"Does photosynthesis occur in moonlight?" and "What’s the best way to treat insomnia?" BBC Click Radio presenter Gareth Mitchell answers life's big questions
Android 2.2 or later; Jet Propulsion Laboratory; free
This app is the perfect tool for any wannabe climate scientist, putting up-to-date and recent historical climate data at their fingertips. Information from NASA’s satellites is presented on a 3D globe which you can rotate with your finger and unpinch to zoom in on, and you can choose whether to show colour-coded tiles for air temperature, carbon dioxide and monoxide, ozone and more. The app explains what you’re looking at and you can even animate recent blocks of data.
Android 2.2 or later; free
There are terrific repositories of knowledge in videos all over the internet, but it can be hard to find them. Mobento aims to solve this by bringing together videos from TED, Khan Academy and others, and transcribing them to help you search. You can browse subjects such as climate change, physics and astrobiology, and learn about the water canary that tests for clean water. There’s also cutting-edge neuroscience imaging to explore, as well as introductions to evolution. You can also download videos to watch offline later – on the Tube, for instance.
Android 2.2 or later; RunaR; free
Seeing the International Space Station tearing across the sky is always exciting – the trick is knowing when to look up. This app counts down to the next pass, and you can have it alert you when the ISS is about to rove into view. For £1.50, you can also track other famous objects such as the Hubble Space Telescope. We’d have liked more control over alerts, but you can’t put a price on seeing a space station hurtling overhead – which may be why it’s free!
Android 2.1 or later; WolframAlpha, LLC; £1.86
Android users can now explore one of the world’s most comprehensive sources of information – the Wolfram Alpha knowledge engine. The reasonably-priced app covers a staggering number of topics, from physics and chemistry to geography, music and sport. Just type a question and let the algorithms do the work. Watch out for your battery life though – all that knowledge will wear it out.
Shine Technologies Pty Ltd; free
Ever hear someone claim climate change isn’t real and unsure how to respond? This app lets you browse the most common sceptic arguments – “there is no consensus”, “models are unreliable” and so on – and access peer-reviewed science on each. Once you’ve got to grips with all the information, you’ll be able to challenge any anti-climate change argument with hard facts.
Hemisphere Games; £1.99
You are a galactic mote floating through the cosmos. You must absorb smaller life forms and avoid larger ones to make your way through this relaxing yet strategic puzzler. The game is based on concepts in physics such as time dilation and the conservation of momentum, and the multiplayer mode allows you to battle against a friend’s mote in worlds such as ‘Antimatter’ and ‘Warped Chaos’. It’s certainly something different.
Android 2.1 or later; Ted Conferences; free
Be inspired on the go by this archive of over a thousand TEDTalks, delivered by the world’s most fascinating speakers. Many of the talks focus on science and technology, although topics vary widely from business to music. The app is simple and well-designed, letting the videos speak for themselves, and you can even download your favourite talks to your phone. Fans of the website may be disappointed, however, that you can’t log into your TED account.
Android 2.1 or later; Opotech; £1
This app replaces the wallpaper on your Android phone or tablet with a view of the Earth or another planet… which sounds rather dull, until you learn that it uses your device’s gyroscope to rotate the view live as you turn it. It’s a pleasingly disconcerting effect, as are the meteoroids silently tumbling across your view. It works well, it’s just a shame that the view is fake – it would be brilliant if the Earth had live cloud cover, and the constellations were in the right place.
Android 1.6 or later; Dolan DNA Learning Center; free
Whether you need an accurate reference tool or are simply looking to satisfy your curiosity, this app allows easy exploration of the human brain. While 3D Brain is quite jargon-heavy, information can be opened for each brain region, providing an overview of its function and associated cognitive disorders. The 3D images are easy to manipulate and there is plenty to explore.
Android 1.6 or later, Andrey 'Zed' Zaikin; free
Live out your wildest Dr Frankenstein fantasies with this app, which lets you combine the four classical elements (earth, air, fire and water) to try and find over 300 more-complex compounds. You’ll be able to make everything from steam, alcohol and clay to aircraft, skyscrapers and vampires.
Words: Christopher Phin and Katy Sheen
Subscribe to Focus for your monthly dose of the very best in science and technology journalism. Click here to find out more.