Planet Earth 3D (for iPad) is an Earth science educational app that provides an overview of our planet, its oceans, continents, and ecosystems, its internal structure and atmosphere, its rotation (and its relation to the seasons) orbit around the Sun, and the Moon. Each section includes illustrations, many of them 3D animations. The app gives some useful information, though some sections are quite cursory, it has more than its share of linguistic errors, and the 3D globe is really just for show.
When you open the app, a realistic-looking, rotating 3D representation of the Earth is at the center of the screen, with ambient music playing. You can shrink or enlarge the globe by pinching or stretching, or rotate it to view a different side of the Earth. (Doing any of these things stops it from rotating by itself, however.) At the screen’s upper left are a Home button and a musical note icon, which lets you turn the music on and off. A Back button at lower left lets you reset and restart the animation.
Continents and Seas
That said, one of the three items under the Structure tab is Lands and Seas, which shows a map and 3D globe identifying the world’s continents and oceans. Color-coded with Australia are other Pacific islands (sometimes collectively known as Oceania). Tapping on the name of a continent or ocean brings up some facts about it. Included among the 5 oceans are the Arctic and Southern (aka Antarctic) Oceans, which the text notes are not universally regarded as separate from the Atlantic (in the case of the Arctic) and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans (in the case of the Southern). Ironically, the description for Asia, easily the largest and most populous continent, is the most succinct.
The Layered Earth
Another tab under Structure is Internal Layers, which shows a cutaway view of the Earth that identifies five zones, going from the crust to the inner core. Curiously, the upper and lower mantle are labeled as “Up Mantle” and “Low Mantle”, although their names are correct in the description that pops up when you tap on a label. This shortening seems to have been done to keep all the labels at the same size, though there’s enough room on screen for larger labels.
The third item under Structure is Atmosphere Layers, with an illustration of the Earth showing five atmospheric labels, from the troposphere up to the exosphere. It provides very cursory descriptions of each layer shown.
Touching the second tab, Rotation, brings up a rotating globe replete with continents, oceans, clouds, ice caps, and different geographical features like forests, mountain ranges, and deserts. You can control the globe’s size and rotation by pinching, stretching, or swiping it.
Continue Reading: Not a Google Earth
Not a Google Earth
One thing Planet Earth 3D decidedly isn’t is a world atlas, let alone a Google Earth analogue. The 3D globe is really just for show. It’s of low resolution; for example, at maximum zoom the entire United States, plus much of Canada and/or Mexico, fits on one screen. None of the features are identified, and much of the surface is obscured by clouds. (The only geographical features identified in the app are the continents and oceans under the Structure tab, as noted above.)
Also under the Rotation tab are two more tabs. The section called Revolution explains the Earth’s orbit around the Sun and includes a scalable 3D diagram of it; you can adjust the Earth’s speed and tilt its orbital plane. The Seasons tab discusses the seasons and their relation to the Earth’s axial tilt. It includes a diagram showing the Earth’s orbit and marking the solstices and equinoxes, as well as perihelion (Earth’s closest point to the Sun) and aphelion (its most distant point). Unfortunately, the line representing the Earth’s axis, which is essential for the understanding of this section, is barely visible in the illustration, and could easily be overlooked.
The third major tab is Moon. It shows a movable 3D illustration of the Earth and Moon. The Introduction is notably succinct. Its first two statements are self-evident: that the Moon has been known since prehistoric times and is the second brightest object in the sky. It doesn’t explain what a moon is, or say anything about its origins or history. The Rotation tab describes the Moon’s synchronous rotation; that it rotates on its axis in about as long as it takes to circle the Earth, thus always presenting the same features to us (the near side).
The last tab under Moon is Tidal. Its text has the linguistically scrambled title “The Moon Affects on Earth’s Tidal”—presumably, it means “The Moon’s Effects on Earth’s Tides.” It’s perhaps the most egregious of many linguistic errors in the app. Most are minor, and only rarely do errors in grammar or syntax interfere with the sense of what’s being said.
Natural and Manmade Ecosystems
The final tab is Habitat, which features 6 habitats, each with an accompanying photo: Desert, Fresh Water, Ocean, Rain Forest, Tundra, and Urban. Clicking on a photo brings up text describing the habitat’s characteristics and biological/ecological importance. For example, the Urban section briefly describes the history of cities and discusses their importance to human society, as well as their problems and challenges, such as violence, poverty, overcrowding, health problems, and pollution.
Planet Earth 3D is an introduction to our world, its internal structure, atmosphere, ecosystems, rotation, orbit, and moon. Information is basic and for the most part very cursory. Although some of the illustrations are good, others are in need of improvement, and the 3D globe—although pretty—is really just there for show. The app could also use a good proofreading, as it’s rife with (mostly minor) grammatical errors. The app could be a helpful place for young students to learn some basic things about our world and its environs, but they will want to look elsewhere for more detailed information.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc