Smartphones and tablets make for an ideal educational tool, and app developers are taking advantage of the power of our smartphones and laptops to create interactive showcases, educational ebooks, and even apps for citizen scientists to help in the search for knowledge. Check out 15 of the best science apps for Android and iOS below.
The Elements (iOS) ($13.99)
Based on Theodore Gray's The Elements, the app by the same title is a lavishly illustrated romp through the periodic table of elements. Starting off with an illustrated periodic table, users can tap on each element to see an object composed of it, such as a crystal, toy or sculpture. The app also reveals vital facts about the element, including how humans have used that substance throughout history. Lavish illustrations, fun facts and the latest information from Wolfram Alpha are combined into a richly interactive app that more than justifies its steep asking price.
Ultimate Dinopedia (iOS) ($4.99)
Based on National Geographic's book of the same title, the Ultimate Dinopedia is a lavishly illustrated reference to more than 700 discovered dinosaur species. Each entry features art depicting each dinosaur, as well as a rich collection of stories, facts, size comparisons and other neat information. Other features take a look at the lost world of the dinosaurs, featuring hatchings, migrations and the mystery of their extinction. This is the perfect gift for a budding paleontologist, or any one whose inner child is fascinated with these ancient creatures.
More than just a Google Map clone, Earthviewer allows users to explore the Earth's geological past, present and future. Users can explore interactive maps of the movements of the Earth's continents across millions of years, as well as temperature maps of the past century. Users can locate modern cities and landmarks and trace their positions across aeons of continental drift, or even their expected future positions. In-depth features explain more about major events and eras in our planet's history, with clickable details for more information. Designed for tablets, this app is a great resource for classrooms.
QuakeFeed (iOS) (Free)
If the earth shakes, anywhere around the world, you'll know about it, thanks to Quakefeed. The app taps into public data from the U.S. Geological Survey to display an updated map of earthquakes recorded around the world. Users can view quake information in a list or on a world map, with color coded pins displaying quake strength. Users can drill down for more information on individual earthquakes, such as epicenter map, magnitude, epicenter depth and other details on the USGS website. The app can notify users of earthquakes of magnitude 6-plus, and an in-app purchase allows users to create custom notifications based on location, intensity and more.
DAQRI is an augmented reality pioneer, and one of its most impressive tech showcases is Anatomy 4D, an augmented reality app that gives you a virtual tour of the human body. Print out the image target, lay it out on a flat surface and aim your camera at it. Then the Anatomy 4D will display a 3D computer graphics rendering of the human body and its various organ systems. Users can zoom in and out on the model, change the viewing angle by moving your phone around the target, and selectively view particular systems in the body, such as the skeletal, lymphatic or respiratory system. A newly added feature is support for a human heart target, that displays a 3D model of the human heart.
Another great app for investigating inner space is 3D Brain. The app generates an interactive model of the human brain that you can rotate and explore. The 3D model is color coded and labeled with the major regions of the brain, and users can discover more about each regions functions, as well as how injury and mental illness can affect the biological structures of the brain.
Netter's Anatomy Atlas Free (iOS) (Free)
Netter's Anatomy Atlas Free allows users to explore 14 highly detailed anatomical diagrams of the human body taken from the fifth edition of Elsevier's Atlas of Human Anatomy illustrated by Frank H. Netter, MD. In addition to the highly detailed and labeled plates, users can take labeling quizzes to test their memory, take down notes, search for anatomical features and even create customized labels. Users looking for more can purchase the full Netter's Anatomy Atlas app, though it does come with a hefty price tag of $89.99.
Brian Cox's Wonders of Life (iOS) ($4.99)
Explore the amazing world of our planet's biodiversity with Brian Cox's Wonders of Life. The interactive multimedia app allows users to explore more than 30 different creatures and habitats through a variety of articles, more than a thousand hi-res photographs and more than 2 hours of HD video. It's a wonderful tour of the richness of the Earth's ecosystem.
Take augmented reality to the heavens with Star Walk, an AR app that takes advantage of your device's sensors and location data to present you with an augmented view of the heavens. All you need to do is point your device skyward, and Star Walk will display a matching view of constellations, planets and other celestial bodies that you can view, updated in real time. Users can tap on planets and other notable objects to view more details, or check out the Time Machine feature to view the starscape at a past or future date, and a Night Mode allows you to to stargaze without burning out your night vision. It's a great app to have along on a clear night or when out camping.
Skeptical Science is a quick guide to debunking climate change denial, listing and refuting the most commonly used arguments used to undermine climate change science. The app presents a top 10 list of arguments, searchable categories and a news feed. It's a great and informative resource for taking the fight against climate change to the streets.
Wolfram Alpha is more than just a search engine. The app's computational knowledge is a wizard when it comes to answering questions about a variety of fields of knowledge, from mathematics, statistics, physics and earth sciences. If you're looking for the answer to a question covered under the hard sciences, Wolfram Alpha is a fantastic tool for finding the right answer and learning more about the field.
The motto of the TED conferences is "Ideas worth spreading," and the official TED apps makes it easy to do just that. With this little app, you can download and view more than a thousand TEDTalk videos featuring some of the best and brightest talking about ideas they believe matter. Covering everything from the hard and soft sciences, sociology, art, culture, economics and more, the TED app is a great introduction to big ideas that can shape our world today and tomorrow.
Become part of the science with mPing. This project from the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma aims to help improve weather forecasting. Users chip in and simply report precipitation such as rain, hail or snow when it occurs, when it stops, and other data, with your smartphone's GPS pinpointing your report's location. How does this help? Most radars used in weather forecasting cannot reach down to ground level, so crowd-sourced reports like this can provide meteorologists with valuable data.
In a similar vein to mPing, Noisetube is a project by the University of Brussels and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory that helps citizens record their exposure to noise pollution, as well as help create a Noise Map of your neighborhood or city. Essentially, it makes your phone a part of the study. The app takes advantage of your phone's built in sensors, such as your microphone and location sensors in order to record noise as you move around the city. Users can view the a graph of recorded sounds, tag and categorize them and then send them back to Noisetube's servers.
Following up on the work of Alfred Kinsey, this app makes you a human sexuality researcher who seeks to reveal more about the human condition. As the tongue-in-cheek app name might suggest, the Kinsey Reporter is a crowdsourced platform for reporting and analyzing anonymous data about sexual and intimate behavior worldwide. Users submit reports about any sexual behavior you observe — including your own if you wish — anytime, anywhere. You can then explore visualizations and download open data reported by users worldwide at the KinseyReporter.org website.