When The Elements for iPad by Touch Press came out in 2010, I was absolutely captivated by the clarity, precision and beauty of the graphics and information. It took a potentially boring topic for most of us -- the periodic table -- and brought it to life in a wonderful presentation that is suitable for everyone.
The Elements for Mac is based on the book The Elements, but it is far more than a simple electronic rendering of the book. The engaging text, written by Mathematica co-creator Theodore Gray, covers most of the basics you need to know about each element in a sometimes irreverent style.
The Elements for Mac is not a product limited to current students; it is a wonderful resource that delivers an entertaining evening. I recommend it as a holiday gift for anyone that likes gadgets, photography or has a passing interest in scientific topics.
When the program opens, you can listen to comedian Tom Lehrer sing his 1959 song also called "The Elements." Alas, it is no longer complete because we only had 102 known elements at that time and now there are 118. For fun, I've included a couple of other periodic table songs at the end of this article under Fun Resources.
The Elements for Mac includes impressive photographs by Gray and Nick Mann. Gray's entertaining sense of humor is sprinkled throughout the program, as evidenced in the introduction where he says, "The periodic table is the universal catalog of everything you can drop on your foot."
The Elements for Mac expands on the iOS product by adding more than 25 videos that show chemical reactions of a number of elements and uses new fonts. It includes 3D graphics of each element and associated objects that you can rotate, spin and view at any angle. The Elements for Mac also supports the Retina display on a MacBook Pro. You can resize the windows so that you can read everything easily, and a search bar on the main page lets you quickly find elements by name.
Generally, the descriptions are easy to understand and the photos include the element and examples of things in which the element exists or is used. Most of the elements include a two-page spread -- sometimes three -- and include a link to additional data furnished by the Wolfram Alpha service. The information provided includes atomic radius and weight, melting and boiling points, density, spectral lines, crystal structure and other interesting facts. Each element includes a sound link for pronunciation too. While you may not need that for lead, it came in handy for dysprosium and mendelevium. For those of you that used the Mac back in the day, The Elements navigation may feel a bit like a HyperCard stack.
I tested version 1.01 of The Elements on a MacBook and an iMac, both of which are running OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), but the app should work just fine under OS X 10.7 also. The only problem I encountered was when I changed the screen resolution using the Displays system preference. The Elements stopped responding and required a force quit and relaunch to work again.
The Elements for Mac is available in 18 Languages. This is a bargain-priced program at US$19.99 in the Mac App Store.
I wanted to view all the fun explosions and other videos that are the hallmark of the Mac OS version, but I could not find a complete list inside the program. But, you can watch their minute-plus marketing video below to see a few seconds of each of them. My favorite is the aluminum video. If you want a list of all the elements with videos that I found, leave a comment after the article.
The NEW Periodic Table Song, AsapSCIENCE [via Youtube], 5/13. (This is a lot of fun and covers all the elements!)
Daniel Radcliffe sings The Elements Song, The Graham Norton Show [via YouTube], 12/11/10.
Origin of the Periodic Table, University of Colorado Boulder.
"Meet 115, the Newest Element on the Periodic Table," National Geographic, 8/23/13.
Why is the Periodic Table Important? Ask.com
Related TUAW Stories
Daily iPad App: Nova Elements walks you through the periodic table by Kelly Hodgkins (TUAW, 6/13/13)
The making of The Elements for iPad by Megan Lavey-Heaton (TUAW, 4/6/10)