This Time, Humans Out-Perform Computers

Computers are terrible at mapping the brain.  Given a cross-section of a retina for example, computers have trouble distinguishing neurons from other cells and empty space.  Humans, on the other hand, can perform this task with ease.

Still, mapping the brain would be a monumental task for one human.  So MIT neuroscientist Sebastien Seung recruited more than 120,000 online gamers to help him - via a game called EyeWire.

Players help color in neurons, and a computer later compiles their data into a complex map. Already, their work is helping scientists understand how the brain sees movement.

You can hear all about it in this story from Joe Palca.

Iceland’s citizens were given a chance to help forge a new constitution for their country through Facebook and Twitter, so it’s not surprising that they backed the resulting draft. Now it’s over to the politicians.

Here’s a quick run-down of the background to all this. Iceland’s banking system collapsed right at the start of the financial crisis, taking the country’s government with it. The new leadership decided to go the open route, not least because secretive dealings were largely to blame for the banking fiasco.

There were two technologically interesting spinoffs of this situation. One was the creation of the Modern Media Initiative (now the International Modern Media Institute), a Wikileaks-inspired free speech drive – the idea here is to turn Iceland into an haven for free speech by inviting media organizations from around the world to host their sites in Iceland’s green data centers and enjoy the country’s strong new protections for whistleblowers and the like.

The other was the constitutional crowdsourcing. Iceland’s old constitution was based on that of former master Denmark and was seen as out-of-date, so 25 citizens were brought into into a Constitutional Council to help create a new one. The council took the ideas raised online by their fellow citizens and delivered the resulting draft in July last year. It took a while to ask the voting public at large what it thought of the result, but Iceland now has its answer to that question.

Who would you want to see on a panel discussing women superheroes?

We’re putting together a panel for San Diego ComicCon 2014!   Right now we’re envisioning a panel focused on women superheroes and aiming for an all-women panel!    What we definitely want is a lot of intersectionality on the panel— particularly women of color and women who hold multiple intersectional identities!  Women who write novels or comics or webcomics about superheroines!  Women who study transmedia and the depiction of superheroes!  Women who provide cultural commentary on comics and media representation!

This is where we’d love your help!  What would your dream panel on this topic look like?   Who should we invite and who would you like to see?

Executive Order No. 2017, 8/8/1914
Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
National Archives Identifier: 11036311

With this order, Woodrow Wilson gave the Treasury Department full authority of Customs Offices to help enforce neutrality laws dues to the conflict in Europe during World War I.  It comes from a file about European war, German refugees, deportation of Italians, and alien deportations from 1914–1915.  (via DocsTeach)

This document was recently digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2014 Summer Workshop in Washington, DC. The teachers found and described over 50 documents relating to operations at Ellis Island, public opinion about immigration, and immigration policy reforms.

Read more about their efforts at Education Updates » Teachers Digitize Immigration Documents in Washington, DC

These Smart Umbrellas Measure Rainfall Data For Meteorologists (And Send It Back To The Cloud) | FastCompany

A team of Dutch scientists wants to use the crowd instead, by turning umbrellas into mini weather-monitoring stations. Every time it rains, smart umbrellas would use sensors to detect falling drops, and then use Bluetooth to send a report to a smartphone app. As people walk around with umbrellas throughout a city during a storm, each app would send in data to a central system where meteorologists could use it to come up with better predictions.

Please Visit Our Brand New Site: Health-pond.org
  • Health-pond.org is a crowdsourcing site that allows individuals to create campaigns for charitable causes.
  • Health Pond is a personal fund raising websites individuals can use to pay their medical expenses, or raise funds for any non-profit cause.
  • Create a campaign, or support an existing one today!



What do you think - is Mary Cassatt’s handwriting as fancy as her hat? We hope you’ll evaluate this important question and admire the penmanship of many other artists while participating in our BRAND NEW TRANSCRIPTION PROJECT, The Art of Handwriting. In a first for the smithsoniantranscriptioncenter, your transcriptions will be featured in a forthcoming book on handwriting to be published in 2015 by Princeton Architectural Press. If you’ve transcribed before, this is your chance for the limelight! And if you haven’t, there’s no better time to start than today!

Mary Cassatt, 1914 / unidentified photographer. Frederick A. Sweet research material on Mary Cassatt and James A. McNeill Whistler, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Mary Cassatt letter to John Wesley Beatty, 1905 Sept. 5. Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Transcribe this letter here!

Watch on blog.tedx.com

Can we really trust the crowd? Jens Krause at TEDxGhent

Crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, is all really that great? Well, Jens Krause has made a life of studying how crowds, or swarms, make decisions, and it turns out that crowds make terrible ones sometimes, depending on the type of problems they’re facing.

Whether you’re about to launch a big crowd-sourced project at work or are simply trying to find the best place to eat tonight, Jens’s results are worth knowing. Check it out above.

State Park Using Hashtags & Social Media to Create a Time-Lapse of Wildfire Recovery

Hashtags are nothing more than a novelty byproduct of the 21st century, right? Wrong. At least that’s the case in the minds of the scientists behind a new project that takes advantage of photography, hashtags and social media to help crowdsource a time-lapse documentation of fire damage recovery.

The initiative, known as #MorganFire02, uses signs with included brackets along the trails of Mount Diablo State Park. Said signs politely ask travelers to place their phone in the bracket, snap a photo and share the regrowth process of the land via Instagram and/or Twitter.

(Continue Reading)


Satellite company DigitalGlobe started a crowdsourcing campaign on its platform Tomnod.

Anyone can sift through more than 3,200 square kilometres of satellite images and flag any signs of debris or other clues.

DigitalGlobe is asking web users to tag any clues that may help locate the missing plane. Tomnod is not making the tagged results public.

If users start tagging some regions in large numbers, DigitalGlobe plans to use a computer algorithm to detect that.

To start searching, go to:



Steampunk webseries TINKER: Escape with us to a sci-fi world where a pair of genius inventors battle villains to bring change to a polluted & corrupt world.

Less than $3,000 away from reaching their goal, and only 9 DAYS LEFT for their Kickstarter. As the only steampunk series project out there starring two PoC and with an impressive production staff, i really want to see this project get off the ground. Please BOOST & support. 

More info: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/containmentfield/tinker-steampunk-web-series

Earlier this year i was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After losing my job and medical bills stacking up I’m deep under water. Luckily my insurance is going to continue covering me till the end of July but i am living with no income for about another 4 weeks. My bills are coming due and i’m afraid of losing my car which would force me to leave my new job. I just need a little help getting settled into my new life. I’m currently moving from couch to couch or living out of my car. 

Please, anything you can give will help.


This is my Ada-cat! She is a six-year old black-and-white, a foundling in Brooklyn adopted off the street as an infant, and as you can see, she’s got fats, she’s got wits, she’s got boom personality. She also, horrifically, has cancer and so this:


is the GoFundMe page about that.

If you can, please signal-boost! We thank you so much from the bottom of our chinny-chin-chins :D