Elements: Currently the Best Geeky App for iPad

While it's easy to doubt the legitimacy of print media commentary on the iPad (it’s touted as the savior of print, so naturally praises abound from magazines and newspapers), there's no uncertainty about the quality of The Elements app.

Popular Science author Theodore Gray, after first seeing Steve Jobs present the tablet to the world, decided to make an interactive version of his book, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. He planned to maximize the benefits of a dynamic interface, coming with not a merely digitized copy of his deadwood treatise, but an app with over a gigabyte of data.

The Elements is complete with animations, 3D rotations, high-quality photography, and geeky-friendly data representing the periodic table's 118 members. It also features quick links to relevant search results on Wolfram|Alpha, that geekiest of search engines.

The entire process is detailed on the PopSci blog, with a 10-minute video summary (link at the end of article). The key challenges facing Gray and his team included scaling down a terabyte of info into a more mobile-friendly format, finding a way to process the data in time for the iPad's launch, and coding an app that would be able to handle everything properly. The end result is available of course, from the iTunes store.

As a one-dimensional app that's limited to science and geekery, does The Elements work though? As an educational tool it works very well, but it's definitely no killer-app. But the hype enjoyed by the iPad, which makes the gadget more notable than abler devices, feeds on itself, and The Elements is just another source of food. In any case, sensible heads suggest that you pass on the early adopter buildup anyway.

Exclusive: The Making of The Elements, One of the iPad's Most Magical Apps

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  • Trueno07
    I have his book about the elements, it's quite good.
  • bob_white
    I dont about you but it looks better than studying from a text book
  • LePhuronn
    How can something designed specifically as a book be even be considered a "killer app"?

    It is however a shining example of what can be done with the tablet form factor.