Wait, you have to show the steps? Use the "Show steps" button.
OK, it may not be much fun, but I think it's safe to say that for most people, it's more fun than doing that integral yourself by hand. Wolfram|Alpha: It's more fun than having your teeth pulled!
But seriously, in case you're a teacher and wondering if this is the apocalypse: well, in some ways yes, but keep in mind that whether you knew it or not, students who have had access to Mathematica have been able to do this kind of stuff for the past twenty years. Progress happens, and Wolfram|Alpha is essentially just leveling the playing field, giving everyone free access to the kind of power that only a few have had before.
Another example: A couple of weeks before the site launched I got an email from another editor at PopSci asking if I could help with a question that had come up during research for a story. The question was, if you used 121 exajoules of energy over the course of a year, how many gigawatts of continuous power would that represent?
Over the last week we've seen the reporting on Wolfram|Alpha deepen and broaden, and I'm very happy to see that, by and large, people get it. They're understanding that this is something completely new, it's not what anyone expected, and although it's rough around the edges and far from complete, it's obviously an interesting project. (Of course, there are always the standard "you're all idiots" comments from the people who have never actually done a complex project themselves, but really, even on some of the nastier sites, I've been surprised at the number of positive comments. It's way above average from what I can tell. Maybe because we do their homework for them.)
And for us this is a marathon, not a sprint. One reason we brought Wolfram|Alpha live at this point is that we thought we'd gone about as far as we could without contact with the public. For example, the degree to which Wolfram|Alpha can understand natural language queries will improve hugely as we start to analyze and pick apart the syntax of the countless millions of real live queries we have gotten from the public just in the last week, paying special attention to the ones that failed. The language parsing will improve, and we will add new data sets to cover areas we are currently missing. (Yes, sports scores are on the list!)
Wolfram|Alpha is here to stay, and it will keep getting better. In the meantime, I should be able to return to do another column next month. I'm thinking about taking an X-ray picture of my hand using a roll of Scotch tape.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.