Add Science and Math Smarts to Your Mobile Device
Smartphones and tablets make for an ideal educational tools, and app makers are taking advantage of the power of those mobile devices to create interactive showcases, educational ebooks and even apps for citizen scientists to help in the search for knowledge. Check out 20 of the best science apps for Android and iOS devices.
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.
WWF Free Rivers (iOS: Free)
WWF Free Rivers is a neat educational tool that shows the powerful impact river systems have on nature and human civilization and how we can damage or preserve these vital natural systems. The app takes advantage of iOS's ARKit technology to render different river systems, such as those in the African savannas, Himalayan mountains or the river deltas of Southeast Asia. Animated, interactive models show how rivers feed and nourish the environment, and how people in turn can affect the river's flow and health. It's an interesting showcase for how AR tech can educate, as well as entertain.
Science Journal (Android, iOS: Free)
Google's Science Journal (Android, iOS) app turns your smartphone into a portable research station, taking advantage of your phone's sensors to record things like sound levels, light levels, and motion. The Science Journal app combines with a series of activities and experiments designed by the Exploratorium that are designed to show kids ages 10+ the basics of the scientific method, as well as basic principles of physics.
Globe Observer (Android, iOS: Free)
NASA’s Globe Observer app (Android, iOS) invites students and citizen scientists to contribute valuable observations to a variety of studies based on a number of data recording modules within the app. Once you’ve created a GLOBE account, you can access modules that allow you to share data on things like cloud cover, tree cover and land cover in your area, and possible mosquito breeding grounds in your vicinity. Each module will explain why the data you’re gathering is valuable, and then guides you step by step through making the observations needed to share to the Globe network. It’s a great way for the curious and budding scientists to participate in crowd-sourced research while also explaining how valuable your contributions can be.
MyShake (Android: Free)
Citizen scientists who don’t mind lending some of their phone’s idle time can use the MyShake app to turn their smartphone into a portable seismograph. An initiative of the UC Berkeley Seismology Laboratory, MyShake uses your phone’s motion sensors when at rest to attempt to record tremors, uploading data to a global network of smartphone sensors. The app can log shaking intensity, and users can report earthquake effects, as well as view reports from other nearby users. MyShake is also working on an experimental warning system that might be able to give a brief early warning of a nearby quake.
eBird (Android, iOS: Free)
eBird (Android, iOS) is a citizen science app that turns your smartphone into a mobile birding logbook, letting you create geotagged logs of bird sightings anywhere in the world that can automatically syns with Cornell University’s eBird database for tracking birds around the world. The app comes with a full global taxonomy based on The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World as well as local checklists based on location and time of year based on eBird data. GPS features help provide accurate location data for sightings, and quick entry tools make it easy to log sightings on the go. You can also view a map of nearby sightings, allowing you to spot birding hotspots with the help of other eBird users.
Dragonbox Algebra 5+ (Android, iOS: $4.99)
Kindergarten may seem like it's way too early to teach math and even basic algebra, but DragonBox Algebra 5+ (Android, iOS) is a genuinely clever educational game that skillfully hides the fact that it's teaching your kids algebra. Targeted at kids ages 5 and up, DragonBox Algebra starts out with simple logic puzzles that have kids matching symbols together in order to clear one side of the screen. Each new puzzle adds new quirks and game rules that cleverly mirror the basic rules of elementary algebra. In no time at all, your kids are unknowingly balancing the sides of an algebraic equation to isolate a treasure box symbol, gradually replaced with 'X'. The game features 10 chapters with 200 puzzles in total, and covers addition, division and multiplication.
Khan Academy (Android, iOS: Free)
Education non-profit Khan Academy has a wealth of educational videos and guides that can helpwith everything from studying for standardized tests or self-study for the curious. Covering a wide range of topics that includes the hard sciences, Khan Academy’s mobile app (Android, iOS) can be a great learning tool to augment your studies or to just help you learn something new when you’ve got the time.
BrainPOP (Android, iOS: Free)
BrainPOP is an educational media stalwart with a wealth of animated videos aimed at K-12 students, and now, BrainPOP's mobile app (Android, iOS) brings these videos right to your kid's smartphone or tablet. The Featured Movie app brings a small library of free videos as well as a daily featured movie and quiz, while subscription options increase the number of videos you can view or unlocks the full BrainPOP mobile library of educational videos and quizzes.
Curiosity (Android, iOS: Free)
Curiosity (Android, iOS) delivers short but info-rich articles, videos and podcasts on a variety of topics from nature to neuroscience, all designed to entertain and enrich your mind. You can check out the daily feed of featured content, as well as dedicated channels that you can subscribe to, with the app learning from your saved articles and subscribed channels to help find content that you'd be interested in. It's a great way to expand your brain in short, 5-minute snippets.
Journeys of Invention (iOS: $9.99)
A collaboration between the Science Museum of London and Touch Press, Journeys of Invention is an educational app designed to showcase the long history of invention by showing kids numerous historical and groundbreaking inventions. Kids cun study, rotate, explore, and even operate numerous historical objects, such as the Apollo 10 Command Module, Robert Hooke's microscope, and the Enigma encoding machine. Guided collections, such as "Horizons", "Atoms and Rays" and "Dangerous" show how these artifacts relate with each other, and how one technological innovation leads to new understandings and new inventions.
Attenborough's Story of Life (Android, iOS: Free)
Attenborough's Story of Life (Android, iOS) celebrates the career of legendary science broadcaster Sir David Attenborough with an enormous collection of film highlights from his more than six decades of work on some of the BBC's most celebrated nature programs such as Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Africa. Users can stream individual clips or curated collections of film clips, create their own custom playlists, which they can then save and share.
WWF Together (Android, iOS: Free)
The World Wildlife Fund has been a long-time stalwart in the wildlife conservation movement, and its WWF Together app (Android, iOS) is a stunning audio-visual presentation on the many species that the WWF is working to protect. Packed with impressive photographs and videos as well as a wide variety of facts and short writeups on many endangered species, WWF Together examines how human activity and climate change are affecting some of the planet's iconic species.
Complete Anatomy (iOS: Free, $4.99 to unlock)
3D4Medical's Complete Anatomy app is a fantastic mobile resource for medical students, teachers, and doctors, delivering impressive 3D renderings of the human body and its various systems, complete with detailed information, exploded views, notes, tools and search functions. A simple gesture control system makes it a snap to navigate the 3D human body, and users can tap on individual body parts for greater information. A layer mode allows you to easily zero in on the systems you want to explore. Cloud-based features allow you to save and share notes and other work. The free demo allows you to explore the skeletal system and connective tissues, while upgrading to the full version for $4.99 unlocks the whole package.
Star Walk (Android: $0.99; iOS: $4.99)
Take augmented reality to the heavens with Star Walk (Android, iOS), 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. A Night Mode allows you to to stargaze without burning out your night vision. Star Walk is a great app to have along on a clear night or when out camping.
Redshift - Astronomy (Android, iOS: $9.99)
For something a bit more high-powered, check out Redshift - Astronomy (Android, iOS) which turns your mobile device into a mobile planetarium. Much like Star Walk, you can use the app as a mobile star map, pointing the app to the sky to illustrate constellations and celestial objects. In addition, Red Shift can take you on a 3D flight around the Solar System, exploring planets and moons, including some of the latest data on Pluto and Charon from the New Horizons mission. In addition, the app contains a rich database of more than 100,000 stars and 70,000 deep sky objects, as well as dwarf planets, comets and asteroids.
NASA (Android, iOS: Free)
The official NASA app (Android, iOS) keeps you up to date on the latest space news, features, and images from America's space exploration agency. Users can read up on the latest NASA missions, watch video on demand mini docus and stream NASA TV, check out a schedule of the latest launches and countdown clocks, and view a variety of fantastic phots such as the Earth As Art collections. Users can save videos and photos into their favorites for later viewing or to their device for use as wallpapers.
Stephen Hawking's Pocket Universe (iOS: $7.99)
A companion to Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking's Pocket Universe explores the famous physicist's contributions to our understanding of the universe. Six lavishly illustrated sections explore topics as diverse as the Big Bang, Black Holes, and the Expanding Universe, explaining key topics in layman's terms with a helpful glossary for more technical concepts. The app also comes with a wealth of historical and anecdotal references by Hawking, as well as updates on major scientific breakthroughs that have occurred since he first wrote the book.
Wolfram Alpha (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Wolfram Alpha (Android, iOS) 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.
Ted (Android, iOS: Free)
TED’s conferences posts talks about “ideas worth spreading”, with speakers talking about technology, culture, the sciences, sociology and more. The TED mobile app (Android, iOS) puts thousands of these TED talks in the palm of your hand, along with TED podcasts, which can be streamed or downloaded to be watched or listened to offline. Creating a TED account lets you sync your viewing history across devices, and you can also have the app create a personalized playlist based on your interests and ideal timeframe.