Compatibility: Apple iOS and OS X, Google Android, Microsoft Windows
Cost: $6

Scientific American says: “A game that teaches the concepts behind algebra without being intimidating or ‘mathy.’”

Description: Developed by WeWantToKnow, the goal of DragonBox is to create an app that’s fun and at the same time teaches players to solve difficult mathematical equations.

Image courtesy of F-Sim

F-Sim Space Shuttle

Compatibility: Apple iOS, Google Android
Cost: $3.99

Scientific American says: “Challenging game with amazing graphics.”

Description: With NASA’s shuttle fleet now grounded for good, F-Sim may be as close as you’ll ever come to flying a shuttle. This simulator puts you in the cockpit as the shuttle glides home for a landing at Kennedy Space Center or Edwards Air Force Base. Once you master the touchdown without blowing a tire, up the degree of difficulty by landing at night or increasing the wind speed


Compatibility: Apple iOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows
Cost: versions range from free to $15

Scientific American says: “iBird is fantastic for birders, with a detailed database on each species. Spring for one of the more expensive versions.”

Description: iBird, developed by the Mitch Waite Group, comes in a variety of versions on a number of different mobile platforms—all provide an interactive guide to bird species. The number of species available and the territory depend on whether you invest in the Lite or Pro versions.


Compatibility: Apple iOS, Google Android
Cost: Free

Scientific American says: "Find nearby locations to dispose of CFLs, rechargeable batteries and so on. Very simple and easy to use."

Description: This Earth911 app tells you how, where and when to recycle just about anything. Using your current location, ZIP code, address or city, get access to vital details for collection points, such as Web site, phone number, directions, hours of operation and other materials collected.

ISS Detector

Compatibility: Google Android
Cost: Free

Scientific American says: “It’s great to be camping or at some outdoor event and to suddenly say, ‘Hey, look! See that moving “star”? It's the space station.’ Even better—and a little eerie—is to predict an Iridium flare about 45 seconds in advance.”

Description: ISS Detector alerts you when the International Space Station will be visible in your skies, as sunlight is reflected off the station’s expansive solar arrays. (A similar app called ISS Spotter is available for Apple iOS.) ISS Detector also predicts so-called Iridium flares, when Iridium communications satellites passing overhead glint in reflected sunlight for a few seconds, creating a bright flash that may even be visible during the day.


Compatibility: Apple iOS, with a Google Android version under development
Cost: Free

Scientific American says: “Great for people like me who love nature but feel bad because they don’t know anything about it.”

Description: Leafsnap is a free electronic field guide developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Marylandand the Smithsonian Institution. This mobile app uses visual-recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. Simply place a single leaf on a fully white background and press “Snap It!”.

Image courtesy iCandi

The Night Sky

Compatibility: Apple iOS, Google Android, Windows 8
Cost: $0.99

Scientific American says: “There are lots of sky apps but this one is by far the best.”

Description: What’s that star? Or is it a planet? Point your smart phone or tablet at the sky to find out with the Night Sky app. An optional information pack add-on provides more details on visible celestial objects and artificial satellites. Also available in a free “lite” version for Android.

Image courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

Seafood Watch

Compatibility: Apple iOS, Google Android
Cost: Free

Scientific American says: “Great for looking up if [a menu item] is a sustainable fish.”

Description: This handy guide from California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium tells you which seafood items are sustainably harvested, and which are best avoided, along with scientific rationales for each recommendation. Seafood Watch also includes a sushi guide with Japanese species names, so you can find more sustainable alternatives to satisfy your hamachi craving.

Shark Net

Compatibility: Apple iOS
Cost: Free

Scientific American says: “It’s like Shark Week every week.”

Description: EarthNC’s Shark Net app lets you follow the movements of more than a dozen sharks being tracked by Stanford University and the Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators (GTOPP) project. In addition to providing a bio of each shark being tracked, the researchers have posted images and video of them in action.

Image courtesy of WolframAlpha


Compatibility: Apple iOS, Google Android
Cost: $3.99

Scientific American says: “A rich, searchable reference library that doubles as a scientific calculator.”

Description: If you’ve ever wanted to know how much Jupiter weighs in relation to Shaquille O’Neal, WolframAlpha has the answer. (One Jupiter = 1.29 X 10^25 Shaqs.) The app, a mobile version of Wolfram Alpha’s online “computational knowledge engine,” can solve math problems or call up worldwide economic data, all from a single search field.