I knew that Wolfram Alpha was coming, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was so I didn’t keep too close an eye out for it. Then I read on Teaching College Mathematics and the Number Warrior that it was up, and I was pretty impressed with the screen shots. Since then, I’ve been playing around with it, and I’m impressed.

It solves problems:

(See how you can switch from exact forms to decimal approximations? With series, you can even tell it to use more terms.)

It gives you data:

(My favorite part is the info at the bottom, about population density and population growth. I can see those as being useful for writing problems in stats or calculus. I wasn’t able to get it to predict the population in a given year or predict when it would be a certain population, except once accidentally when it said the US population would be something like 4 quadrillion some year in the distant future.)

It also converts units. I know that you can do this easily on Google, but this gives you a whole selection and you can pick the one that you like best.

And you get to look up cool stuff, like cities, movies, colleges, and names:

So all in all, it seems like it’s a combination of many of the things I like about Wolfram’s MathWorld, Wikipedia, and Google. It doesn’t supplant any of them, but it’s quite user-friendly and I’m looking forward to seeing what else it does.