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Earth or Not: New App Tests Your Terrestrial Smarts

The stormy skies over Brazil as seen by astronauts on board the International Sp

The stormy skies over Brazil as seen by astronauts on board the International Space Station.

So you, like the rest of humanity, live on Earth. Think you have a good handle on the planet? Not the political or social issues that bind us together, but the physical Earth we all share? Well, there’s a new app from Cosmoquest designed to test just how well you know your home planet aptly called “Earth or Not Earth.”

The premise of the app is as simple as the question in the app’s name: is something on Earth or not? A single image displays on the screen, and the user has to say whether that feature is on the Earth or not. And since this is Cosmoquest, “the place where you map other worlds, explore our universe, & contribute to science,” the images aren’t landmarks. They’re geological features, some in color and others in black and white. And they’re all sources from NASA satellites, which means they’re decidedly abstract. You have to be pretty familiar with our solar system to recognize a lot of the images.

What’s really great about the app, though, is the lessons buried in each image. After deciding whether an image shows part of the Earth or not, there’s an option to go to the next image of you can tap “vocabulary.” The vocabulary options is a little nugget of information about the image, specifically the feature it showcased. Some are familiar features like volcanoes and river canyons; things we have on Earth that aren’t exclusive to our planet. Others are less familiar features like chaos terrain and tesserae.

But the app isn’t limited to this one game. “Matching” displays an image and the user has to guess from four options either what planet, moon, or feature the image shows. “Pick Two” is by far the hardest game in the app. Twelve thumbnail images appear on the scree and the user has to match them by planet against the clock.

“Earth or not Earth” was developed for Cosmoquest by Southern Illinois University graduate student Joseph Moore. It’s available on iOS and Android for $1.99 US.(Mar 26, 2014 04:39 PM ET // by Amy Shira Teitel)

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