Electronics takes a lot of math. Once you’ve mastered all the algebra and calculus, though, it is sometimes a drag to go through the motions. It also can be error-prone. But these days, you have Wolfram Alpha which will do all the work for you and very easily. I use it all the time when I’m too lazy to solve an equation or do an integral by hand. But did you know it actually has some features specifically for electronics?
If you want to do a lot with electronics — or nearly any technical field — you are going to have to learn some math and you shouldn’t just rely on tools like Wolfram to skirt understanding the math. Unfortunately, schools often teach us that the point to math is to get a correct answer. For bookkeepers and at the very final stage of engineering, that may be true. But the real value to math for engineers and scientists is to develop intuition about things. If you increase a capacitor’s value does that make its reactance go up or down? Does a little change in load resistance make a corresponding small change in power consumption or is it a lot more? So you should understand why math works. But once you do, using a tool like Wolfram can free you to focus on the abstract questions instead of the detailed “grunt work.”
Tip #1: Split Personality
Wolfram can’t seem to decide if it is a symbolic math program or a search engine. Sometimes just putting a topic name in can lead to some interesting calculations. For example, look what happens when you enter the word opamp: Continue reading “Wolfram Alpha Electronic Tips”
The bane of math students everywhere is the teacher asking for you to show your work. If you’ve grown up where a computer is a normal part of school work, that might annoy you since a lot of tools just give you an answer. We aren’t suggesting you cheat at homework, but we did notice that Wolfram Alpha now shows more of its work when it solves many common math problems.
Granted, the site has always shown work on some problems. However, a recent update shows more intermediate steps and also covers more kinds of problems in a step-by-step format. There are examples, but be aware that for general use, you do need to upgrade to pro (about $6 a month or less if you are student or teacher).
Continue reading “Wolfram Alpha Shows Its Work”
So you can spend a bundle on a new phone and it comes with a voice-activated digital assistant. But let’s be honest, it’s much more satisfying if you coded up this feature yourself. Here’s a guide on doing just that by combining an Asterisk server with the Wolfram Alpha API.
Asterisk is a package we are already familiar with. It’s an open source Private Branch Exchange suite that lets you build your own telephone network. Chances are, you’re not going to build one just for this project, but if you do make sure to document the process and let us know about it. With the Asterisk server in place you just need to give the assistant script an extension (in this case it’s 4747).
But then there’s the problem of translating your speech into text which can be submitted as a Wolfram query. There’s an API for that too which uses Google to do that translation. From there you can tweak abbreviations and other parameters, but all-in-all your new assistant is ready to go. Call it up and ask what to do when you have a flat tire (yeah, that commercial drives us crazy too).