Science: There's an app for that… (part 1)

by endlesspsych

By Keir Liddle

I admit it! I confess! I have been, for some time now, a slave to aspirational gadgetry, and feel that it is only fair that I come out to you, kind readers, as the owner of an apple iPhone. Although I am but a moderate apple-phile and immune to some Apple products (as my blog on the iPad would indicate), I am still nevertheless a confirmed iPhone addict – in no small part due to the device allowing me to play with all sorts of science based apps on the go, to impress (or attempt to impress) my friends with the ‘sciencey’ goodness therein.

So I thought I would present you, gentle readers, with what I reckon are six of the best science based ‘apps’ for the iPhone. This list is by no means based on an exhaustive search, or on stringent objective criteria to assess quality. Rather, it is simply a list of science apps which I think are cool. Below, you will find the first three, and I will follow with another three in ‘part two’ later in the week.

You may have found some better ones yourselves: if you have, do leave your suggestions in the comments!
My favourite science applications (as available on the iTunes store) in no particular order,  are…

1. Starwalk

Starwalk is an ‘app’ that I suppose might fall under the category of “augmented reality” (depending on how fast and loose you are using the term – I suspect that I am being very fast and loose with it!). It allows you to point your iPhone at the sky to see what stars shine above you – whether it’s the middle of the day, or ( as is fairly typical of this time of year in Scotland) an overcast night. You can zoom into planets, stars and other celestial objects until you overdose on astronomical facts, or you can just login daily to check newly updated astronomy related pictures. It might not be the best “planetarium app” available in terms of features, but it is currently my favourite.


2. 3D Brain

I love this simple wee app. It’s exactly what it says it is: a 3D brain which you can rotate, allowingyou to ‘cut away’ layers of tissue to view various brain structures. You can search by structure, and when focusing on a particular section, are given an overview of it: its associated functions and disorders, what happens when it gets damaged, as well as links to pubmed research articles dealing with the structure. Which brings me neatly to my next favourite app…

3. Pubmed on tap

Pubmed on tap is the National Library of Medicine’s medline and pre-medline database as available on the iPhone. I do a lot of blogging on the go, and find it useful to be able to check the literature while I am away from my laptop. I have also recently found pubmed on tap to be a useful way of finding papers for work on the long commute, whether giving them a quick once over, or emailing study links to myself for further perusal. I haven’t yet braved the advanced search feature, but do find it a useful app.

That ends part one. In part two, expect some maths trickery, chemistry, and possibly more space and computational search engines…