App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Maybe I’m dating myself, but when I think of Richard Dawkins I think of The Selfish Gene and Darwin and other things that tend to give me a headache if I spend too long musing over them. I expect heavy scientific queries and deep thoughts to ponder. I was a bit intimidated, to be frank, about covering The Magic of Reality, Dawkins’ book-turned-app for this review. I wasn’t sure I could do the man and his ideas justice.
But, what I found in the virtual pages was something altogether unexpected. It’s hardly “Dawkins for Dummies,” but it’s the man and his words aimed at not just a general audience, but also one without any real knowledge of the cosmos, evolutionary biology or even much science. Instead I found cogent answers to some of the biggest questions that all of us ask at some time or another. The basics, like “When and how did everything begin?” "What is the sun?" and “Why do bad thing happen?” in clear accessible language. The text is aimed at readers 12 and up, but the magic is ageless.
In fact, the 12 chapters of this book - exploring the magic that is found in everyday natural occurrences and phenomena - are packed with interactive graphics, audio and video clips and even simple experiments to make each answer as lucid as possible even to the uninitiated. If one has innate curiosity, this book-app offers much for mental mastication without creating synaptic overload.
Most chapters begin with a look at the popular myths that seek to answer those same questions. Dawkins doesn’t so much debunk them, as show how they made sense in their time. But, he goes on to offer explanations that make sense in terms of observable phenomenon and remarkably none of the mystery and magic is lost. If anything, the reader leaves with a greater appreciation for magic – just not the sort you find in grimoires.
The illustrations by Dave McKean help bring the real-world magic to life on every page. This is not an abridged text, the whole book is here accompanied by 75 amazing animations and the audio and video bits mentioned above.
The experiments are really the standout. They serve to illustrate why the iPad is a superlative educational and experiential tool. Users can play at breeding frogs, create virtual rainbows using prisms, and otherwise engage hand-on with the narrative to gain a richer and more complete understanding of the concepts within. And, the GUI is so flawless, it’s easy to forget this is an app, and not a private trip to a small hands-on science museum.
For those looking to explore the magic that is all around us, to gain a better understanding of the natural world or for those interested in the best of digital publishing, The Magic of Reality should not be missed.