Nobody likes to feel like the dumbest person in the room. But when science news breaks, those of us who don’t have a solid background in cutting edge science can feel utterly lost. If you feel out of the loop when it comes to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), or particle science, you should check out the educational app Particle Zoo. It’ll get you up to speed quickly, and let you feel at ease the next time you’re at a party and the subject of particle physics comes up.
What is it and what does it do
While Particle Zoo has cartoony depictions of different sub-atomic particles that make it suitable for younger learners, the material itself is advanced enough to appeal to adults. Based on the line of plush toys with the same name, the Particle Zoo particles are defined, explained, and organized into groups of related particles.
- Includes info about over 40 types of subatomic elementary particles
- Also includes scientific background info on everything from background radiation to the evolution of the universe from the big bang onward
- Links are provided for additional reading on Wikipedia about any subject area covered in the app
- Includes links to buy the plush toy version of each particle
- Despite the statement “All new version with more features coming soon,” in the App Store description, the app hasn’t been updated since Oct 2012
- Some users may still feel a bit lost with the subject matter, particularly with regards to how things like spin, charge, and mass of certain particles are notated
- Lacks background information on CERN. Additionally, the app could go more in-depth in some sections.
If you are a parent who is buying this app as an educational tool for a child or teen student, you might object to the links to buy the plush toy versions of these subatomic particles. In my opinion, I think the app offers a good balance of information and merchandising, and it doesn’t really come off as an overt, commercialized cash grab. The info comes first, and I think that’s key.
Particle Zoo is definitely targeted towards younger users because of the toy tie-ins and the bright color scheme. Despite that, it’s also a good reference for adults who want to quickly learn (or brush up on) the basics of particle physics. If you’ve ever been baffled by a report about “the God particle” from CERN or the Large Hadron Collider, this app also functions as a handy reference tool to look up phrases like “W Boson” or “Tau Neutrino.”
Additionally, if you ever caught yourself wondering what a “tachyon, “photon,” or “graviton” was after watching an episode of “Star Trek,” those terms are defined as well. In other words, this app is helpful for understanding both hard science and pop culture.
Conclusion and download link
CERN isn’t going away any time soon, and it’s almost guaranteed that they will have even more newsworthy physics breakthroughs in the coming years. If you want to educate yourself or your kids about particle physics, Particle Zoo is a helpful, accessible, and interesting app that does a good job of blending plain English and scientific terminology. It’s good for beginner or intermediate students of all ages.
Version reviewed: 2.0
Requires iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, iOS version 6.0 or later
Download size: 3.9 MB