Friday, 15 May 2009

Wolfram Alpha for genealogy

There's been a fair bit of hype about a new free online facility with the objective of "making all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. You enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and growing collection of data to compute the answer."

It's also described as a huge almanac that keeps getting updated, linked to a large computer.

So is there any value for genealogy?

I've yet to encounter a genealogist who has much need to integral calculus, or even differential calculus. There's a whole lot of powerful capability if you do.

It does have a fair bit of date capability. You can ask about any date and it'll tell you the day, the elapsed time since then, and anything significant that happened that day. It knows when Easter was in 1922 and tell you how much time has elapsed since that date.

It also knows about population of countries (but not provinces), and cities (Ottawa, Toronto) distances, geographic areas, and currency. It can understand and perform calculations like how may people die each year in Canada per square Km of surface area.

There's lots to explore, and I just scratched the surface.

For genealogy the information seems limited at this early stage. It knows the birth and death dates of British kings and queens and US presidents. It can tell you that it was 93 years, 11 months and 17 days from Richard Nixon's birth to Gerald Ford's death.

It believes Mickey Mouse's birthday is Wednesday Nov 18, 2009!

It knows Stephen Wolfram's birthday, but not his mother's!

Find Wolfram Alpha here.




1 comment:

Joost said...

Hi, I saw that you also wrote a review on Wolfram Alpha. here's my review:
http://genealogieonline.blogspot.com/2009/05/review-wolfram-alpha-and-genealogical.html