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Monday, September 30, 2013

Quickly Compare Two or More Things in Wolfram Alpha

In their 15th anniversary blog post last week, Google mentioned that you can now compare things by simply typing "compare" between the things that you want to compare. Google used the example of comparing butter with olive oil. I tried the new function and it wasn't terribly effective beyond the basic examples that Google provided.

Wolfram Alpha has had a comparison function for years and it works very well. To compare biographical information about two or more people, just type their names into the Wolfram Alpha search field (use commas between names). To compare other things just type them into the search field (again, use commas to separate them) and Wolfram Alpha will provide data for comparison. You can even compare apples, oranges, and bananas (Wolfram Alpha will provide nutritional information for the fruits).

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of Wolfram Alpha's comparison function that can be of use to students researching the lives of famous people is the timeline comparison. The timeline will show students where the lives of two or more people overlap. In social studies classes the comparison function is useful for creating a quick guide to the party affiliations of a set of politicians. In a health class the comparison function is great for helping students quickly see the differences in the nutritional qualities of various foods.

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