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CD-ROM Review - Cosmos: Voyage through the Universe - Softkey/Science Museum 

 

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Unlike other CDs in the series such as Secrets of the Universe, this is not a compendium of talks by scientists, but rather a vehicle for exploring the basics of astronomy. As such, our immediate response was a cheer, because the scientists aren't always very exciting - but unfortunately this title doesn't deliver.

In principle it has got a lot to offer. There's a planetarium with 50,000 bodies, a "laboratory" that lets you look at facts on various objects in the solar system and try some basic experiments (what happens if you drop some water, drop a football etc.) There's a "sphere of knowledge" section with a series of illustrated introductions to aspects of astronomy and cosmology, a relatively small myths and legends section and a glossary that amounts to an astronomer's dictionary.

The reason we've scored it so low is that it's simply nowhere near as good as it could have been. The graphics are low resolution and not easy to control. There are plenty of better planetarium programs out there - this one simply doesn't give a great picture, it's hard to find your way around and it the view tends to swing too easily (oh, and the West indicator is labelled O, reflecting poor translation from its French origins). The program crashed on us twice in an hour as well (leaving the PC stuck in low resolution).

Similarly, the "laboratory" hasn't got enough to interact with, and the myths and legends section is rather dull. Perhaps the best part is the sphere of knowledge, with explanations of things like the attempt to measure the speed of light, but even this rather skimps (the speed of light story starts with Ole Roemer, who was the first make a reasonable measurement, but certainly not the first to attempt it, Galileo being a prime example) and is little better than a PowerPoint presentation.

I guess we've been spoiled. I would have been excited about this ten years ago, but we expect more and more from an interactive product, and sadly Cosmos can't quite hack it.

According to the blurb, this CD-ROM works on both PCs and Macs - we have only tested it on a PC.

Reviewed by Brian Clegg

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Last update 05 June 2007