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AppMonday: Beaker
3.5Overall Score

Price (RRP): $4.49

School may well be finishing for the year, but if there’s a scientist in the house, an app could let them mix and match chemicals and elements without the risk of blowing anything up.

Back when this journo was in high school, there was a big hullabaloo over the idea of dissecting a frog.

“What does this really teach at the expense of an innocent frog?” he could recall someone saying, before pointing out that a software application could do the same thing, albeit with less realistic graphics.

It was a valid point, though politics aside, dissecting an animal can teach kids about biology in ways that won’t necessarily get through with a piece of software, but it does raise an interesting point.

Specifically, can digital representations beat their physical counterparts in education?

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The iOS app “Beaker” plays on this idea with a virtual chem-lab, allowing anyone to play scientist for the day and introduce liquids, gases, and other elements into a beaker that responds to how you hold it, when elements are mixed, and if you set fire to them.

Think of it as your very own chemistry set without needing to buy elements that could harm you, a bunsen burner that can set fire to things, or the prospect that you might accidentally do something that gets the local fire department involved.

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The app offers clean design and some of the neat physicals you might expect one based on liquids and gases to offer, and Beaker’s developers even let you work in science speak with direct element and combination names, or you can press the “i” key to show what these names say in plain English.

Oh, and your finger can even light a match on screen to let you hold a flame to these elements to see what they would do if you put them on fire.

They might even explode, though it’s all on-screen, so worry not.

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All up, it’s a fun little education tool, but what it does need is a set of demo elements for you to mix up.

The app’s listing does suggest a few, such as mixing K (Potassium) and H2O (water) to make fire, shaking a combination of chemicals (silver nitrate’s AgNO3, sodium chloride’s NaCl, and water’s H2O) to make rain or precipitation, and igniting two elements of hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) to make an explosion, but you have to get these from the listing itself.