7 Delightfully Nerdy Apps for Math and Science Geeks

They got us to the moon using a sliderule and computers with only a tiny fraction of the processing power available in your iPhone. They were math and science geeks, and I salute them. Mac OS X is home to some truly great software that can help you get your job done, as well as educate and inspire the next generation of geeks who will take us deeper into the stars.

Many of these apps are complimentary, but each stands alone and can be used separately with fantastic results. If you’re into astronomy, chemistry, algebra, calculus, or physics then there’s something for you. In no particular order, here are seven different Mac apps specifically for the math or science geek in each of us.




The first name in planetarium software, Celestia is perfect for the future astronaut. Follow along a guided tour of our solar system and galaxy or explore the cosmos at your own pace and learn along the way. You’ll not only see the familiar planets, moons, and stars, but man-made satellites and spacecrafts as well.

And if universe isn’t big enough for you, download any one of over 500 add-ons which include resources for your virtual journey through the worlds of Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, and more.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.2 or later
Developer: Celestia Development Team




The budding astronomer won’t need to listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to appreciate Stellarium, but it may slightly enhance your experience if you do.

Used in planetariums all the world over, Stellarium gives you a realistic, 3D view of the sky. Simply plug in your coordinates and you’re ready to go. If you’re not quite a Galileo, however, have no fear. The app can overlay the constellations with friendly drawings and labels so you can easily identify and distinguish the constellations and other heavenly bodies.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
Developer: The Stellarium Project




OSXplanet can either run on your desktop replacing your wallpaper, or as a screensaver—the results are amazing either way. It renders the Earth in incredibly vivid detail, capturing and displaying live data about the clouds, volcanos, storms, earthquakes, etc.

If you’re looking to change your perspective, OSXplanet can also display cities around the world, each with their local time. OSXplanet can also leave the confines of Earth and check other planets in the solar system.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Gabriel Otte




Smell-O-Mints is a simple periodic table of the elements for the Mac. While it may not have all the bells and whistles some commercial periodic tables may have, it does its job aptly and it’s free.

It allows you to view the well-known periodic table of all known chemical elements. Clicking on an element’s symbol will display atomic weight, radioactive properties, and atomic number.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: John Schilling




Need proof that math can be sexy? Look no further than XaoS, the gorgeous fractal zoomer. It allows the user to zoom in and out of a fractal in one fluid, continuous motion.

XaoS can display the following different fractal types: Mandelbrot, Barnsley, Newton, Phoenix, and many others. Fractals are rendered using various coloring methods and planes for with nearly infinite results. XaoS also allows you to change quickly between either Julia or Mandelbrot sets for each formula.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: GNU XaoS Team




According to the dev, Eigenmath is “Computer algebra for people who like math and physics.” It’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this post, you like math. If the words “linear algebra”, “integration”, or “differentiation” do anything for you, then Eignemath is for you.

Be sure to check out the online help if you get stuck or to find some great examples on how to use the included algebra and calculus functions.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
Developer: Eigenmath

Magic Number Machine

Magic Number Machine

Magic Number Machine

When the Calculator that ships with Mac OS X just isn’t hardcore enough for you, Magic Number Machine comes to the rescue. Some of its improvements over your Mac’s built-in calculator include support for statistical funcions and data, matrix functions (including linear regression and gaussian elimination), a full expression history (you can go back to anything), and a full “25 accurate digits of precision” which will give you a 8 more digits of pi.

If your brain isn’t limited to decimal numbers (i.e. you’re a math geek for goodness sake!) then you’ll enjoy being able to take advantage of the optional hexadecimal, octal, and binary display as well.

Price: Free (Open Source)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Matt Gallagher

Go and Geek Out!

As great as these apps are, none of them will cost you a dime, and all but one are Open Source. All run great on the current lineup of Macs running Snow Leopard, and most will also perform smoothly on Macs running Tiger and up. Just think – with all the money you’ll be saving in software, you might be able to finally afford that iPad you’ve been coveting all these months!

Due to Mac OS X’s geeky UNIX heritage there exists a plethora of useful, freely available math and science apps on the platform. Surely I didn’t capture them all in this post. So, calling all math and science geeks! How do you get your geek on with the Mac? What apps am I missing? Sound off in the comments below!

  • syphadius

    I know you guys already did a review, but this app rocks too


    • http://slightlyinsightful.com/ Ammon

      @syphadius I agree with you about Soulver, it absolutely rocks! The devs at Acqualia certainly know what they’re doing in creating beautiful and functional software.

  • FG

    The (mac) world needs definitively more math! :)

  • Topy

    this is useful , sometimes u need a handy tool like those

  • http://log.tuananh.ws Tuan Anh

    Soulver should make it into the list

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  • sam

    You’ve missed a tremendous program: the built-in graphing application, Grapher.

    It is truly fantastic in every way, except the lack of documentation. I’m sure it is capable of many more things than I use it for (I’ve learnt by piecing together bits from the examples), but it’s still great. For a quick visualisation of an algebraic variety or 3d function I find it much quicker to bring up Grapher than Mathematica or something.

    Grapher is the program I tell all my non-mac mathematician friends about to tempt them to convert :)

    • Austyn

      I am using grapher to solve an implicit function. By using constant values for x I get a answer for y that is a constant and therefore it appears on the graph as a straight line.
      Is there a way of passing this constant value of y on to another separate equation?

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  • http://www.simonslangen.com/ Simon Slangen

    I politely disagree with the periodic table application; it’s just not that fun to use. I’d suggest Elements (30-day trial), or Periodic Table.

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  • Enrico

    My favorite Math App for iPhone:

    Calculus Curve Sketching App for iPhone http://bit.ly/rBpWiR

    Simply insert your function into the Calculus Curve Sketching App.

    Best for College and Highschool!


    – derivative
    – second derivative
    – third derivative
    – antiderivatives
    – zeros of the function
    – singularities
    – extrema
    – inflections points
    – limit as x approaches infinity
    – limit as x approaches a specific value
    – domain of a function
    – asymptotes
    – symmetry

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