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Wolfram Alpha: A Personal Tutor for Math Students…..Or Anyone!!!

 

Have you ever wanted to know not only what the solution to a question is but also why it is that solution? This problem will pop up from time to time in everyday life whether you’re at work, school, meetings, or just feeling curious. Luckily, there is a program that can answer (provided you ask correctly) nearly any question that you can give it. It is called WolframAlpha and it is branded as a “computation knowledge engine”. A means to provide the full knowledge of collective humanity at the cost of a few keystrokes.

When I first heard about this site (Fall 2010) I could not believe the talk. I was in a Calculus class with a terrible teacher; the kind who sit behind a podium and merely read you the textbook for an hour. We were discussing the behavior of Limits at Infinity and all was not well with my learning of the topic. I struggled to wade through the -then new- language of a Calculus curriculum and still could not seem to grasp the concept until….

When you pull up the site for use you will basically see a semi austere search engine interface. This was a bit un-nerving at first as it gives no boundary to what needs to be typed into the text box to get a desired result.  And I thought “How the hell do you input Calculus data and get a sensible result?”, I was at a loss. I then simply (and quite intuitively) typed into the dialog box the relevant information as best as  could logically deduce, pressed enter and waited for an error to be replied but that was not to be. I had asked the interface to show me the answer to a limit problem and it had quite easily returned a sensible and correct result WITH the steps and thoughts required to solve the problem! I was truly impressed to say the least.

So I asked it some other questions;

  • What aircraft are overhead? It gave me a factual answer of which aircraft (Carriers and flights!!) that were passing overhead of my computer’s IP location at that time.
  • How far am I(Ocala, FL)  from the Statute of Liberty? Answer: 916.1 miles, 1174 Kilometers, 796.1 Nautical miles, as a sound wave: 1 hour and 12 minutes, etc.
  • How many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? Answer: 3481 (according to The Univ. of Cambridge)

These are simply amazing results for a knowledge engine. For fun, ask “what is the secret to life?” and you’ll receive an answer or type “hello” to the SE, and you’ll receive an intelligible response. My point is that to become familiar with this tool and make wide-spread use of this technology could have a great and positive impact on the ease and quickness of how information comes to light.

Since that day when I first discovered the value that this site presents to life, I have tried to evangelize its worth to anyone that will listen. Unfortunately, many of you do not. If you one day find yourself just wasting time one day droning at Facebook, twitter, or some blowhard’s blog then you have time to test drive this site.   I promise it will be worth your while and may even come in handy more than a few times (especially you college / high school students).

I will leave you with a thought that I had about my time in the Marine Corps in reference to this subject. When you are asked a questioned by a superior ranked Marine during an inspection, casually, or during a technical evaluation and you do not know the answer to said question. The correct reply is acknowledge your short coming and a EXPEDITIOUSLY seek that correct answer. with WolframAlpha its as good as done.

http://www.wolframalpha.com/

 

Hello World pt.II

Hey everybody,

Just having recently been active again in maintaining my blog space, I have come to re-purpose my focus and define the scope of my postings. As I am a returning (for the first time) college student, I think it will be helpful for me to share  my scholastic experiences and attempt to tie them into my blogging. My new focus will be to post any academic interests that I come into that would be helpful to any readers of my space. I am going to school for Aerospace Engineering and sadly the majority of my postings in the future will be limited to Mathematics and physics. Not to say my other courses aren’t important, but I am somehow now fully involved in these science classes. For a majority of these  posts I will be aided by the use of my Livescribe smartpen to illustrate exactly what I am talking about. I know that wordpress does not fully work well with Livescribe but it can be done with little fuss. I am quickly learning to use this smartpen tool more smoothly and with practice and I soon hope to increase the complexity and content of my pencasts. Well, I hope you can all find use somewhere in my blog and as always feel free to comment and correct any missteps I may make along the way.

Hello world!

Whew! Hello world. This is my introductory (and with some far stretched luck,  permanent) attempt at web logging.  I am  foremost excited to even have the ability to be able to voice my own personal views and thoughts on any subject that I choose to write  about and then  “paste” it to the world-wide web for all to see. This is such an important tool for both selfishly improving my own level of written competency and diction while simultaneously expressing a point of view that may be shared, exchanged or even argued for the better of all who read it (myself especially).   

As stated earlier, I am approaching the notion of the blog as a means of self-expression,  a virtual sounding board, and most importantly a place for me to learn from the community as a whole.  I have purposely NOT researched anyone else’s work to derive any prepackaged ideas about “how to” blog or for points of view on any topic I post about. That being said, any discontinuities or lapses in flow or form are of my own “learning experience”.  The views and opinions that I express hereafter are by no means concrete, binding or having any permanence in the real world. I am sincerely intending to connect to a certain mindset and make connections with similar minded folks and learn something from everyone that I encounter. I implore all of my readers (if any) to please leave a comment, corrective point-of-fact, or just an insight that I may have missed or trounced over.  Historically, I tend not to comment much on others work if I do not offer myself up to any criticisms, so this is my attempt at parity for those verbal exhortations that I am notorious for making.  

Aside from this freer structure of loosely associated ideas that I have deposited here, I will make a serious and concerted effort at formality and clarity in future installations. This writing was merely a quick way to introduce my intent and post something on my blog before any debilitating writer’s block sets in. In the coming days I will “flesh out” the page for ergonomics and ease of use.  I thank you for your time and reciprocity. -Cheers!  

A face only a mother could love.