Two years ago Wolfram launched Wolfram|Alpha, a search engine (‘computational knowledge engine’) which does more than find objects or link objects in the sense of linked data: An engine computing answers from a huge amount of (partially manually) curated data and milllions of algorithms used in Wolfram’s software Mathematica.

(not the freshest data by the way ;-))

‘Oh, and by the way, these days the majority of queries to Wolfram|Alpha give zero hits in a search engine; they don’t ever appear literally on the web. So the only way to get an answer is to actually compute it.’

So the words of Stephen Wolfram in his keynote speech at Wofram Summit 2010. This speech gives an extensive insight into Wolfram’s philosophy and objectives, fascinating!.

### CDF

And now, some days ago, Wolfram launched a new data format – CDF: Computable Document Format. From the announcement: ‘CDF is a new standard that’s as everyday as a document, but as interactive as an app. It empowers readers to drive content and generate results live for a deeper understanding. And authoring interactivity is easy enough for teachers, journalists, analysts, managers, or researchers to add to reports, presentations, blogs, infographics, articles, and textbooks.’

A viewer (100mb download) is needed to read the CDFs and Mathemathica (Wolfram’s Software) is needed to edit a CDF.

Take this example: Age Distribution in the World as a CDF document. It’s 78kb to download and presents this ternary graph:

This ‘ternary diagram is a graph that shows the proportion of three variables as a position in an equilateral triangle. The three variables have a constant sum (in this case to unity). This particular diagram shows the population proportion of children (0<=age<15), adults (15<=age<65), and elderly (65<=age) for different countries. The proportions have been color-coded to facilitate interpretation. … You can choose a continent or the whole world.’ (manually or with the autorun function).

More examples –> here.

The code underlying this presentation is Mathematica (first lines only):

This code of a CDF is generated by Mathematica:

### CDF and dissemination of official statistics

Till now I haven’t seen a lot of Mathematica usage and visualisations in official statistic’s dissemination. CDF could be an interesting tool for interactive offline publications in this field.

But it’s not an open standard and as an alternative there exists PDF which allows to embed interactive elements (flash, RIA), too (rarely seen).

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