Use Wolfram Alpha to lose weight.

May 18th, 2009 | Categories: Wolfram Alpha | Tags:

I apologise to any of my regular readers who may be tired of all of the Wolfram Alpha updates but I am pulling an all-nighter at the office and whenever I find myself waiting for my main computer to finish what it is doing, I end up feeding queries to Wolfram Alpha.

From the beginning, I knew that Wolfram Alpha knows about the calorie content of a lot of foods.  If you walpha snickers bar for example you get quite a lot of information including the following.

Calories in a snickers bar

OK, so you are on a diet and you’ve just given in and eaten a snickers bar. Now you have calorie guilt and you want to know how much you have to run to burn it all off and break even. Walpha the term exercise calories burned and you’ll get quite a large set of results including a set of editable input boxes similar to the screenshot below.

Calories burned for a 5km run

The input parameters refer to my run on the treadmill yesterday and I see that I burned 408 Calories according to Wolfram Alpha. Actually this is in complete agreement with the readout on the treadmill so whatever model they are using – they agree with each other.  Put another way, my 5km run is worth almost one and a half snickers bars.  On reflection, however, maybe I need to lay off the snickers bars because Wolfram alpha also tells me that my body mass index is a little on the high side. Ho hum….

What I find cool about these input boxes is that you can use any units you like.  I used kilometers per hour but could have chosen miles per hour or a pace of 8 minutes per mile.  Heck, I even put my height in parsecs and it just got on with the calculation. Wolfram Alpha also has a guess at how quickly I might run a marathon based on my current fitness using the Riegel and Cameron models.  I’ve never run a marathon so couldn’t possibly comment on its accuracy.

Calories burned for a 5km run

  1. HS
    May 19th, 2009 at 07:08
    Reply | Quote | #1

    yeah, but what about male/female differences in the calculations, or going further effect of age? i couldn’t get WA to spit out the necessary stats, and I think without even this basic finetuning, BMI distribution doesn’t say that much. What would be even more fun would be comparisons across countries or regions. The reference population was US, I gather, and we all know that will skew some numbers upwards, ahem…

    PS: “walpha” sounds awful, i hope it does not become the verbal equivalent of google for statistics…

  2. Mike Croucher
    May 19th, 2009 at 14:36
    Reply | Quote | #2

    Yep – there are lots of things missing in it but I think it’s a great start. If you find something missing that you want including then shout it from the rooftops, contact Wolfram, put a post on their community section, write a blog post etc. I am sure they want to improve it and are listening to what we are saying.

    Don’t worry about ‘to walpha’ – I don’t think too many people are going for it. A lot of people prefer ‘to Wolf’

    Now excuse me while I Wolf that snickers bar :)

  3. Paul
    May 19th, 2009 at 22:27
    Reply | Quote | #3

    Tired of all of the Wolfram Alpha updates? Are you kidding :) The best toy in the known universe since last weekend.. I can’t resist to play with it either

  4. June 25th, 2009 at 03:02
    Reply | Quote | #4

    Hmmmm…never heard of Wolfram Alpha, but it looks interesting! Will have to check it out. Me, I prefer peanut M&Ms….yummmm! :-)

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