Sep 26 2011

The Magic of Reality for iPad RIGHT NOW

You can download the app today for £9.99…and the price of your iPad, of course, but all the cool kids have one of those already.

Dang, I was feeling so special because I had the book on Friday and the rest of America wasn’t going to have it until 4 October, and now it turns out I was only 3 days ahead of you all.

(Also on Sb)


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  1. 1
    Leo B

    Thanks for confirming that I am not cool!

  2. 2
    Andrew T

    Smile, Richard, smile!

  3. 3

    Missed opportunity to title this post ‘Faster than predicted II’

  4. 4
    Michael E

    At least you can draw comfort from the fact that you have the BOOK and not some stupid app. Sure, having ebooks makes some things easier, but books just feel more right, at least in my mind.

    That’s not to say that I would say no to an offer for it on Ipad, or say no to an Ipad, not at all.

  5. 5

    $13.99 US on iTunes.

  6. 6


    all the cool kids have one of those already.

    Er, no.

    Only members of the non-technical hipster herd buy such toys. I will buy a tablet (perhaps) when it does not insist on treating me like an idiot and restricting my choice of applications to some “App Store”.

    Most Android tablets seem to suffer from the same ills.

  7. 7
    PZ Myers

    I’m always impressed at how some people can sniff so indignantly at the elitism of Apple products, while announcing how they are looking for something so much more l33t.

  8. 8
    John Morales

    PZ, dunno about l33t, but BitTorrent is “el cheapo’s” friend.

    (Not that I would encourage piracy, oh no!)

  9. 9

    I’ll buy the app later today I think.

    During the last few years I switched from buying CDs to mp3s, from boxed video games to digital distribution via Steam and to reading comics almost exclusively on my 1337 (that’s the proper spelling, PZ) tablet thingy. Books also work really well on that thing, but the book industry is somewhat behind unfortunately.

    Appreciate the future, you damn conservatives!

  10. 10
    Sour Tomato Sand

    I don’t know, PZ, most complaints I hear about Apple (and this is my complaint as well) is that everything they do is dumbed-down and proprietary.

  11. 11
    Joerg Mosthaf

    Nice :)
    Bought the App, downloading now (quite big that sucker)
    I would have preferred it as an ebook for the kindle (or as epub) but that wasn’t available yet.

  12. 12

    PZ, it is not the “elitism” of Apple products that I sniff at. Unless by “elitism” you mean being overpriced and designed to restrict users to proprietary software and file formats.

    I do sense a bit of unjustified elitism among the fans of these products, however.

  13. 13

    $14.99 AUD..

    Download quicker damn you !!!!!!

  14. 14
    Ben Crockett

    Goddammit I want an iPad…

  15. 15

    #11 : Theres no way this book could work as a Kindle release, I have the physical paper book, and its like 60% large gorgeous artwork with words on them. i think an ipad app release is by far the most logical choice. Hopefully theyll crank out an android tablet version as well (without sounding like apple-hater. I have both an iphone and a MacBookPro.)

  16. 16
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    iPads are quite honestly some of the most worthless pieces of technological feces our society has produced in decades.

    I’d rather either get the actual book, or get an eBook on something that isn’t trash.

  17. 17

    3 days is nothing to scoff at. Look what Jesus did in 3 days.

  18. 18
    Steve Bowen

    Im actually peeved about this. I bought the book for my daughter on publication in the U.K intending to buy a digital version for myself, but seeing no sign of one bought another hard copy.I’m not sure even I can justify buying this excellent book (and it is awesome BTW) three times in one week. :(

  19. 19


    i think an ipad app release is by far the most logical choice. Hopefully theyll crank out an android tablet version as well

    HTML5. Then it won’t matter what computer/device you are viewing it on (provided it is capable of rendering HTML5 of course).

  20. 20
    Glen Davidson

    Who needs reality when you have the app?

    Glen Davidson

  21. 21

    There’s a sector of this l33t haxor society that likes to throw around words like “proprietary” and “dumbed-down” when unfairly criticizing Apple products such as the iPad. yet are at a loss for words when asked to specifically define what they mean AND exactly what über-beneficial alternative they would have in its place that would so greatly improve the experience of using a tablet for customers and make a sound business model for the manufacturer.

  22. 22
    Pierce R. Butler

    Scott @ # 17: Look what Jesus did in 3 days.

    Work it out chronologically, from Friday evening to Sunday morning: the whole zombification process came to about 36 hours, max…


  23. 23
    Sour Tomato Sand

    Dan, #21:

    Proprietary as in the use of proprietary file formats such as ALAC, and operating systems that run only on their proprietary hardware.

    The “dumbed-down” bit is mostly in comparison to desktop PC’s, and as far as I can tell this criticism usually comes from people who build PC’s their selves, for gaming purposes or otherwise. You simply can’t build your own Mac, and you can’t upgrade it piece-by-piece like you can with a PC. If you want to upgrade, you have to buy a new machine.

    And the last complaint about them being overpriced is generally in comparison to similar desktop PC’s. For example, the iMac starts at $1200 or so, whereas a good gaming PC right now will cost you less than half that.

  24. 24

    It is 678MB ! That is HUGE. Has anyone actually taken a look at it yet, rather than arguing about the one true binary faith ? I would like to explore the book with my son, but this app is utterly monstrous in size. I would like to know the “extras” are worth it.

  25. 25

    @Sour Tomato Sand #23

    I understand the dictionary definition of proprietary, what I should have said was define why this leaves anyone at such a tremendous disadvantage, beyond the sort of vague “it just feels wrong” rationalizations I always seem to hear. And I also don’t understand what alternative would bring a vastly superior END USER experience.

    Blathering statements like “iPads are quite honestly some of the most worthless pieces of technological feces our society has produced in decades” are just insanely ignorant.

  26. 26
    Daniel Fincke

    Uh oh, in the promotional video, Dawkins went and uttered the words, “But of course I’m biased”—a “confession” that the creationists will probably quote mine forever.

  27. 27

    Dan, proprietary software restricts choice. If you don’t like iTunes (and I do), then you can’t use the other iProducts because they require iTunes. I accidentally installed iTunes on my previous computer when I installed quicktime. It immediately went about demanding I install other programs including a menu bar in my browers (note the plural) and even when I said “no” it went ahead anyway. It disabled other music player programs and associated all music and video files it could to itself, again without my consent. Then there was no way to remove it. Oh I unstalled it, but it kept popping back up like a virus. Now I hear iTunes comes with spyware and malware. I don’t know if it’s true, but given how Apple acts and my past experience I’m not going to take the chance.

    As for alternatives, well first I don’t see why it’s important. It’s a gadget people can live without. There’s your alternative, wait for someone to make something better. Second, I had better luck with Media Monkey and Creative Labs Rio for my music. They’re not perfect, but they don’t try to take over my media the way iTunes did.

  28. 28

    Anyone going to see Prof. Dawkins promo lecture on his book?

    I understand he’s doing a book tour. ( Gonna be in my neck of the woods on OCT 13– Oakland University, Rochester, MI. Very much looking forward to it!!! Get to see one of my heroes speak in person.)

  29. 29

    Anyone going to see Prof. Dawkins speak on his promo book tour?

    He’s gonna be in my neck of the woods on October 13 (shamelessly plugging Oakland University; Rochester, MI), and wouldn’t miss it for the world….or for the end of the world, for that matter. I get to see one of my heroes speak,… in person!! YEAH!

    ( Anyone hear anything about PZ coming to Detroit area to speak? I heard a rumor…. (???)

  30. 30

    ( sorry about the superfluous post– slow computer; didn’t see the post come up. :(

  31. 31

    Holy shmoly, 678 MB…!!

    Before getting my iPad, I thought for ca. 2 weeks about whether it was worth it. And yes it is! It fills the void left by netbooks (remember those, didn’t play out too well now), and even though in certain aspects it may be restricted, it is an open-ended tool, which makes it so versatile and useful..

    PZ, maybe you could commission an iOS App for FtB that helps users keep track of the number of comments in various threads ;)

  32. 32

    Dan says:

    I understand the dictionary definition of proprietary, what I should have said was define why this leaves anyone at such a tremendous disadvantage,

    “Tremendous” is relative of course. If all you care about is running those applications that were selected and approved for you by someone else, on their terms, someone who wants your money, please don’t think you should ever buy anything else than an iPad.

    beyond the sort of vague “it just feels wrong” rationalizations I always seem to hear.

    Perhaps you were not listening too carefully.

    (The debate happens in other places than Pharyngula. This is just where people who do not buy into the hype protest when PZ calls them uncool.)

    And I also don’t understand what alternative would bring a vastly superior END USER experience.

    A vastly superior end user experience?

    For instance, one where you are able to easily stick a USB flash key into your iPad to transfer files from other systems? Or one where you are free to install a program on your iPad that you have written yourself, or one that was written for you by someone else *outside* the channels that Apple provides? Or if you need 3G capabilities, one where you are free to choose your own provider?

  33. 33
    Sour Tomato Sand


    The reason the proprietary nature of the file system annoys people who are giant techno-geeks like myself is the inability to use them on non-Mac systems… I’m sure other people have other reasons, but that’s the only reason I have a problem with it. In practice, it doesn’t actually affect me (and honestly I doubt anyone else) much.

    As far as a better end-user experience, for PC-gaming I would say that a Windows desktop is better, and that’s the only place where I think the difference matters. For tablet applications you’re probably not going to get much better than the iPad, unless Flash support is extremely important to you. For books, which is the topic at hand, I personally prefer Kindle, for the digital ink screen on the reader, and on the Kindle app on my laptop when it comes to full-color stuff. I’ve got all of RD’s books on my Kindle reader, but it really wouldn’t work for this new one. In the end, it all really comes down to personal preference, anyway; considering the number of people who love their iPad I agree with you that referring to it as “feces” is ridiculous.

  34. 34

    Okay – if anyone here is actually interested in the app, a broke down and got it for my son. It is going to be a bit over his head at the moment, but I can say it is very visually arresting and the couple of quick demos that I have had a chance to play with – the breeding frogs one (though why oh why do we have to kill 6 each generation – that adds nothing to the demonstration and will upset my son needlessly – you actually have to push a red button that says kill 6 frogs, sigh) and playing with prisms are both interesting.

    Still not sure it is worth the real estate but it has potential. Will have to see what my son thinks over the next couple of days. If anyone indicates interest I can let you know what we think.

  35. 35

    pHred, how old is your son, and what do you think is the adequate minimum age for the app?

  36. 36

    At 62yrs I prefer the smell and feel of a book, but remember to spread knowledge all media is important especially for the young.

  37. 37

    You see this all the time and I just need to point it out. Mention an Apple product and there is Apple wank, started by a pc adherent. I dunno, maybe religion is hardwired into human beings.

  38. 38

    If all you care about is running those applications that were selected and approved for you by someone else, on their terms, someone who wants your money, please don’t think you should ever buy anything else than an iPad.

    All I care about is quality. In the type of free-for-all “open” systems I’ve seen (like for example, the Ubuntu software center) you find very few applications that meet my standard of quality.

    When someone else that you define as being more open and less proprietary shows me comparable quality software and hardware then I’ll be interested.

    Perhaps you were not listening too carefully.

    I’ve listening very carefully to this stuff for over a decade. You’ve just repeated the same routine about all the limitations Apple products supposedly impose upon me and how dreadful my life must be as a result. But I’m a software developer for Mac OS, iOS and Windows platforms and I don’t see that I’ve been limited in any way by anything Apple’s done over the past ten years since I’ve entered this field, and in fact, the benefits of moving to Apple’s platforms far, far outweigh all the supposed limitations that have been suggested to me.

  39. 39

    brinylon says:

    You see this all the time and I just need to point it out. Mention an Apple product and there is Apple wank, started by a pc adherent. I dunno, maybe religion is hardwired into human beings.

    I am not sure what exactly you did mean to point out.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t object to people using Apple products if they think they can live with the silly, artificial restrictions and cost. Perhaps their computing needs are simple enough, and their disposable income large enough, that they don’t even notice. But I do object (a little) to such Apple users sneering at others. PZ started it like this: “… your iPad, of course, but all the cool kids have one of those already.” Or in other words: if you don’t have an iPad you are a bit of a loser.

    I don’t blame PZ and I know not to take everything he says too seriously. But the attitude he projects in that little remark is not at all unique among Apple fans, unfortunately. And such fans are also often extremely dismissive of the informed opinions of IT professionals and Open Source experts.

    But that is alright, too: “maybe religion is hardwired into human beings.”

  40. 40

    @Olav Well, you do share the inability to understand that different people may have different priorities in life the with very religious, so that’s working nicely. And the touchiness is spot on too! You seem to be pretty irked at the “cool kids” remark. Sneering, really?

  41. 41


    All I care about is quality.

    So do the rest of us. But what’s quality for you isn’t necessarily quality for the rest of us. You’re arguments come down to personal preference. What I want is a choice. If I had an iWhatever, I am REQUIRED to have iTunes. If I don’t want iTunes, for any reason, I’m SOL and that’s a problem. Just because YOU don’t see the limitations or YOU don’t mind iTunes doesn’t mean those limitations don’t exist.

    I feel that a good tablet computer should be more open to programs and not be regulated by a large company. If I want my smart phone to have “shake the baby” or “spot the Jew”, I should be able to do so and not have the manufacturer remove those programs.

    I don’t see that I’ve been limited in any way by anything Apple’s done

    I have. That is why I consider the iPad to be worthless in my life.

  42. 42


    Theres no way this book could work as a Kindle release, I have the physical paper book, and its like 60% large gorgeous artwork with words on them.

    To take one example, Steven Hawking’s The Grand Design contains colour plates in its Kindle edition, and they show up nicely on my Android tablet. Remember, thanks to Amazon’s drive to make Kindle apps for all the major platforms (including Linux, via the Cloud Reader), a lot of Kindle books are now read on hardware other than the Kindle – hardware which is more graphically capable than the Kindle. And with Amazon said to be about to announce their own tablet, we’ll probably be seeing a lot more images in Kindle books before long.

  43. 43

    Oh, forgot to say: the real reason this “book” wouldn’t work on the Kindle is that it contains audio, animation, and mini-games alongside the text and illustrations. It’s truly an application, rather than a book with the “app” label slapped on.

  44. 44


    My son is about to turn 9. He is an advanced reader, but this is definitely a little beyond him without an assist. On the other hand, it could have been made just for him given its design. I would say that a 10-12 year old would have only minor problems tackling it by themselves but would do better to have someone to either read it with or to ask questions of.

    For example “Nowadays, we know that genes – the units of heredity – are made of stuff called DNA.” For my son units means something he can measure (inches) and I doubt he has any handle on the idea of heredity quite yet. Things clear up a bit as you read along, but it could be off-putting unless you have someone to help you.

    Does that help ? I can let you know more after we have spent some time on it.

  45. 45

    Oh PZ. I never thought you would be an a member of the Apple cult. How can you not see the similarities between a religionist and the typical Apple fan? I guess my hero is dead. :-(

  46. 46

    BTW – I have already pre-ordered a “real” copy of the book as well, which will probably become my son’s – he has already taken over my copy of The Elements.

  47. 47

    Next thing you know this is going to devolve into Original Series or Next Generation. URGH!

    If anyone else out there has actually bothered to look at the the app, could you chime into this discussion ?

  48. 48

    If I want my smart phone to have [...] “spot the Jew”,

    Is this some sort of remote nose measuring ap?

  49. 49

    pHred: Thanks, that does help, it might be too difficult for a child of 15 months, even if you wait 2-3 years! I might still get the app for myself, hehe…

  50. 50

    I have spent all morning going through the book. This is just the kind of popular explanation of basic science that is so desperately needed now. I remember when Carl Sagan did the Cosmos series on PBS. (Yeah, that’s how old I am). I was a Southern Baptist, born again, baptized by emersion, christian child of god (AMEN) and each episode just took my breath away. Sagan also proceeded from myth to science. He told many creation myths (myths? … my head hurts) some incredibly charming, some violent, all clearly human explanations.

    It was the turning point for me. I walked away from the church, religion and gods of all stripes. I have come to embrace the elegance of the scientific method, reason, logic, facts (even with their well known liberal bias) and revel in the joyous wonder of reality.

    I hope it finds a place in the holiday gifts of children throughout this country.

  51. 51

    Therrin I heard it’s a facial recognition program linked to a database of celebrities who are Jewish. That’s all I know. I just picked two apps I heard of with offensive names.

    Part of the EULA for Kindle (and I think for Apple) gives them the “right” to remotely access your device to remove unauthorized content. Remember that hoopla about how the ebook 1984 vanished off Kindles? Even thought a person bought an iPhone or iPad, Apple still has too much control over YOUR property. Imagine the manufacturers of your TV deciding to block a certain channel for everyone because they don’t like it. Same thing.

  52. 52

    I don’t think it was a facial recognition program (unless you mean something different by it). It was a Anglo-French Jewish programmer who wrote this app, because it was a very popular pastime in his family to say whenever a celebrity came on TV, whether they were Jewish or not. He turned that basically into a quiz app.

    But according to the laws of the French Republic, collecting data about the religious affiliation of people without their consent has been illegal since 1945 (or something, after the war ended), and that generated some complaints.

  53. 53

    Apple vs non apple……

    Look. This is very simple. If you don’t like apple or their policy’s that’s fine. No really it is. Just don’t buy their products (hardware or software). It is that easy. And please don’t come yelling at me just because I happen to find them elegant, aesthetically pleasing and supremely useful (Yes, including the iPad.)

    Some of us like the fact that we can buy a product that does exactly what it says on the tin, without the fuss and little tinkering, and viruses and hardware conflicts, and so on, that plague thePC world.

    But here is the thing. If you decide that Apple is not to your taste then please, get out of the sodding manger so that those who do want to consume at the apple barn can. In peace without the constant barking.

    That said, can we please move this argument else where, as we are supposed to be discussing the book/app.

  54. 54


    Thank you ‘oldwhitelady’ for an attempt to redirect conversation back to what I thought was going to revolve somewhere in the orbit concerning the content of Dawkin’s new book–the ‘Payload’…..rather than detailed philosophical musings of brand affiliations and technical details of ‘Delivery systems’. Would love to hear some thoughts about the BOOK by anyone who’s done any reading of it yet.


  55. 55

    Hi Ben.

    Yup, been reading it for a while now (chapter three) and it is rather nice, that is the iPad app is kinda nice.

    In terms of interface it is similar to several of the digital magazines that have been attempted on the iPad. Single finger swipes to go forward and back, two fingers to drag to the index and simple point/click/drag for the I interactive elements. The text foreground and background parralax nicely and the onscreen animations tend to be subtle and unobtrusive.

    As to the writing Richard seems to have struck a good balance in Simplifying the message and not ‘dumbing it down’. And has come up with a really nice new (at least to me) analogy/thought experiment to explain the slow and gradual change that evolution creates.. I’ll not spoil it for you. I will just let it paint it’s own picture.

    I had a little problem with playing the intro video (there was a setting on the pad that was causing it to not play (but got that sorted). It would have actually been better had the video auto-played, but that is just a petty niggle. Other sound, so far only seems limited to the short readings by Richard ( Lala having not shown up yet)

    The frog mating game, I do have to agree with another commentator, does seem a little harsh with the big ‘kill the frogs’ button, to progress to the next generation… But I guess that could be excused as having to euthanise test ‘subject’s’ is part of science. Still at least it wasn’t ‘frog in a blender’…

    The art is excellent and complements the text wonderfully. Especially when it does the e-magazine trick of scrolling at different speeds than the text creating a pleasant parallax effect or dissapering behind a wall of fossil encrusted strata.

    I’m wondering weather the experience could have been enhanced further with cleaver and subtle ambient sounds and music, but the lack of certainly isn’t missed.

    As to the content, apart from how to declare my love in more languages then I will ever have call use, I can’t say the content has been revolutionary to me, nor would I expect it to break new ground with many of those reading this. Having said that it does put me In the same mind as ‘Growing up in the Universe’ and that can’t be bad. I feel that to truly act as the next generations GUITU it would make a stunning short tv series that, given the advances in presentation technology, it could go places that GUITU could never have hoped to go. And had I a few million spare I would fund said project.

    All in all I am definately enjoying some thing that was meant for children (of all ages)

    Thank you Richard.

    Stephen ‘ohnhai’ Rushbrook

  56. 56

    I have both the book and the app. The application is gorgeous, it is the book itself with all its fantastic illustrations, plus some interactive features. Each “game” explains a concept through play while an explanation is read by Richard Dawkins. I particularly enjoyed the state of matter game.
    This is perfect for my almost 10-year-old kid.

  57. 57

    I’m not one of the cool kids either.

    You have to admire the way Apple have managed to persuade people to pay £400 for something that has significantly less functionality than my £200 netbook – but hey, it looks cool!

    And I agree with several people above – I won’t buy anything from Apple while they insist on me installing iTunes on my computer.

  58. 58

    martinbenson. I really don’t want to keep derailing this thread, maybe we should take it to The Endless Thread.

    But: I’ve had a cheap netbook (albeit for 200 bucks, not 200 quid), and in no way could it do what my iPad can. But the thing is, most people don’t get an iPad to replace their computer, but to supplement it. And for this, all these issues you raise don’t matter that much. You want a device you can use in bed, watch videos on, surf the web on etc, and has a long battery power. Also don’t forget that most people do not even know how their computers work, they just want something that works. And the App store, restrictive it might be, does attract high quality apps because people are willing to pay for them. I’m not dissing the idea of open-source software here, but just try to look at it from the p.o.v. of the average computer user, often it is far too complicated for them.

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