Screen shot 2010-06-02 at 10.24.11 AM.pngThe Wolfram Alpha “search engine” is looking to expand and there is now an app for the iPad. It gives a bit of a clue as to how one can use enhancements well in ebooks – or so says the article in the Technology Review.

The first example is now out: a Wolfram/Alpha app for The Elements, a book Gray wrote on the periodic table. The paper version of the book is dominated by glossy photos of elements and products made from them (Pepto-Bismol, for example, uses bismuth). The version developed for the iPad, however, is chock-full of on-screen buttons that lead to Wolfram’s online computational engine and data sets.

Users can pull up photos–such as ones of shimmering raw bismuth crystals–and rotate them with a sweep of a finger across the screen; drill down for data such as melting and boiling points; explore chemical compounds based on the elements; and geek out on the endless computations and molecular diagrams that are Alpha’s hallmark. “This showcases something you can do that is an interesting and useful expansion on something that is otherwise a coffee table photo book,” Gray says. Many existing e-books only offer such added functionality as adjustable font sizes or the ability to search for particular words. “We would like to encourage creating e-books that are more than just static recreations of paper books,” he adds.

The app costs $14, and the description says, in part: “Beside that is a cilumn of facts and figures, each of which can be tapped to bring up rich detail and current information through the embedded Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine. Tap the Wolfram|Alpha button for gold and its tells you the up-to-the-minute market price, along with a hundred other facts about gold”.

Thanks to Resource Shelf for the heads up.


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