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Sep 23, 2011

Chemistry 101 1.00

The study of chemical elements can be a pleasant activity, especially when the teacher is fun to work with. Chemistry 101 is the software that can guide you through the basics and explain everything along the way. 

Whether it is a school task or a simple curiosity, getting acquainted with the periodic table of the chemical elements can be done at home, nowadays, thanks to the Internet and offline resources we can access. If going through books and using cardboard graphs is not your game, perhaps specialized software can save the day.

In this respect, Chemistry 101 is a program that will surely fit the bill for most users, first of all because it comes free of cost. It also has many other benefits like its rather small size, friendly interface and decent feature pack it comes with. Installation is a breeze so you’ll be able to bring it into play in no time.

The GUI is less shiny and more practical; however the colors used to highlight the different classes of elements in the table are well chosen and quite pleasant to look at. To help users quickly understand what the symbols and numbers on the tiles representing each element are, an explanatory sample is provided in the upper part of the main window.

Interacting with the items in order to view the information for every one of them can be done in a simple and very effective manner: you click the element and instantly gain access to all the available details. This means that you will access the other tab of the main window and there you will find yet another way of reading the data for metals or gases or anything you’re interested in. There is a vertical slider that enables you to browse the entire roster without going back to the table.

The element section of Chemistry 101 offers a plethora of information and even animations to illustrate the activity of the constituents. The level of data presented for each item is rather high. The utility shows you the period and group the element belongs to, its classification and state in which it is found in the nature or in the lab for artificial ones.

The description adds info on atomic weight, volume and radius, as well as density, boiling and melting points. Exact values are given for properties that are of interest for more specialized users, but there are also some interesting facts and figures included here. They consist of the year of the discovery and the person who made it, the element's appearance and name origin.

At a certain point, after reading all the technical details you may feel the need to get some explanations about all the numbers and symbols that are included in the list. Unfortunately, there is no help file or some other type of documentation available so you'll have to do this research on your own.

Insofar as the animations are concerned, they take up the left side of this window and can be easily controlled with the 4 buttons and 2 sliders in the lower part. The application will enable you to see in action all the protons, electrons and neutrons that every chemical element is built from. To better differentiate the moving particles, they are placed on levels with assorted colors. However, with a simple click you can forfeit these options and get instead a bunch of small gray spheres orbiting the core on paths known only to them.

Another setting you can tinker with is the trajectory followed by the subatomic particle. You can switch between circular or elliptic to have a perspective that better suits your needs. The two sliders mentioned above give you full control over the speed of the rotating spheres and also help you pick the grayness of the background they move against.

When it comes to the system resources used by this utility, the figures are low and this means good news. The memory usage seemed to be set in stone at an almost insignificant value of 2.3 MB out of the available 4GB, whereas some stress on the CPU becomes noticeable only when the animation was turned on. Being in close relation to the speed at which the particles move, the quad-core 3.0 GHz AMD Athlon II 640 processor peaked at 9% when the spheres where running full throttle.

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