Wolfram Alpha is Wolfram Research’s so-called “computational knowledge engine” that launched earlier this week. Alpha claims to “have access to a vast repository of information from trusted sources around the world: 10tn pieces of data filtered through 50,000 models and algorithms.”
What does that mean in human terms? It means you can use it to do all kinds of data-driven stuff, like calculate math equations, look up socioeconomic data on countries all over the world, and for us health-obsessed foodies, look up info on just about any food under the sun.
I just had a play with Wolfram Alpha and it’s pretty nifty, at least as far as nutrient data is concerned. I can type “1 slice of tofu” into the search box and it pulls loads of nutrient data for 1 slice (84g) of tofu:
But what’s REALLY nifty is I can also use this to calculate nutrient info for recipes. For example, to find out the calories in a serving of oatmeal served with milk and banana, I type “1/2 cup oats + 1/4 cup 1% milk + 1 banana” and it computes the nutritional information for me:
I like that Alpha lets you search for this stuff in human terms, and returns one result rather than making me pick from a bazillion search results. It’s pretty cool. It does have limitations… for example, I haven’t figured out how to calculate the per-serving information for a recipe that has more than one serving. But overall it’s pretty neat and seems like a good quick reference for food data.