July 29, 2010

Exoplanet Seeker and Wolfram|Alpha

Just a little geekery and heads-up for those who are so inclined. I've just managed to hack up a link to Wolfram|Alpha's data set from my crazy ol' Exoplanet Seeker thingie.

But wait! There’s something else goin' on here: since The Exoplanet Seeker’s auto-suggest feature is powered by Freebase, I’ve actually married Freebase and Wolfram|Alpha together! Although in a primitive way, I’ve proven that it is indeed possible to make them work together. (Hopefully, this gives out a message to both companies about a dream of mine--which is that Freebase and Wolfram|Alpha work together for the good of the interwebs.)

Now enough with the bragging and pipedreams. Let’s get down to business and to the revelation of the secret on how it was all done.

First, let me tell you about Wolfram|Alpha’s cool new feature: W|A Widgets! So I built an exoplanet widget (shown below) using W|A’s widget builder, and piped in the exoplanet name into the URL of the exoplanet info widget. That’s was all there is to it!

But by no means is it perfect. There are lots of data holes. Freebase is not complete with all the exoplanet names, thus it can only suggest what it “knows”. And even if Freebase “knows” an exoplanet name, Wolfram|Alpha often doesn’t know it yet (W|A is slower in terms of updating exoplanet data). And so, selecting the “Wolfram|Alpha” on the dropdown and then clicking “seek” will yield a “not valid input” on the popup window. Of course, all this will improve soon enough. And I appreciate Mr. Wolfram putting up a page specific to Exoplanets.

The field of exoplanet science is progressing so rapidly that there will come a time when a need for exoplanet informatics is needed, if an Open Citizen Science on exoplanet research is ever set up to deal with the data aspect of exoplanets. For now, i hope this serves as a quick reference for exoplanet enthusiasts out there.

By the way, there are cool astronomy widgets in W|A’s gallery. Two of which are shown below. Do check them out! And of course, you must build your own widget!

Astronomy Category in Wolfram|Alpha Widgets Directory
Wolfram|Alpha Exoplanet Page