New app makes the periodic table explode into life

If school chemistry lessons didn't feature enough explosions for you, here's a much more exciting way to discover the elements.

It's taken Breaking Bad to make us suspect that maybe chemistry is more interesting than we found it at school, and now here's an app to back up that creeping suspicion. The problem back then, we think, is that it was all about the painstaking documentation of quite dull chemical reactions, and not enough explosions, and The Elements in Action – from Touch Press, the people behind The Elements: A Visual Exploration – features a lot of explosions.

The app takes the form of an animated periodic table; tapping on an element brings up a video of it in action. And so you get to see the likes of sodium and rubidium being dumped into a bucket of water (they explode), and a cannonball getting dropped into a pool of mercury (it floats). If an element can be made to do something exciting, or at least interesting, you get to see it do so in this app.

It's not especially in-depth; it's meant as a companion piece to The Elements: A Visual Exploration, and the two apps will link together if they're both installed, giving the more scholarly app a little more punch.

There are 79 short videos included – plus brief descriptions for each featured element - filmed by BAFTA award winner Max Whitby in partnership with Theodore Gray, author of the original book and app. It's a little fiddly to use on the iPhone – it squeezes the entire periodic table onto the screen with the end result that each individual element is utterly tiny – but we reckon the iPhone's a little more forgiving on the video side. It's a lot of fun to see things go boom and sparks fly and all of that, but the video looks a little home-made and washed-out. That criticism aside, though, this is a great app for bringing the elements to life and well worth combining with its acclaimed sister app.

Key info

  • Works with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
  • Price: $3.99 / £2.49
  • Developer: Touch Press
  • Version: 1.0.1
  • App size: 524 MB
  • Age rating: 4+

Words: Jim McCauley

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