NewsForge: Kalzium Creator Brings the Periodic Table to Life

NewsForge reports on how Kalzium was created. 'As a teacher in Lower Saxony, Germany, one of Niehaus' main goals when developing Kalzium (the German word for Calcium) was to write an application that was both a teaching and a learning tool. "I want to be able to demonstrate things and I also want my students to be able to learn things from Kalzium and to use it as a reference," he says.'

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by superstoned (not verified)

great article! and Carsten did a wonderfull job on Kalzium - the KDE 4 version is gonna be very cool with the openGL stuff ;-)

by Mark Williamson (not verified)

Are there any specific plans for OpenGL stuff? I've not heard of any concrete plans.

by Benoit Jacob (not verified)

Well, you can already see part of it working in SVN. Currently, the rendering of molecules is implemented and already quite optimized, with a special focus on machines without hardware acceleration. The things that remain to be done are: a comfortable mouse-based 3d navigation system, the ability to display some information like angles and element names in the 3D view, and a few other things. We also plan to do the same for crystal structures -- currently there is only a molecule viewer, but we'll also add a crystal viewer.

You can read more about that in Carsten's blog or in some commit-digest.

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)

For the interested: This is the URL to my blog

These two might be interesting WRT to OpenGL.

by Mark Williamson (not verified)

Wow, pretty molecules! :-)

I'm curious: who do you see as the users you're aiming for with Kalzium? It looks like it's acquiring features that would be useful to progressively more advanced students of chemistry - would you say this is true?

The ability to work with chemical equations would certainly have been useful to me back when I studied chemistry in school, but I understand in Kalzium that's now supported too :-)

Cool stuff! Had you considered providing any wikipedia integration, by the way? Obviously Kalzium can offer many things that wikipedia can't, but it'd maybe not be too hard to provide links or integrated views of wiki content for those who like to read more verbose descriptions of things, or research related information? Just an idea, anyhow.

by cm (not verified)

I don't know about the current status but it is on the list of ideas for integration of KDE and Wikipedia:

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)

> who do you see as the users you're aiming for with Kalzium?

As a teacher: Students (uni+school). But of course also just everybody who needs access to chemical information. All the new features are more for the professional, yes. But I try to keep the GUI simple, so that shouldn't be a problem.

by Geoff Hutchison (not verified)

I should also point out with Benoit and Carsten's responses, that some of the Kalzium 3D Open GL code is going into a new Qt/KDE project for more advanced viewing/editing of molecules, crystals, and other chemistry data.

This is code-named "Avogadro" and we're working pretty closely with the Kalzium project to share code as much as possible. (Hopefully there will eventually just be one OpenGL widget.)

by John Tapsell (not verified)

It would be neat if it used schrodinger's equation and showed what the atom looks like and the distribution of the electrons.



by Wade Olson (not verified)

He was planning on using that equation to hook up Kalzium to Kat, but that project may or may not be dead.

by cm (not verified)

Hook both up to the G System and an instance of Kolab, pour a fresh cup of really hot tea into the CD drive, and they will come to life.

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)

I talked with Jos about Stringe (the "successor" of Kat). As Jos is currently doing the DBus-binding-stuff I will add support for it soon (as soon as Jos finished it and I learned DBus :)

by Wade Olson (not verified)

Man, how rare is it when you can make a bad pun on Schrodinger's cat ( and an accurate statement by accident. Good times.

by superstoned (not verified)

hey, Jos got the dbus bindings more or less working. it won't be long until he does another release, and hopefully, by then, you can have a look at it...

by Philip Rodrigues (not verified)

Congrats to Carsten on the great publicity. And, since it's from their department, I can't resist posting (for those who haven't seen them) the facts about dihydrogen monoxide. :-)

by Philip Rodrigues (not verified)

...and so Phil learnt why he should use the preview button. D'oh!

by cm (not verified)

You shouldn't be posting links to such dangerous stuff on the dot, be the topic of the article related to chemistry or not. I've heard that this stuff was recently even banned from planes in the UK.


by Marc Driftmeyer (not verified)

When Kalzium trumps this application then we'll have something to really celebrate.

by ac (not verified)

Could you be more specific? What features does that program have that are missing in Kalzium?

by Marc Driftmeyer (not verified)

The equation tool in Kalzium is nice and the application has matured immensely. Competition breeds best of breed. I expect with the resources possible from KDE that Kalzium can really be an example of an useful Scientific application any university/graduate student/professional could leverage.

Constructive criticism and challenge always brings out the best.

by Me or somebody ... (not verified)

You are an asshole, whether you know it or not!

In case you don't know it, let me explain why:

1) You fail to explain yourself fully and offer nothing in the form of constructive criticism.

2) The intent of your post is to rain on somebody else's parade, rather than improve an existing application. If the latter had been your intent, you would have filed bugs or wish requests in a timely and ongoing manner with the developers.

So get a life while you can because people around you must surely know how much it stinks to be surrounded by someone who can only express vitriol towards others.

by AC (not verified)

He's just jealous :o)

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)

Please tell me what that app is able to do what Kalzium can't. And believe me, Kalzium has several features that app has not ;-)

What Kalzium is missing is for example the customizable gradient-view (, but I am not sure if that doesn't just make the UI more complex... But I do want the log-scale, yes.
Then the "Element box" is configurable". Kalzium offers two default "element boxes" and I think that is enough. Of course, I could add a third or make it configurable as well... Not sure if that is really needed... is possible in Kalzium as well, it just looks better ;-)

Don't tell me you like this dialog better than Kalzium's (for example

I would love to have this one... But I'd need help there.

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)

For one, I finally added a screenshot of it to the homepage:

Then I got confimation that the solver is finally working in Debian SID and probably also in Debian Testing.

by furangu (not verified)

I always asked myself what's the use of periodic table applications.

Maybe it makes sense to integrate videos etc. about the elements and their reaction groups or add real educational content e.g. sample experiments.

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)

well, there are about 1000 to 2000 experiments of which I own descriptions (books, printouts, schoolbooks). Which of those do you film? If "all" is the answer kalzium will have about 2 gig data.
if you have nice video-material about an element or something, please publish it in the wikipedia (, Kalzium could make use of it in that case.
I don't own a videocam, therefor I need free content for those things.