Wolfram Alpha: Number crunching for people who love cities
It’s likely that you’ve already heard about Wolfram Alpha, a “computational knowledge engine” that computes answers rather than searching for them, like Google or Yahoo. Invented by a physicist and arguably most useful for calculating science or math questions, Wolfram Alpha also works with demographic and geographical statistics, making it really fun to play with!
So you can get an idea of how useful Wolfram Alpha can be, here are some searches I did:
- A simple comparison of Vancouver and Toronto
- Life expectancy worldwide
- A comparison of some US cities
- Comparison of populations in two Arizona counties
- The comparison of unemployment rates in multiple cities
- State level household income
- Comparison of California’s population as a proportion of Canada’s population
Nevertheless, Wolfram Alpha cannot compute some data at the subnational level, or within the US at a level below the State. Luckily, the search engine is still under development. With already a range of 10 billion to 20 billion elements of data included in the search engine, the Wolfram Alpha team is still adding data and equations. Personally, I’d like to see city-level, or sub-city level, demographic and socio-economic data. Also, some economics equations, like location coefficient, could be really handy!
What do you think? Here’s a good place to start with Wolfram Alpha.