Review : The Elements-A Visual Exploration

Stunning 3D graphics and in depth info on the periodic table elements.

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Product Manufacturer: Touch Press

Price: $13.99

The Good

  • Visually stunning.
    Rich content.
    Reasonable price for the content.
    Stereo 3D graphics.

The Bad

  • Crashed twice.
    Very large application.
    Landscape mode only.
    Doesn't use iPad gestures for navigation or zooming, i.e. no pinch or flick.
The Elements: A Visual Exploration by Theodore Gray, which is an iPad version of the book by the same name (ISBN #9781579128142), is far more than just an electronic rendering of the book. This is made abundantly clear the first time you launch the app, because you hear the inimitable Tom Lehrer singing his famous 1959 song, also called "The Elements." While Dr. Lehrer names the 102 known elements at that time, the program shows you samples of each element, gradually filling in a periodic table that includes the current 118 known elements. You can use this application in a classroom setting as a reference or a way to introduce students to the periodic elements. It should satisfy the periodic curiousity of every science geek too.

Main Screen

Main Screen


Cerium Moving Into Place in The Table

Two pages cover each element; the first page shows a rotating picture of the element. The page also covers each element's characteristics in depth, including the atomic weight, melting and boiling points, density, spectral lines, crystal structure, as well as many other physical characteristics. When you tap on any of the data displayed, it brings up a window full of additional information furnished by the Wolfram Alpha service, with links to additional sources of data as well, assuming you have a network connection.


First Page for Element 79 - Gold

The second page for each element has several more pictures that you can manipulate, as well as a few paragraphs about the element. The light-hearted text is easy to read, and makes the book enjoyable, rather than a walk through a dry and boring reference book. You can rotate each of the images on these pages with a touch, so that you can see the samples from any side that you wish. Some elements include relevant video too.


Second Page for Element 79 - Gold

When you double-tap on any of the images, they zoom to fill the entire screen. You can then use your finger to rotate and view these images from any side. It would be even cooler if you could tilt and pan these images, but my guess is that the author decided the application was large enough already.


Full Screen for Element 79 - Gold

The larger images also have a stereo 3D mode, where the iPad shows two slightly different images of the same object. If you use the 3D glasses that are available from the publisher, you can see the samples in 3D. I don't have a set of 3D glasses, so I was not able to test this feature.

Gold 3D

3D Mode for Element 79 - Gold

This program's interactivity comes with a cost; the download from the iTunes store is very large. It took me about four hours to download the 1.75GB application on my slow DSL line. However, this means that all of the content that you need to use The Elements lives on your iPad; you do not need a network connection to use it.


First Page for Element 54 - Xenon Gas

Minor Issues

The Elements has a few problems, though. It only supports the wide landscape mode; if you rotate your iPad, the content does not rotate. How quickly we are spoiled! In addition, the standard iPad gestures to change pages and zoom do not work. Your navigation controls are limited to a set of small buttons in the lower right corner.

It unexpectedly quit once or twice while I was using the application too. When I relaunched Elements, it put me right back in the same place, so this was not a major hardship.


While we might otherwise remove a star or two rating for an unstable program that doesn't take full advantage of the interface elements, this program includes such amazing visuals, we elected to give it 4 stars based on content. You can purchase The Elements: A Visual Exploration for $13.99 from the iTunes store and purchase an autographed dead-tree book version for $29.99 on the site. You can also buy a beautiful wall poster in two sizes and a variety of classroom aids, along with a pair of $4.99 prism-type 3D glasses for viewing the images in the iPad version.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor