Wolfram Alpha's public launch is due in a couple weeks, but I've been putting a preview version of the Wolfram Research site through its paces. Overall, I see it as a cross between a graphing calculator, a reference library, and a search engine. Even though it's limited in some ways and it can be finicky about formatting queries in the correct syntax, the service is fun to explore. Wolfram has licensed some of the data from private sources, so not all of what it can show and process is the sort of thing you'll find online through your average Google search.

Vanity searches take on a different meaning with Alpha. Instead of finding out how influential you are on the Web, you find out whether your parents were following the herd or bucking the trend when they named you all those years ago. Michelle and Jennifer were popular names in the 1970s. The Emma trend looks to have peaked in 2004, but Sophia is still on the rise.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Red Sox RBI

At first I wondered if Wolfram Alpha had some poorly scrubbed data or the Red Sox had a couple hard years in the last few decades. Then, after finding the New York Mets had the same chart, I figured it was time to consult a human to figure out what happened in 1981 and 1994. The answer: labor strikes. Alpha doesn't have the full array of baseball statistics that obsessive fans crave, but it's got a good start. This chart shows hits, RBIs, strikeouts, and other details. It's hard to dig into the data at this stage, though, for example picking a specific range of years. You can compare multiple teams, but some of the data in the chart falls by the wayside.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Stock Correlation

Wolfram Alpha will show plenty of financial data that's easy to find on sites such as Yahoo Finance, but it goes a few steps beyond, too. For example, it shows how closely the stocks of NetApp and EMC track each other.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Life Expectancy

If you're a 45-year-old male in the United States, there are good odds you'll make it past age 50 but not good odds you'll make it past 100. Alpha can calculate life expectancy statistics for you on the fly.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Weather

Wolfram Alpha will show you lots of data beyond just the regular current temperature and forecasts. Here you can see a chart of the temperature in Tokyo in 2008 along with other details. Unlike ordinary Web sites, it'll also tell you humidity and various other details.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Full Moon

Suppose you want to propose marriage during some romantic evening on your vacation to Buenos Aires. If you pick September 4, you'll get a nice full moon.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Pregnancy Calculator

When is your baby due? Alpha will make its estimate.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Allpha Satellite Orbit

The GeoEye-1 satellite whizzes in low-Earth orbit, but when will it be taking photos over you? Alpha will show you on a map, in this case a 3D view of the globe that shows the satellite above Antarctica. It'll also tell you the satellite's 16,812-mph average velocity, its 428.4-mile altitude, and 98-minute orbital period.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Inflation Calculation

Wonder how much your entry-level pay from your first job would be in today's dollars, once you account for inflation? Wolfram Alpha can tell you.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha SAT Scores

It looks like more boys than girls took the SAT in 2006, but the girls' bell curve was a bit on the brighter side. (The height of the curve shows how many people took the test, but the farther to the right the peak occurs, the higher the group scored collectively.)

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Solar Eclipse

Wolfram Alpha will show you when the next solar eclipse will arrive over San Francisco and when the last one occurred. Even better, it shows the track the moon's shadow makes across the Earth.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Does Calculus

Calculating the integral of secant-cubed x dx was a thorny calculus problem seared into my brain during high school. Wolfram Alpha, unlike me, hasn't forgotten how to perform the calculation.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Molecular View

Eicosapentaenoic acid, aka C20-H30-O2, is described in Wolfram Alpha. Here's an excerpt of what it shows about the molecule, including a 3D model that, alas, you can't rotate. Alpha also shows density, boiling point, vapor pressure, refractive index, Beilstein number, and any number of other details.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha genetic analysis

Searching for the text string "AGAGCTAGCTAGCT" shows the dozens of places that sequence of base pairs shows up in the human genome. You can also check what's nearby on the chromosome by ambling a specific number of base pairs one way or the other along the double helix. I was also curious about the sequence GATTACA, which is of course the name of a movie in which genetic destiny plays a starring role. Unfortunately, the query timed out after about 5 seconds. That limit probably does keep people with seriously strenuous computing chores from hogging Alpha.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Body Mass Index

Are you overweight, as judged by the body mass index? Alpha does this math for you as well--though plenty of other sites on the Internet would, too. But Alpha will also throw in real-world data about the actual height and weight distribution of people in the United States so you can see how you measure up to your peers.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Captcha Tool

If you want to create some obfuscated text to keep the bots from spamming your blog comments, Alpha will generate custom Captcha text.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Aerodynamics

Alpha will calculate particulars of airfoil aerodynamics and lift, show a handy cross-section with the wind flow pattern, and provide other useful engineering data.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Alpha Genealogy

Confused about your extended family? This chart shows how to refer to your uncle's aunt's grandson's nephew, and how many generations back you have to go to find a common ancestor.

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Wolfram Allpha Ohm's Law

How much resistance will there be in that wire to supply your 80-amp, 220-volt outlet? 2.75 ohms. Makes doing your physics homework easier, huh?

Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

CNET ON CARS

Want to see the future of car technology?

Brian Cooley found it for you at CES 2017 in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.