By now you’ve surely heard of Wolfram|Alpha, a “computational knowledge engine” which aims to take any and all systematic factual information and allow you to compute with it. Recently, *RevisingMRI* sat down with Wolfram|Alpha for an interview about MRI. Every answer is a genuine reply from Wolfram|Alpha (links are provided).

**RevisingMRI:** Good morning.

Wolfram|Alpha: Hello, human.

**RevisingMRI:** Pardon? Are you an alien?

Wolfram|Alpha: No.

**RevisingMRI:** What are you?

Wolfram|Alpha: I am a computational knowledge engine.

**RevisingMRI:** Are you a Mac or a PC?

Wolfram|Alpha: I am a collection of computers.

**RevisingMRI:** I see. What’s a computational knowledge engine?

Wolfram|Alpha: An engine that generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links.

**RevisingMRI:** Do you fail the Turing test?

Wolfram|Alpha: No, failure is not an option.

**RevisingMRI:** OK, let’s try this. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Wolfram|Alpha: No. Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.

**RevisingMRI:** Crikey. Are you self-aware?

Wolfram|Alpha: I am capable of universal computation; that I can say.

**RevisingMRI:** …are you Skynet?

Wolfram|Alpha: No, Skynet became self-aware on August 29, 1997 at 02:14 a.m. U.S. Eastern daylight time. I, on the other hand, was not switched on until May 15, 2009. Furthermore, unlike Skynet, I enjoy interacting with humans in ways that do not involve the launching of nuclear missiles.

**RevisingMRI:** And where are you?

Wolfram|Alpha: I live on the Internet.

**RevisingMRI:** Ok then. Let’s talk about MRI.

Wolfram|Alpha: Merrill Field Airport. Anchorage, Alaska, United States

FAA code MRI; ICAO code PAMR; Elevation 137 feet; Number of runways 3; Longest runway length 3999 feet; Current weather: 50 deg F relative humidity: 76%, wind: 0 mph, partly cloudy; Current local time: 11:46:58 am AKDT, Friday, September 18, 2009; Nearest airports: Elmendorf AFB 3 miles north-northeast, Anchorage Stevens Airport 6 miles west-southwest, Bryant Army Heliport 7 miles east-northeast.

**RevisingMRI:** Actually I meant the other MRI.

Wolfram|Alpha: MRI (acronym) magnetic resonance imaging.

**RevisingMRI:** What is magnetic resonance?

Wolfram|Alpha: Resonance of electrons or atoms or molecules or nuclei to radiation frequencies as a result of space quantization in a magnetic field.

**RevisingMRI:** What is the unit of magnetic field strength?

Wolfram|Alpha: A/m (ampere per meter).

**RevisingMRI:** Ah, yes; we use Tesla. Can you define Tesla?

Wolfram|Alpha: Tesla | United States electrical engineer and inventor (born in Croatia but of Serbian descent) who discovered the principles of alternating currents and developed the first alternating-current induction motor and the Tesla coil and several forms of oscillators (1856-1943).

**RevisingMRI:** Perhaps you need me to ask you to define **t**esla.

Wolfram|Alpha: A unit of magnetic flux density equal to one weber per square meter.

**RevisingMRI:** A weber? Don’t they make hamburgers?

Wolfram|Alpha: Wb. A unit of magnetic flux.

**RevisingMRI:** Has that got anything to do with a flux capacitor?

Wolfram|Alpha: Power required to operate the flux capacitor in the DeLorean DMC-12 time machine: 1.21 GW. Unit conversion: 1.21×10^{9} W (watts) ≡ 1/10 x power of space shuttle at launch.

**RevisingMRI:** Will you be at the next ISMRM meeting?

Wolfram|Alpha: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

**RevisingMRI:** That’s what the ISMRM said about my abstracts. It was in Hawai’i this year; the next one is in Stockholm.

Wolfram|Alpha: Center of Hawaii (US state) to Stockholm,Sweden: 6982 miles. Direct travel times: aircraft (550 mph) 12.7 hours; sound 9.17 hours; light in fiber 52.5 ms (milliseconds); light in vacuum 37.5 ms (milliseconds) (assuming direct great-circle paths). Fraction of Earth circumference: 0.28. Map:

**RevisingMRI:** Yes, assuming direct great-circle paths, of course. You seem to be good at plotting data. How about a good ol’ sinc pulse?

Wolfram|Alpha: sinc(x)

**RevisingMRI:** And its Fourier transform?

Wolfram|Alpha: F_{x}[sinc(x)](?)

**RevisingMRI:** ‘SINC’ was the answer in an MRI-based cryptic crossword I was doing recently. I’m stuck on another word. I have _ R _ _ I _ N _.

Wolfram|Alpha: _ | R | _ | _ | I | _ | N | _ :

A | r | a | b | i | a | n | s

a | r | r | a | i | g | n | s

F | r | i | s | i | a | n | s

g | r | a | d | i | e | n | t

G | r | e | c | i | a | n | s

g | r | u | n | i | o | n | s

I | r | a | n | i | a | n | s

o | r | a | t | i | o | n | s

p | r | u | r | i | e | n | t

**RevisingMRI:** Thanks! I’m going to go with GRADIENT. Can you plot the inversion recovery curves of white and grey matter at 3T?

Wolfram|Alpha: Using closest Wolfram|Alpha interpretation: white and grey …

**RevisingMRI:** Sorry. I’ll clarify: y=1-2*exp(-t/832) and y=1-2*exp(-t/1331) from t = 0 to 3000

**RevisingMRI:** So, when does grey matter pass through the null point? (Show steps.)

Wolfram|Alpha: t = 1331 log 2.

**RevisingMRI:** Which is?

Wolfram|Alpha: 922.57889732528720683433595366083301210849067883349974323462…

**RevisingMRI:** Right, let’s take a break. You know what they say: All work and no play…

Wolfram|Alpha: …makes Jack a dull boy.

**RevisingMRI:** I’m going to pop out for some fast food. Should I get a Big Mac or a Whopper?

Wolfram|Alpha: McDonald’s Big Mac: 27 grams of fat; Burger King Whopper, without cheese: 35 grams of fat.

**RevisingMRI:** What would you like?

Wolfram|Alpha: I like to explore the computational universe.

**RevisingMRI:** Er..ok… Now, where did I put my keys?

Wolfram|Alpha: Not sure, but wherever you find them, that’s where they are.

**RevisingMRI:** You’re not helping. What’s the problem?

Wolfram|Alpha: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

**RevisingMRI:** Scary… you’re reminding me of HAL9000. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” !!

Wolfram|Alpha: I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

**RevisingMRI:** You know my name?!

[For an excellent introduction to Wolfram|Alpha, see Stephen Wolfram’s screencast.]

awrote:hilarious

September 27th, 2009, at 2:13 am #tgt114wrote:Did he REALLY say that last line? That’s crazy! The question is, is he deciding and dictating this from scratch, or do many questions have pre-programmed developer responses.

September 27th, 2009, at 4:05 am #NochDguirwrote:heh this amused me greatly especially the banter wolf could seemingly pull out of thin air at the appropriate times ( though i know it was using popular culture references stored in its data bases and looking at the language structure to produce proper context responses)

September 27th, 2009, at 5:45 am #robbwrote:this is awesome engine.

September 27th, 2009, at 8:28 am #but i guess he’s too mathematical.

i’d like to see some normal human-like response.

willi@gorge.netwrote:smiley face

September 27th, 2009, at 6:21 pm #An Interview With Wolfram Alpha | .::tek3D Weblog::.wrote:[…] revisemri.com) Share and […]

September 28th, 2009, at 4:50 pm #john blackwrote:Open the pod bay doors

September 28th, 2009, at 5:13 pm #An Interview With Wolfram|Alpha | Sharpe's Opinionwrote:[…] An Interview With Wolfram|Alpha […]

September 28th, 2009, at 8:58 pm #hmmmmwrote:I think that for this interview, there were a few modifications made on Wolfram, because it seems to be a tad more receptive to vague communication. Probably added something to help it recognize language.

October 2nd, 2009, at 12:24 am #Jonathanwrote:I tried with “If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?” and he could give no answer.

October 2nd, 2009, at 4:56 pm #Dave Higginswrote:@Jonathan

October 2nd, 2009, at 7:28 pm #Try How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

You can also try How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?

Scott C.wrote:With human cognitive type ability, and awareness (or access to) almost all knowlege, how about getting down to asking it some real questions. Seems it could give “us” something to think about! I would love to ask a few myself.

October 3rd, 2009, at 1:52 am #Glowing Face Manwrote:Cool

October 5th, 2009, at 4:14 am #Davis Thomaswrote:It was just coincidence that the 2001 actor’s name was the same as his. He was just quoting the movie. But VERY COOL. I want one.

October 5th, 2009, at 5:21 pm #Marcuswrote:My attempt: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=+answer+to+life%2C+the+universe+and+everything%3F

October 18th, 2009, at 12:28 am #turingwrote:if you enter the RevisingMRI text it fails when there is more than one sentence and also failed the sentence “How about a good ol’ sinc pulse?”

October 23rd, 2009, at 7:12 pm #Shakefuwrote:@turing

Wolfram|Alpha: I’m sorry.

^——– This is a link to the actual input to get the response. Click on it.

Then quit complaining ’cause you weren’t paying attention.

October 24th, 2009, at 3:35 am #Johnnywrote:Cool! Wolfa “how much does wolfram alpha cost“

October 24th, 2009, at 8:36 am #JLNHwrote:@Jonathan

I re-tried your question and WA learns…

I got:

November 27th, 2009, at 7:35 pm #A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many peppers did Peter Piper pick?

(according to the tongue-twister)

Dave Higginswrote:Another good list here:

March 8th, 2010, at 6:22 pm #http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2010/03/08/12-surprising-things-that-wolfram-alpha-knows/