Atom in a box

Visualisation of the 4 p orbital in hydrogen.

Visualisation of the 4 p orbital in hydrogen.

Did I mention I had a new iPhone? Well the other day I found out that one my favourite pieces of software was available now as an app: Atom in a Box. The app is simple – it shows the shapes of the electron orbitals in a hydrogen atom. And that’s all!

What I love about it is that it works at multiple levels. To a student learning about physics they can appreciate that these are just the shapes of the orbitals. They can look at the orbitals from all angles and see the shapes of the lobes. When I was a student I had to try to imagine what these things looked like!

But if they want to delve a bit deeper,  application shows the mathematical function that generates the orbitals. And so if you are interested you can make connections between the physical form of the function and its mathematical representation. It also uses colour cycling to show the phase of the wave function, an especially difficult-to-describe aspect of complex functions.

So if only to remind yourself of what these wave functions look like, IMHO this is worth 69p of anybody’s money. (App Store Link)

TOP TIP: To take a picture of the screen hold down the HOME and the SLEEP buttons at the same time. An image of the screen will appear in your camera roll.

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