Say Hello to sci-Phone

Reviews / by Greg Boustead /

The top 10 science applications for the iPhone.

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Atom in a Box, Starmap, and MIM: Science for your pocket.

(6) A Brief History of Genetics
By: University of Nottingham
Cost: Free

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND: Um, a brief history of genetics. Simple and clearly organized, this web-based app provides a timeline of major discoveries in the field, from the 1850s to recent breakthroughs. A pull-down menu at the top breaks up the chart by decade, making for easy reference and navigation. Clicking on an item in the timeline pulls up more detailed information about the respective benchmark. A helpful tool for impressing at cocktail parties. Certain cocktail parties anyway.
ADDS WE’D LIKE: A function that allows searches for key terms of both the timeline and description data.

(7) Atom in a Box
By: Dauger Research
Cost: $9.99

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND: Seriously nerd-hot visualization of hydrogenic atomic orbitals. Atom in a Box uses a complex set of equations to display atomic orbitals in real time. Interaction makes use of the iPhone’s multitouch interface and accelerometer. The beautiful and fascinating result shows the orbital as a cloud that, according to the designer, “is determined by the orbital’s probability density for the electron.” Here, the electron is represented mathematically, modeled by something called “eigenstates,” in a behavior that is far stranger than the way the Moon orbits the Earth. Understanding the way orbitals behave in a hydrogen atom is an integral component of quantum mechanics and particle behavior in general.
ADDS WE’D LIKE: The ability to save loops locally to access later or use as screensaver, for instance.

(8) MathU RPN Calculator
By: Creative Creek
Cost: $9.95/year subscription

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND: A classic Reverse Polish Notation calculator with old-school cachet. For IEEE double-precision accuracy, replace the native iPhone calculator with this JavaScript-driven calc application from MathU, which was inspired by midcentury Hewlett-Packard design. Once downloaded, the interface runs free of a data connection. “Supports over 80 functions and has 20 storage registers that are remembered between runs.”
ADDS WE’D LIKE: Better iPhone-friendly native integration would really add up.

(9) WeatherBug
By: AWS Convergence Technologies
Cost: Free

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND: A portable personal weather station for the closet meteorologist. With the ability to pinpoint reference location to very specific places (the school across the street, in our case) for a slew of real-time data (temperature, graphical live wind direction and velocity, rolling high and low temperature benchmarks, heat index, and humidity), as well as area forecasts with slide-outs to more detailed information, WeatherBug is a step above other technical weather services available. Radar imagery incorporates Google Maps, and the local weather cams are a nice bonus. The program’s native integration is smooth and intuitive.
ADDS WE’D LIKE: Barometric pressure and trending from the main screen. Feeds from the National Weather Service’s CWA scientific forecast discussions along with regular batch runs from the major computer models (NAM, GFS, UKMET, etc.) would really raise the bar from a technical perspective. More imagery, such as Hydrometeorological Prediction Center surface-analysis maps, would make for tasty icing.

(10) NASA Image of the Day
By: Toughturtle
Cost: Free

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND: An awe-inspiring snapshot from outer -space, every day. A web app, NASA Image of the Day beams distant pictures to your phone, with links to the administration’s RSS feeds and podcasts. A great way to inspire on-the-go daydreaming of far-off places filled with darkmatter, hidden galaxies, black holes, and dead stars.
ADDS WE’D LIKE: Again, native integration would be a boon here, as would a well-designed gallery of archive images.

Originally published July 16, 2008

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