Best Science Apps Recommendations

Oct 16, 2013

Discussion by: RDfan

Hi all,

I've been wondering what kinds of science apps I should get (I hope this topic has not already been dealt with here).

I could easily do a Google search for them, which I will, but I'd also like to get some recommendations from the ever-reliable RDFRS community.

I'm looking for apps from all the sciences: biology, chemistry, physics and related subjects.

Any platform is OK, too: android, i-phone, or whatever.

I'd like both free and pay-to-use app recommendations. If you could also briefly say what the benefits of the app is, that would be great. Thank you. 

12 comments on “Best Science Apps Recommendations

  • 1
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Hi RDfan, here’s a few websites that I have on my Toolbar, if this is what you’re looking for:

    Encyclopedia of Life

    Evolution Resources

    Understanding Evolution

    Questions to Top Thinkers

    List of Free Science Books

    Tree of Life Project

    Free Documentary Films

    The last Link has a good download of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, still about the best video example of the poetry and beauty of natural reality as discovered by science, which I’m now watching again…. 😎 Mac.

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  • Here’s the best apps I’ve got, though not specifically science-related. More just media players and readers. I use Android mostly.

    There are enormous amounts of of effectively free but high quality material around. The main problem being finding time to use it. Mobile devices allow you to use time otherwise not available, say when travelling, waiting etc.

    It’s also sometimes worth separating out the audio track for some video based material. There’re various freeware apps that will do this – mainly for PC. Also apps that will produce a copy of YouTube videos or soundtracks that you can play on your mobile device even when no 4G network access or if you’ve already max’d out your mobile data plan.Can’t think of any at moment, but easy enough to track down. (Possibly you can also download YouTube vids off wifi for playback later, directly with the Google Android Youtube app – but I’ve never investigated that one yet. Possibly telecoms carriers may required that their device manufacturers disable this feature – for obvious reasons.) Often the video component is fairly superficial. Avoids needing to keep the mobile device screen active continually during playback – which drains the battery and also means that the touch screen remains alive (otherwise it’s not so good for dropping in your pocket and listening on bluetooth).

    Another thing, though not an app, is to make sure you have an audio enabled bluetooth. Stereo not required, but it’s incredibly convenient to listen to audiobooks etc. on a single bluetooth ear piece. Can work with hands free without tangling up in the wires. And when driving you can actually go around corners with the steering wheel, but without crashing or angling up and ripping the earbuds out by the roots.

    1. VLC player – freeware that handles virtually any file or encoder format of audio or video. Available for Android. Not sure about capabilities on all platforms but for windows PC it is really useful for rapid playback. For video or audio you can play at very fast rate with pitch correction. Reason is that lots of spoken material can be very slow paced. But your mind can handle audio information very much more rapidly than a human can comfortably articulate words clearly. Speeding up playback can knock 30% off the time taken to watch videos or listen to audiobooks. I actually use this one for guitar practise – to slow down playback with pitch correction. Helps to understand what’s happening in the music. Plus can loop isolated sections of music to help learn licks etc. Apparently all scientists are guitarists too – some of them just haven’t acquired an instrument and started to learn yet. Probably because they didn’t have VLC player.

    2. Astro Player – for Android. Not freeware, but very cheap. I use this for audiobooks. Again has very fast adjustable playback speed with pitch correction. And can easily setup playlists for audiobooks where the track numbering might otherwise confuse regular music player apps.

    3. FBreader – freeware e-book reader for Android. (And probably for others). Handles .mobi format, among all the others. (Not many e-book readers seem to do .mobi. There’s lots of stuff around in this format.

    4. exPDF Reader. Can’t remember if it’s freeware or not (for Android). Probably very cheap if not freeware. Reads pdf docs. Not a major issue as virtually everything reads pdf docs, possibly excepting Adobe Acrobat (freeware) which seems to really struggle to cope with the pdf format. exPDF Reader just seems to be the best one for handling page layouts, maximising screen utilisation, zooming for bad eyesight, document navigation, and most important: always retaining one’s place after the app is closed and reopened later, even when multiple different documents have been used. Enables reading long books in many very tiny doses – without wasting the 15 seconds available for reading 2 or 3 sentences in searching for where you left off last time.

    5. Unit Converter – Android too. Freeware. Probably many more similar apps around. Many scientists are Americans, though this might be changing at the moment with the cessation of American government. But if you are reading any science then at some point you’ll need to try and comprehend what Americans really mean with their bizarre terminology like fahrenheit and miles per gallon etc. Apparently some incredibly expensive scientific experiments have gone astray owing to the lack of apps like Unit Converter.

    6. Google Drive – mainly for Android. Provides somewhere to stash documents, notes, and filing stuff that seems useful one day, but where you can find it and lay your hands on it easily regardless of device or location. Also makes it easy for the CIA and NSA to keep tabs on what you’re up to. In theory this should save the US government lots of money, which they could otherwise spend on science programs.

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  • I like Star Map, a real-time 3D space simulation on my iPhone. I have an older version to the one out now but basically you point it at the sky and it will show you where the sun, moon and planets are as well as various stars and constellations. There’s allot more too, if your interested you do have to pay for it (not too much) just search the App Store ☺


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  • 5
    dandelionfluff says:

    In reply to #4 by Tash:

    I like Star Map, a real-time 3D space simulation on my iPhone. I have an older version to the one out now but basically you point it at the sky and it will show you where the sun, moon and planets are as well as various stars and constellations. There’s allot more too, if your interested you do have…

    Oh, I saw that one some years back, when my nephew’s partner had it on his iPad back when they were brand new. It was amazing – so much easier to find everything by just pointing your device at the sky!

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  • 6
    crookedshoes says:

    My students (Highschool) have all been issued an iPad. I have started to use an app called iCell. It is minimal in it’s informational content — just confined to plant, animal, and prokaryotic cells… But, the feature that sells it for me (no pun intended — it is a free app) is that the kids can, with the press of a button, ask the app to make the definition of the cellular structure more basic in it’s language, or more difficult. We just did a unit on cell physiology, and I’d like to think that this enhanced their experience.

    I also use the K12 periodic table of the elements (free as well).

    For myself, I downloaded the JCB App (Journal of Cell Biology) and I just love the free app called Zite. It allows you to custom make an online magazine for yourself, tailored to your interests. Then, it searches the web for you and compiles articles you might like. If you read one you like, you “thumbs up” it and it will retrieve more articles like that one when it it opened next.

    My absolute favorite app to recommend is TED. Simply indispensable. I have a few that are very specialized to teaching. Thins like skitch and evernote which are helpful in the classroom…..

    I will list more when I get the chance…

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  • Skeptical Science (Getting skeptical about global warming skepticism). Shine Technologies, IOS 5 or later. Free.

    This is a neatly categorized and presented app featuring most of the so-called arguments trotted out in opposition to anthropogenic global warming and how to refute them.


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