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Google's new app helps anyone be a scientist

With its new Android app, Science Journal, Google hopes to encourage scientific interest among all ages and education levels. 

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With the new app Science Journal, Google wants to make everyone think like a scientist.

Users can record data – such as speed, light, or sound – from the world around them. The data can later be plotted on graphs, annotated with notes and photos and compared against past measurements. For example, Google promotes the app with the potential hypothesis, “How does my acceleration change as I run?” And screenshots of the app feature accelerometer data from the user’s multiple trials.

“Science Journal is a tool for doing science with your smartphone,” says Google in a press release. “You can use the sensors in your phone or connect to external sensors to conduct experiments on the world around you…. It’s the lab notebook you always have with you.”

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The app has garnered both positive and negative reviews.

“There is so much to measure and research for the curious people on this planet, and the mighty Google is providing us common people with tools to conveniently apply science and engineering, hopefully, aiding to benefit Mankind and the Environment,” wrote user Tye Aldana.

“We assume our surroundings,” adds user Roman Segura, “this app helps you investigate a little further on what noise, light and movement really means….”

Other users were not as impressed, saying the app’s features are interesting only to young scientists. 

“Really, is that all? Very basic app,” says Steve C. “No ability to download and analyze data. Could probably be useful to explore science phenomena through the 6th or 7th grade but this is not useful for exploration of scientific principles. Perhaps future versions….” 

But supporters of the app say that was exactly the point: to facilitate interest among the world’s young scientists. Science Journal is a feature of the Google’s Making and Science Initiative. Google does not specify age for their target audience, instead saying “anyone can be a maker or a scientist.” But other products and events by the initiative include student field trips, science camps, and science fairs.

Because while engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California may find the app boring, it’s not built for them, says Google. Science Journal’s purpose is to engage the curious public. 

“We believe that anyone can be a maker,” Chris DiBona, director of Google’s Making and Science Initiative writes in a blog post Friday. “Science is also fundamentally about improving the world around you. It’s not just memorizing facts, wearing a lab coat, or listening to a lecture. It’s observing the world around us to figure out how it works and how we can make things better through experimentation or discovery.”

The free app is currently available for Android phones. Users can also purchase an activity kit to accompany the app, which includes sensors and microcontrollers to complement experiments run on the app. 

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