Friday, June 12, 2009

a new tool for those who love numbers

A new, free resource on the Internet is Wolfram:Alpha, an astounding computational tool. While there will certainly be debate among mathematics instructors at all levels about whether or not students should be allowed to use this tool, there is no question that this is an amazing computational machine.

Not having any particular mathematics problems that needed solving this morning, I tried a few of the suggested demonstrations -- such as inputting my birth date. I learned that I am 21,311 days old, and that as I had long suspected I was born on Chinese lunar day zhenghue 1, 4648 (Chinese New Year). I was also born before sunrise, on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras).

I also input the town where I work: Whitesburg, Kentucky and found that the exact coordinates of the town are 37.12 deg N, 82.82 deg W, and the current temperature is 59 degrees F, 15 degrees C. I was able to see a five week history of hourly temperatures -- including the unusually low temperature for last Friday night/Saturday morning.

You can put in a phrase like: "Poverty rate Kentucky" and get back not only the most recent, available poverty rate (16.3% in 2007), but also the median household income and the percapita income for the state (with years give for each piece of data).

Great stuff!

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