Tech alert: Wolfram|Alpha

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Think fast: when is Harry Potter‘s birthday? You may know that the wizard first came to our collective consciousness in 1997 (for the books) and in 2001 (for the movies) — but what day was the character actually born?

Enter Wolfram|Alpha.

Here's Wolfram|Alpha with the answer. Harry Potter is 33 years old. Not such a young wizard anymore.

Essentially, Wolfram|Alpha is a vast library of knowledge– from static results (see above) to fully interactive widgets. The best part? These widgets are easily embeddable into ScribbleLive events.

Wolfram|Alpha uses Mathematica to return encyclopedic results on a large number of queries and lists the sources for each query at the bottom of each page. A search for “cats,” for example, has results ranging from a website of cat photos to the International Cat Association.

Check out this liveblog about the dangers of drunk driving. We embedded a Wolfram|Alpha widget at the top where readers can add search terms to find out their own blood alcohol level estimates.

Enticed to do it yourself?

This collection of pre-set widgets is extensive and there are no shortage of choices. Widgets are organized in categories, from Health & Medicine to Engineering. As well, you can search a specific keyword like “full moon” to find a list of related widgets.

Can’t find what you need? There’s also a way to build your own widget in five simple steps.

If you’re interested in other tools, Wolfram|Alpha has a blog and a discussion forum, too. It has a free pro trial account, good for seven days (after which the cost is $4.99 monthly and $2.99 for students.) And there’s also a Wolfram|Alpha mobile app.

If you have any questions about this technology or other Tech Alert tools, feel free to email us.

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