What’s the best way to teach a kid about the forces that shape the Earth? You could let her read about the subject, or give her some diagrams to look at.

Or you could just let her have a go at doing the shaping herself.

That’s the thinking behind Earth: A Primer, a new interactive book for the iPad. It covers the basics of geology—how volcanoes form, how erosion works—but instead of simply telling you about these processes, it actually lets you control them. Each topic’s page pairs text and a simulation, distilling millions of years of geologic activity into a bright multitouch plaything. Like a deity in training, you can sculpt mountains, summon rain storms, and move tectonic plates with your fingertips. It’s a novel way to learn about our planet, certainly. But it’s also an inspiring design experiment, and a reminder that interactive media is a young and undeveloped world itself.

The app’s genesis dates back nearly five years, and its creation involves some noteworthy influences. It was developed by Chaim Gingold, an interactive designer based in San Francisco. Gingold had just finished building the Creature Creator for Spore, Will Wright’s ambitious simulation game, and had started work on an ambitious simulation game of his own. But it was too big a task for a lone designer, so he turned his focus on one component: the game’s geology simulator.

Source: Wired.com - see full article