by Mike Enderby, "Archimedes World" April 1996 issue

Atomic Software,
1 Fells Grove,
M28 7JN

Price: Elements and Nuc1ides are £14.95 each or £19.95 if bought together.
Upgrades are £2 each

Last Words:
These applications contain an immense amount of data in an readily accessible form for use in Physics and Chemistry at secondary school level and beyond.

Performance ****o
Features ****o
Value ****o
Overall ****o
Some aspects of physics and chemistry such as the periodic table of elements and nuclear physics can appear to be nothing more than just page after page of numbers. Two products from Atomic software, Nuclides and Elements, try to make these two areas more accessible by providing a vast quantity of information in both numeric and graphical forms to bring these areas alive.

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Both applications are supplied on single high density discs with some printed instructions but with the majority of the instructions located in the help files associated with each application. It is useful to print these out as they can not be consulted while the programs are running as they are both single-tasking. The software requires a machine with at least 2MB of memory and a multi-sync monitor.

Elements covers all the elements found in the periodic table up to element 111, with data provided on over 70 topics. These range from basic details such as melting points, latent heats and atomic weights which are required for GCSE work to advanced topics like Curie temperatures and the critical temperature for superconductors which are covered on degree courses.

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The program is based around the periodic table which is displayed together with several areas containing data, such as an area covering the numeric values of the supplied data associated with the selected element. A graph is shown of the selected data set, boiling points in the screenshot, with the periodic table annotated with a graphic representing the numeric value. This feature enables variations with position in the table to be followed with ease. A second data set can also be selected and this can be used to create a scattergram to check for correlations between data sets. In addition to this, it is also possible to select a single element and to obtain a detailed textual description covering topics including its uses, chemistry and some physical properties.

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Elements is well presented although, due to the large amount of data on screen at any one time, some of the text can be hard to read. It is relatively easy to explore the wealth of data due to the well designed controls which govern movement between data sets. With practice it becomes quite elementary to see the links between atomic properties. Nuclides is really two programs in one. The first is a tutorial covering both areas which are relevant to the data contained in the Segre chart and many others. Items are selected from a menu of over 50 areas, covering topics like isotopes, spontaneous fission and neutron capture, which lead to well-written descriptions with some including simple animations.

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The second part of Nuclides contains details about the 2,400 or so isotopes of the elements in the form of a Segre chart. This is a graph where each isotope is classified by the number of neutrons on the x-axis and the number of protons on the y-axis. Each point is coloured according to one of four user selectable rules (half life duration, decay mode, isotope of element with the greatest binding energy and least mass of isobar). For example, in the half life mode different colours denote the different durations of the isotopes' half lives from stable to sub-milliseconds. Once the main chart has been drawn, it is possible to zoom in to an area to get more detail. Other available options include displaying the nuclear decays from a selected isotope or those decays which produce it. All the time there is a large amount of data about the selected items displayed on the screen.

Nuclides is well thought out and simple to use. It has an extensive help file which provides detailed explanations of the operation of the software and its use.

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Both of the packages contain an immense amount of information but the only way to extract data is by either writing it down on paper or by using screenshots (a facility provided by the applications) to save a screen as a sprite. The packages would benefit greatly if it was possible to save text and data as files which could be used in other packages such spreadsheets and word processors.

by Mike Enderby, "Archimedes World" April 1996 issue


I have not altered any of the above reviews in any way whatsoever. The reviews are now over three years old and a great many additions and improvements to the programs have been made during that period. Indeed, the programs are now twice the size that they were when reviewed, such is the extent of new features and new data. Both are now so big that 2MB RAM is now insufficient to run either program, and 4MB must be available.

There has been a modest price increase since the programs were reviewed to reflect the magnitude of the increase in functionality of the programs.

Mike Enderby must have missed the feature whereby both text and data can be saved from within the program, but they were there all along. Just press the [T] and [D] keys to save text as RTF files, and data as CSV files, respectively.

Roger Darlington, Summer 1999.

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