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!

Categories: News