Interactive Software

Design Philosophy

The programs below are not intended for one-stop learning, but rather as a vehicle to spark imagination and ideas as well as a platform to test and expand ideas.  Each program starts with fundamental concepts and processes and builds into exploring how they relate and/or interact to create more complex phenomena.  Because complex behavior are difficult to study, use the simulations to explore systems through controlled experiments.  Systematically change one variable to analyze the behavior while keeping the other variables set.  Then move onto changing two or more variables at once.  Explore "What if...?" ideas!

Considerable text is available within the software for each topic, ranging from overviews,  summaries of big ideas, challenge questions, and their answers.  There are also dedicated webpages with information, illustrations, additional supporting articles, videos, data, and experiments.  

Learning Through SWAGs rather than WAGs

Being a meteorologist in the Air Force and dealing with pilots helped me realize that even though I didn't actually know the weather in the future (no one ever will with 100% certainty), I had to consistently build my understanding through applying fundamentals while also conveying my thought process to those using my forecast. Pilots would frequently ask "Is that your WAG or SWAG?".  Wild-Ass Guess versus Scientific Wild-Ass Guess!

We all need practice applying what we already know to situations we've never seen before (to SWAG!), and there is a positive feedback (feedback that amplifies the response to a change) to our learning when we try.  The open endedness to many of the software activities allows you to test your SWAG.  Built-in challenge questions support and model this type of thinking, and the simulations' complex responses create a need to explore what one does know in order to work through the "why" and "how" questions that arise when surprised with the results.

The bottom line is the software activities are intended to support rich, deep learning experiences found in one or more of the learning arcs at Science Pickle.

To me, tree roots symbolize the complex strength gained from interconnected learning.

To me, tree roots symbolize the complex strength gained from interconnected learning.

What you Get



Study complex spatial relationships through self-generated visuals.

Layered Visualizations


Turn visual information on and off or change its appearance to see new patterns and integrate layers of information into your analyses.



Change variables to your heart's content to explore complex processes and systems. Okay, not as many variables as found in nature, but there are a good number to get you started.

Graphs and Data Analysis


View data trends of scenarios you created to help answer your questions.

Explore "What if" Scenarios


Science has so many unanswered questions, and they are often discovered by starting with "What if?" 

Save Your Work


Teachers, save high resolution graphics to create homework questions, solutions, answer keys, and test questions.  Students, save your work to include in research papers, homework responses, or a notebook of ideas.

Download vs web-based

Pros for Downloading Software

  • Once you have it installed, you never have to worry about your Internet connection. As a  teacher, Internet outages are something to fear when planning to use web-based software that day.
  • Files created by the software can be saved directly to your computer, which will be very beneficial to connect different programs with each other.
  • I can keep this free/low cost since paying for hosting web-based software is rather expensive.
  • I don't need to upgrade my website to be able to host web-based software, which would be time consuming and costly.

Cons for Downloading Software

  • Can only run on Macs and PCs, not ChromeBooks or smartphones.
  • Need to download and install updates.
  • If used in a classroom, often IT is needed to install the software.

At this time...

I will be keeping the software to be run through stand alone executables downloaded from the website.  If you would like the software to be web-based and would be willing to pay a subscription fee, please send me an e-mail using the contact section on the home page.

Blackbody Radiation Supports Earth Systems Arc

Explore thermal radiation in linear scales...


Add / hide information to focus on patterns and trends in emitted thermal radiation.

and in logarithmic scales.


Compare thermal radiation emitted from common objects.

Explore the effects of the Sun changing temperature over time


How would Earth responded as our energy source changed?

Radiation budgets of common Earth surfaces,


As the Sun changes angle above the horizon throughout the day, the energy absorbed by the Earth's surface changes.  The amount of radiation emitted and absorbed from objects results in changing temperature.  

and the radiation budget of black fabrics under an intense light bulb.


Radiation budgets may be a bit easier to think about when the intensity of the incoming light is constant when on and change instantly to completely off.

Examples of Cloth Used in Black Fabric Experiment


Example fabrics for the Heating/Cooling of Black Fabrics. The top image is in visible light, and the bottom is in near infrared.  Data are included in the software.

Link to download Blackbody Radiation software.

Sun-Earth Connection supports Earth Systems Arc

Earth's Orbit


View how the illumination of the Earth changes as it orbits the Sun.  Change perspective to see what happens in the northern and southern hemisphere during the year.

Effect of Sun's Radiation on Earth


Explore how the illumination at sunrise, local noon and sunset; hours of daylight; sun angle above the horizon at local noon; and total daily solar energy hitting the ground change at different locations throughout the year.

Trends of Apparent Sun Motion


In addition to explaining Earth's seasons, climate regimes, and diurnal heating patterns, humans have used the apparent motion of the Sun in the sky to navigate and keep track of time and day of the year.

Yearly Trends


Compare how different latitudes are affected by the Sun's illumination throughout the year.

Awning Design


Use your understanding of the Sun's apparent motion to design awnings that will work at different latitudes to keep the summer sunlight from entering windows while allowing winter sunlight to enter and warm the room for free.

Shadows Throughout the Year


Explore shadows throughout the year to understand sun dials and how to design gardens and more energy efficient buildings.

Download Sun-Earth Connection software.

Star-Planet Connection Supports Earth Systems Arc

Planet's Orbit


Change the obliquity, eccentricity, and precession to visualize how the illumination of the planet changes during its orbit.

Planet View


Explore how the illumination at sunrise, local noon and sunset; hours of daylight; star angle above the horizon at local noon; and total daily solar energy hitting the ground change at different locations as orbital parameters change.

Night/Day Trends


Viewing from the planet's surface, explore how the star's apparent motion across the sky create the planet's seasons, climate regimes, and diurnal heating patterns.

Annual Trends


Compare how different latitudes are affected by the star's illumination throughout the year.

Range of Annual Trends


Explore the range of change of an illumination variable for latitudes on the planet.

Compare Trends to Earth's


Explore how the planet would differ from Earth - will it be hotter, colder, more extreme, milder, and will it support life the same way Earth does?

Download Star-Planet Connection software.

Earth, Wind, and Forces Supports Earth Systems Arc



Graphically and mathematically explore quantities that have both magnitude and direction.

Color Vectors


Navigate the world of color using vectors.

Adding Vectors


Explore the two most common ways to add vectors: graphically and mathematically.



Analyze sets of interacting forces to see if they are balanced or not.



Change pressure gradient, Coriolis, friction, and centrifugal forces to see how wind changes when pushed by straight isobars or those around high and low pressure centers.

Global Wind


Explore global wind patterns throughout the year - and at different times during Earth's history.

Download Earth, Wind, and Forces here.