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Computable Knowledge Base and Symbolic Coding Platform Comes to Drexel

May 4, 2016

Drexel now enjoys a site license to the Wolfram Alpha and Mathematica products, thanks to collaboration between Engineering, LeBow, the Math Department in COAS, and Drexel University Online (DUO). Accounts for both products may now be created by current members of the University community using this page on the College of Engineering website.

Readers of this newsletter will recall hearing about these products in the Libraries' review in our January issue of In Circulation. The librarians who explored the Wolfram Alpha database were impressed with the breadth, depth and ease of access of the data it contains. The intuitive computing interface of Mathematica also shows great potential as a data processing, analysis and visualization platform. We encourage you to consider data found on Wolfram Alpha as 'good enough' for proof of concept; however, we also want you to note the publication date and whether more recent data are needed. Data from Wolfram Alpha may not be the most recent that is are available from the sources it cites. The power of the Wolfram Alpha service derives from bringing together thousands of diverse data sets into one place and making them 'computable' via natural language. In this way, it is similar to the personal assistant Siri from Apple, which licenses the same data from Wolfram..

For example, try entering the following question on the free site: What are the 'per capita healthcare costs in the United States compared to the United Kingdom?'

The above line of inquiry results in a table of statistics, a graph of historical costs and multiple other points of related comparison; however, the most recent data included come from 2007. Several librarians have been exploring these tools for some months and would be happy to share what they know of the strengths and limitations in teaching and research contexts. Now that Drexel has a site license, users can load their own data to Wolfram Alpha or directly to Mathematica to produce rich interactive visualizations. See the following page on the Libraries' website for contacts and further information that has been developed in collaboration with the instructional designers of the Drexel University Online (DUO) Learning Technology Group.