Wolfram|Alpha Does (More) Math

The name doesn’t lend itself well to conversion to a verb, but I’ll say it anyway: I’ve been Wolfram|Alphing a lot lately. I’ve even added W|A to my bookmarks toolbar in Firefox.

Hey, it’s a great almanac, does conversions, easily calculates nutritional information for me… and as W|A announced Friday, it’s added some math functions.

I’m not as mathy as I’d like so bear with me. I can’t test features that W|A describes like this: “Our programmers have spent the past two months developing new capabilities in optimization, probability, number theory, and a host of other mathematical disciplines. Searching for elusive extrema? Look no further! Just feed your function(s) into Wolfram|Alpha and ask for their maxima, minima, or both. You can find global maxima and minima, optimize a function subject to constraints, or simply hunt for local extrema.”

That’s Greek to me, unfortunately. Hopefully it means more to you. However I can talk about the new probability features. You can now do queries like three of a kind and straight flush and get details on probability from W|A. In the case of straight flush, for example, you get an illustration of the hand, an explanation, probability for five-card and seven-card hands, and comparisons among other five-card poker hands.

Note that WA can calculate probabilities but doesn’t seem to understand poker slang. It understood straight but not straight to ace; searching for two pair with ace kicker got no results. However you can do searches for specific hands; a search for king of clubs, king of spades, four of hearts, four of clubs, ace of diamonds showed images of the cards, the probability for drawing these values in hands of five to ten cards, blackjack value (or values in this case; there were two possible values because of the ace) and the possibility of busting on this hand in blackjack (which were all 100% of course.)

You can also, among other things, get probabilities for dice throws by searching for “x y-sided dice”. W|A does not care if the dice can actually exist; doing a search for seven 6000000000-sided dice will get you an expected result and some examples of die faces. If you do something more reasonable, like seven five-sided dice, you’ll also get a graph of probabilities and the possibilities for different combinations (all faces show, all faces different, two of a kind, three of a kind, etc.)

If you’re not into probabilities you might find the primes interesting. W|A now lets you find prime numbers with simple queries like primes between 1 and 50. In this case it listed the 15 primes between 1 and 50. If you want to get fancy you can do something like sum of primes between 1 and 50 (W|A said 328). Other fun queries: prime closest to 990 or random prime between 1 and 100.

Check out the W|A blog post for more details. Just more interesting ways to play with Wolfram|Alpha. Happy wolframing!