Have you ever struggled trying to figure out your relationship to other family members? If so, you’re just like me and many other people. I still to this day have the hardest time figuring out what the exact “term” is to describe family relationships. I’m always asking someone older in the family such as a grandparent who seems to know every family relationship like the back of their hand. I suppose that’s something I get to look forward to when I grow old… [sarcasm] can’t wait [/sarcasm].
Is that person my first cousin? Second? Third? And what is this whole “once removed” business? Granted I probably have wished a time or two in the past that a cousin could be “removed” from the family, but no such luck. When will I ever understand this relationship conundrum?
Well, fear no more. Enter Wolfram | Alpha – the computational knowledge engine.
I recently stumbled upon this site, and I find it really helpful. Once on the site, you are presented with a text box (seen below) where you can type in what you want the engine to compute. Here is where you can type in whatever family relationship you want to figure out. For example, do you want to know what your grandma’s sister’s son is to you? Easy! Just type in “my grandma’s sister’s son” and hit the “Compute” button (or just hit ‘Enter’). Lo and behold, after you hit compute, your results pop up! And… *drum roll please* … that would be your first cousin once removed! Simple, right? The results are also my favorite part. You are shown a neat little diagram that helps you visualize the family tree leading up to the relationship you typed in. This is way better than just getting a boring line back that just says “first cousin once removed”. Not only do you get to see the visual diagram that they give you, you also figure out how many generations it is to a common ancestor, and it calculates your blood relationship fraction. How cool is that? So, your first cousin once removed has a blood relationship fraction of 3.125%! Or, say you want to use the tool the other way around. Instead of defining “my grandma’s sister’s son”, you can just type “my second cousin” and hit “Compute”. The engine will again show you a diagram to help you visualize it. Your second cousin is the son or daughter of your first cousin once removed. Fancy, huh? Although you may have already known that…
This is just one tiny little sliver of what Wolfram Alpha can compute. There are so many more things this site can do. You should also check out many other examples of different computations the engine can perform.
All in all, I have barely brushed the surface when it comes to using Wolfram Alpha, but I am loving it so far. I plan to write a follow-up blog post showing more in-depth examples that you can use Wolfram Alpha for such as figuring out the nutritional facts for 23 peanut M&M’s (yes, it can do that too!). They even have a mobile app for multiple devices (although there is a small cost).
What are your initial thoughts of the site? Have you used it before? Feel free to leave feedback in the comments!