PBS released NOVA Elements on April 3, and we were eager to check it out. NOVA Elements is a free app about the periodic table, and it’s voiced by David Pogue, the New York Times technology columnist and host of NOVA’s “Making Stuff” series. The app gets down and dirty in explaining the structure of an atom and the details of each element in the periodic table. It also includes a two-hour video and an interactive game that lets you assemble molecules to build everyday objects.
The Interactive Periodic Table
This interactive table of elements is easy to use. Just tap on an element you want to learn more about, and its basic information pops up along with a picture. This is a great quick reference guide that quickly defines the unique properties of each element. To build the element in the “essential elements” game (more about that below), just tap the green “Build” button in the upper-right-hand corner.
“David Pogue’s Essential Elements”
“David Pogue’s Essential Elements” is a game gives you a number of objects – coffee, bananas, a watch – and asks you to build the molecules that make up each object. You do this by dragging the component atoms into the molecular structure that appears on the screen. First, though, you have to “build” the atoms by adding the right number of protons, neutrons and electrons. This can take a bit of time to grasp, but read the instructions! They tell you how to figure out an atom’s atomic number, the number of protons it should have, and what makes an atom “stable”. The graphics are well-designed and easy to use, and the visualization of what an element’s structure looks like, combined with the physical “building” of an element, mean that the information really sticks.
“Hunting the Elements”
NOVA is a science series on PBS, and it recently broadcast “Hunting the Elements”. In this two-hour program, Pogue explores the building blocks of nature, learning about gold and rare earths, abundant elements and poisonous ones. The video is divided into chapters, so you can skip ahead to the ones that most interest you, although the whole thing is well worth watching. It’s easy to understand and viewers of almost any age should be able to enjoy it and learn something new.
For a free app, NOVA Elements has an awful lot to offer. The interactive elements, especially the molecule building, are really a fantastic way to help explain what is otherwise quite dry material. This app is a great demonstration of how the iPad, when used for good and not for evil, can leave paper textbooks in the dust. When it comes to understanding concepts and quickly accessing information, an app like NOVA Elements is a tremendous supplement to - and possible replacement for – a traditional chemistry class.
|Good Point||More information than you can shake a stick at. And it’s free!|
|Bad Point||Not everyone’s going to love David Pogue’s occasionally over-the-top antics.|
|Comment & Tip||Some aspects of this app are going to be much too difficult for kids, but other aspects, like the video, will be appropriate for almost anyone.|
|App Name||NOVA Elements||Developer||Public Broadcasting Service|
|Price||Free||Latest Update||April 3, 2012|
|User Age||8 and up||Category||Education|
|Size||115MB||OS||iOS 3.2 or later|
All images from NOVA Elements