25 September 2010

iPad Apps For Science Lovers and Other Geeks

Posted by Dan Satterfield

A million words have been written about the iPad. I have had one almost since day one and it’s much better than I even expected it to be. Truly, it’s revolutionary. (Full disclosure: A family member works for Apple, but I have long had an irresistible urge to buy anything Steve Jobs makes.)

So what weather and science apps do I have on my iPad?
Here are my faves and most are very inexpensive or free:


Real time radar from the NOAA network of doppler radars nationwide. Radar Scope also lets me see the velocity data and even storm relative velocity. Granted, these extra products are not for the average person but if you want to know more about how bad an approaching storm is, this app is for you.

Star Walk screen. This app is great for iPhone and there is a separate version for iPad that's even better.


Even of you are not that “IN” to the stars, this app comes in handy. It’s a planetarium on your iPad. What’s that bright star next to the full moon? Star Walk will tell you.

You can even set it forward or backward in time. What did the sky look like to the survivors of the Titanic in April 1912? Star Walk will show you. This app is a must! Hands down my favourite app other than the last one I will mention.


So,  you’re at a party and someone starts going into the latest myth about why climate change is not true. You can do two things.

First, you can safely assume that the person has never studied anything about atmospheric physics. Second you can open Skeptical Science and read a summary based on peer reviewed science of whatever myth they happen to be harping on. Don’t do this to change their mind, you won’t. Do it to keep the people around you (who still have critical thinking skills) from believing the politics dressed up as science.

Skeptical Science the app is based on the very popular blog by John Cook. You may see my name on a couple of the myth buster articles. The app is totally free and if you are confused about climate change, this app will be a quick and entertaining education.


A common european joke goes something along the lines of “War is how Americans learn geography”. Unfortunately it’s not far from the truth in my experience. I regularly get emails asking me to put the names of the states on the weather maps I show during the weathercast!

There is nothing fancy about this app from National Geographic. It’s basically just a map of the world on your iPad. I look at it daily to increase my knowledge of world geography.


Weather Underground is one of the best weather sites and they have a fabulous app. The maps are google earth like and you can zoom all the way down to street level in many places around the world. The current radar and satellite is added along with live weather conditions from thousands of backyard and government weather stations. It’s IMHO one of the best free weather apps available.

3d SUN

3d Sun by NASA has some amazing images and movies of the Sun.

NASA has a really neat app that is all about the Sun. Two satellites monitoring the sun send back some incredible images of the sun. One satellite is ahead of the Earth’s orbit and the other is behind the Earth’s orbit. The 3d Sun app alerts you to solar flares and coronal mass ejections. You will see the star that gives our planet life like never before. You will also learn a little solar physics as well!

The most important app for science on the iPad is the winner hands down. Actually it’s the most important app period.

Amazon’s Kindle APP

I still cannot believe that new books are coming out that are not available on kindle. Without doubt the publishing industry is joining newspapers TV and many other industries in being way too slow to adapt to the new world.

Publishing companies and authors listen up! I have passed on MANY books recently because they were not available to read on my iPad. I can carry a dozen books with me wherever I go and open up any of them where I left off in a second. I can buy a new one and it’s on my ipad in a matter of seconds.

I know there are a few readers who are saying, “I just like the feel of a book in my hand”. Get over it. Once you have read two or three books on the iPad, you will not go back. I read the entire Lord of The Rings Trilogy on a Mind Spring in 1999.

Maybe that is what pushed me over the edge. 😉