Molecules iPhone app not for science novices

Jun 1, 2011
Education

The ability of apps to function as teaching tools, or at least providers of useful information, feels great at times. Even just putting an encyclopedia in the pocket of every iPhone or iPad Touch owner seems like a great start. But then there are times when an opportunity to educate is missed. The Molecules app […]

The ability of apps to function as teaching tools, or at least providers of useful information, feels great at times. Even just putting an encyclopedia in the pocket of every iPhone or iPad Touch owner seems like a great start. But then there are times when an opportunity to educate is missed.

The Molecules app is a good example. I know the most basic amount about molecular structure that a person who passed some college science courses and watches Breaking Bad might know. That is to say — not a lot. But after playing around with Molecules for a while, I don’t feel any more knowledgeable than I did beforehand, and that bothers me.

It turns out that the Molecules app is basically just 3D models of a handful of molecules, like insulin, caffeine and DNA. The description in the App Store isn’t misleading about the info that you can find in this app, but Molecules still feels like a missed opportunity.

Each object has only the most basic additional information, telling you the number of structures involved in the item you’re looking at as well as the number of atoms it contains. There is no information that might explain the structure or the atoms or anything else that would be remotely helpful to someone who wanted to know more than what the molecular structure of caffeine looks like. Not even links to Wikipedia pages.

You can download even more molecules to the app if you desire, but without more background on the things you’re looking at, this app doesn’t have much for a science novice like myself.

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And I guess that’s fine. If you want to check out the admittedly cool-looking double helix of DNA, this is the app for that. But I can’t help feeling that there was a great potential to educate that Molecules missed.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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