like music-related information ("rolling stones albums from the 70s”) and song lyrics ("lyrics to shake it off”), or pro sports information ("MLB team with the most postseason homers in 2014”), or financial data ("market cap for facebook, apple, microsoft”). And probably hundreds of odd little bits of hidden knowledge, like wordplay (“anagrams of britney spears”), or object-packing estimations ("How many m and m's fit in a Boeing 747?”). -alan

sanjeetsuhag2630 karma

How many m and m's fit in a Boeing 747?

1.9 billion. Thanks WolframAlpha.

SillyFlyGuy2444 karma

"How many Eminem's fit in a Boeing 747?" does not work. :(

plz fix

Wolfram_Alpha_Team593 karma

If you give me a reliable estimate of Eminem’s volume, I’ll take care of it. In the meantime, http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=length+of+a+boeing+737+%2F+height+of+Eminem -alan

Wolfram_Alpha_Team381 karma

Even people who do use our massive amount of non-math content don’t always realize how deep you can dig into some areas. Most people know you can ask “what’s the population of [some city]” but they don’t realize we can answer a question like http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=which+county+in+Massachusetts+has+the+highest+fraction+of+PhDs%3F. -alan

Wolfram_Alpha_Team31 karma

We've got thousands of great example inputs to give you a sense of what Wolfram|Alpha can comprehend and compute. Our math capability is second to none, and has obviously been a huge help to millions of people. But (for me, at least) it's the rest of our knowledge base that really defines what Wolfram|Alpha is, and aims to be: a tool that integrates structured information from thousands upon thousands of disparate data sources, about countless aspects of existence, and makes all of it genuinely computable. It's not just the graph of things and their properties, it's also all the algorithms and quantities and other frameworks that allow you to manipulate that information and query it in a natural way.

Some of my background is in traditional — i.e., dead-tree-based — reference book publishing, and I've been a lifelong random-data/trivia geek; the launch of Wolfram|Alpha took me back to (nerd alert) days I spent as a kid flipping through almanacs and encyclopedias, digging up all kinds of weird facts about the world. Yeah, sure, there's this 'Internet' thing now, but there was and is something unique about Wolfram|Alpha, just having this mass of wide-ranging data combined into one interconnected, interactive, evolving thing. There's obviously a long, maybe infinitely long, road for us to really hope to answer any question, but I'm proud of what we've done and what we continue to do, and I can still stumble across surprising facts and computations six years post-launch." - Alan

mwrscs11540 karma

What's something that WA cannot do, but you want it to?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team1944 karma

  • I'm excited to see our Step by Step content expanded for different topics so we can help students succeed in more classes! (Geography, Chemistry, etc.) This content will also allow us to generate unlimited quizzes for these topics with the http://www.wolframalpha.com/problem-generator/ -clayton
  • Well I think it'd be cool if we could use it more with other products... like integrate it with Google Docs. And maybe we will be able to... dun dun dunnn -stephanie

pm_me_your_vanguard931 karma

I'm a current high school calculus/physics teacher who really enjoys programming. Ironically today, in my BC class, me and my class wrote a script in Python that uses newtons method to calculate zeros of polynomials.

As much as I enjoy teaching, at some point I'd really like to get into educational software development. Any tips for cracking into the industry?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team1471 karma

Funny you mention that. We're always looking for talented people to come help us out. Apply here and mention reddit in the comments. No but seriously... apply and come hang out with us? -stephanie

dubalubdub938 karma

Sometimes when i use Wolfram Alpha it uses a technique more advanced than i can currently do. Are their any future plans to add some way to "allow" or "disallow" different techniques?

Ex: Lim x->0 ( ( sinx )/( x2 ) )

In Calculus 1 you do not have L'Hopital's Rule so Wolfram Alpha wasn't very helpful in this situation.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team851 karma

Yup! We are currently expanding solving problems with multiple methods. We have this already for a few things like systems of equations and ODE’s. -chip

The_Gibson685 karma

What is the most nonsensical question I can ask your engine that still provides an intelligent answer?

suchtie108 karma

Well you can, for example, ask how many pencils would fit in a bathtub. And how many goats you would need to have the weight of these pencils.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team256 karma

Why are you putting pencils in a bathtub? -stephanie

BeardedKelp568 karma

How often does Randall Munroe (Of XKCD) contact you to have his account unblocked for over use?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team471 karma

We're huge fans, so he usually doesn't have to contact us.

lumberjack_dan463 karma

I love wolframalpha! Step by step solutions has helped me understand calculus so many times. Why is it that your mobile app is only a few dollars but can give step by step solutions just like the paid version online?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team321 karma

Thanks, we love it too! The Wolfram|Alpha mobile app does provide limited step by step solutions. A Wolfram|Alpha Pro subscription gives you complete step by step solutions on the web, hints, access to the Wolfram Problem Generator, file upload, downloads, and a lot more. Very soon, we will update the Wolfram|Alpha App so that Pro subscribers unlock additional mobile features -clayton

spencerOO347 karma

What are Wolfram Alpha's most common uses?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team681 karma

The most common use of W|A is math and show steps. More specifically, in math integrals, derivatives, and differential equations seem most popular. -chip

Wolfram_Alpha_Team295 karma

We also hear a lot of customer stories about using Wolfram|Alpha as the ultimate reference tool. Fact checking, winning bets against friends, etc. -clayton

Heygr337 karma

What is the most complex equation your system can solve?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team575 karma

“Wolfram Alpha can essentially solve what Mathematica can solve, so there are many complex things it can do. Off the top of my head I think the last non zero digits of (10100)! is pretty complicated… (10100)! is a 9.95657*10101 digit number and it’s finding digits in the middle of it! http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%2810%5E100%29%21 -chip

I_own_a_haberdashery294 karma

What plane is overhead right now?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team358 karma

a Boeing 737, Airbus A320, and Airbus A321. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=what+planes+are+above+me

Cutrush275 karma

Why do the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing?

Edit: Dang auto correct.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team295 karma

I know this doesn't make you feel better, and you probably want Chip Kelly fired . . . but it is probably Mark Sanchez time! http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=philadelphia+eagles+interceptions+and+fumbles+2015 -clayton

Inspectmyg00ch250 karma

Hey, if you guys could invent an app where I could take a photo of a math problem with my cell phone camera and have it automatically solved, you guys would be richer than kings. It's totally beyond me, so could you please make it a reality so I can spend my time doing other things? Thanks a bunch.

-an equity percentage would be chill

Wolfram_Alpha_Team350 karma

We're working on it . . . there are some neat apps out there but we want to make sure that our solution is robust and not just neat. You deserve better! -clayton

NeonBeggar212 karma

Are you aware that W|A sometimes gives wrong answers for certain multivariable limits? For example, it shows the limit of the following function as 0, but the limit actually doesn't exist:

If you take x=t2 and y=kt,

The limit for t->0 is k4 / (1+k4 )3 which means the limit is dependent on k, which means that it doesn't exist. This example comes from this thread.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team236 karma

Yes we are aware, thanks for providing another example. We’ll file it internally! -chip

HockeyCannon190 karma

Why do kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?

eboopy56 karma

What are your plans for the future of Wolfram Alpha?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team80 karma

Before the end of the year, we will release some new features such as Web Apps (custom interfaces for specific topics) and priority support. Also, we will make the Wolfram Problem Generator free for practice questions. We're always adding more content, updating the mobile apps, and we have some exciting Math OCR efforts in the pipeline as well. -clayton

Wolfram_Alpha_Team43 karma

Adding on to Clayton’s response: content, content, content. We’ve always got a ton of new areas simmering at any given time. I could walk down the hallway here and see work on college sports, yoga, public companies, universities, fictional characters, anatomical structures… -alan

sylario49 karma

Any xkcd easter eggs in wolfram alpha?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team89 karma

something like this? -chip

dontthrowmeinabox45 karma

How do most people find your website?

I was lucky to find it when it launched because of a post on Whedonesque. You see, there is an evil law firm in Joss Whedon's Angel called Wolfram and Hart, and in his show Dollhouse, there is a villain named Alpha. So, they made a post amused that your website sounded like the ultimate Joss Whedon villain. And that's how watching Buffy got me through calculus.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team22 karma

  • Awesome. -stephanie
  • Most of our web traffic comes from search engines, mathworld.com, and reference links users make on social media. -clayton

mangosoup27 karma

I just wanted to say, thanks for helping me pass some stupidly boring subjects in college.

I haven't used the site in a while. Is there a windows front end app for it?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team33 karma

Of course! Glad we could help. We actually do have Windows and Windows Phone Apps available: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/wolframalpha/9wzdncrdmzkp -Lexie

WhyDoesItEvenMatter5 karma

Can you dscribe simply how does WA solves math problem step-by-step?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team12 karma

W|A will try to attack a problem just as a human would, recording every step it takes along the way. -chip

prostate-massage4 karma

Have you considered making your API free to use?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team4 karma

Thanks for the question, but the Wolfram|Alpha API is already free for non-commercial use for up to 2,000 queries per month. -lexie

themightykobold4 karma

How do you like Champaign-Urbana?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team6 karma

Hanshee3 karma

Does wolfram have any Easter eggs?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team4 karma

Yes! We will also take suggestions on community.wolfram.com -stephanie

black_flag_4ever3 karma

What's the best way to use WA for historical trivia?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team4 karma

Here is a great place to start! - http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/PeopleAndHistory.html -clayton

bonjourbrooke10172 karma

Will you take my calculus test for me? Its at 7:30 tonight so I hope you don't have dinner plans.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team8 karma

Buy me the plane ticket. I’ll be there. -chip

WhatSheOrder2 karma

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

AATroop2 karma

Why do my definite integrals never work? It works perfectly when I use the indefinite form, but the site really screws the pooch when it comes to doing the last two steps.

Wolfram_Alpha_Team4 karma

Yes… definite integrals are much harder to do than indefinite, which means more time is needed to compute. This means time outs are more likely to occur. The reason they’re harder is the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus requires that the antiderivative is continuous and it takes time ensure we choose an appropriate one. Here's more info about it. -chip

Kwazimoto1 karma

I'm a high school math teacher and you guys have no idea how helpful Wolfram has been in explaining ideas to my students. Your whole team has my sincere gratitude. How does it feel to influence the future of education and mathematical understanding?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team3 karma

Thank you! We take our role in education very seriously and we feel lucky to impact millions of students/educators through Wolfram|Alpha as well as Mathematica. Before the end of the year, we will announced Educator plans and a few other things to make life easier for educators. You might find the Computer Based Math initiative interesting - https://www.computerbasedmath.org/ -clayton

boxofkangaroos1 karma

What is the most commonly searched thing on Wolfram|Alpha?

Wolfram_Alpha_Team3 karma

Integrals. -Chip

PicturElements1 karma

How does one calculate this?

I understand this isn't calculated from scratch upon request, but still.