citizen science

You can explore the solar system—and maybe even help scientists discover a new planet—thanks to Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a new citizen-science tool developed by NASA in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History and other partners and released today.

“It’s hard to believe, but our solar neighborhood is still unexplored territory,” said Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics and a collaborator on the project. “There are cold worlds hiding just a short distance from the Sun, and Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a platform for bringing citizen scientists into the search party.”

Read more about the project on our blog.

Astronomers propose a cell phone search for galactic fast radio bursts

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are brief spurts of radio emission, lasting just one-thousandth of a second, whose origins are mysterious. Fewer than two dozen have been identified in the past decade using giant radio telescopes such as the 1,000-foot dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Of those, only one has been pinpointed to originate from a galaxy about 3 billion light-years away.

The other known FRBs seem to also come from distant galaxies, but there is no obvious reason that, every once in a while, an FRB wouldn’t occur in our own Milky Way galaxy too. If it did, astronomers suggest that it would be “loud” enough that a global network of cell phones or small radio receivers could “hear” it.

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Don’t forget. Don’t let the little ones forget. Teach the children that are too young to know any better. It wasn’t always this way. There will be kids, now 12 and under, who will be growing up being told that climate change isn’t real, that science is an opinion, that immigrants have no place here, that fascist regimes are normal. If it’s the way the country is run, it’s what they will be taught in school soon. Don’t let them forget. Tell. Talk. Teach. And for fuck’s sake, model the kind of world you want to live in.

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The Awesome Power of Citizen Science

You don’t have to be a professional scientist to make a contribution to our collective knowledge. Today, we look at several projects that have benefitted from the power of citizen science!

slate.com
Wyoming Just Criminalized Citizen Science and Sharing Photos of Yellowstone
"The Wyoming law transforms a good Samaritan who volunteers her time to monitor our shared environment into a criminal....if you discover an environmental disaster in Wyoming, even one that poses an imminent threat to public health, you’re obliged, according to this law, to keep it to yourself."

File under “solarpunk story ideas,” rogue bands of secretive data-gatherers, operating off the grid until they have all they need to force action.

Are these two pictures of the same sea turtle or two different turtles? If you answered “the same turtle” you’re right and ready for a citizen science project from the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation working to conserve these creatures. 

The CBC wants your help matching images 102 individual green sea turtles, some taken over multiple years. Learn more about this project and start matching turtles now!

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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.

200,000 Computers Tapped To Crack Cancer Protein

by Michael Keller

A virtual supercomputer running on more than 239,000 computers around the world has successfully eavesdropped on a protein key to cancer’s progression in the body. 

Researchers using Stanford University’s Folding@home, a distributed computational platform, have been able to describe the activation of a protein called Src kinase, a molecular switch that is believed to turn on the tumor-producing signals in cells that tell them to grow, spread and not self-destruct. 

The team says it is the first time the protein has been modeled as it changes from an inactive state to an active one. Their insight could help develop new drugs that specifically target Src kinase.

(The gif above illustrates Folding@home’s simulated protein-folding steps from an uncoiled configuration to a complex, 3-D structure. The protein here is NTL9 and unrelated to Src kinase, the subject of this article. See the interesting video below. Courtesy Vijay Pande/Stanford.)

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More than two years ago, we brought you a story about scientists enlisting citizens to help speed research through troves of data. One of those projects was called Snapshot Serengeti, which sought to catalog a sample of African animal species captured in camera traps.  

A study released today in the journal Nature Scientific Data by Alexandra Swanson and her colleagues highlights the efforts of the massive citizen science project, which analysed 1.2 million sets of pictures. The results are in and they have revealed behavior that lone researchers and documentarians were little able to study–the wild birds and mammals of the Serengeti love to photobomb.

In the pictures captured from 225 camera traps deployed over more than 430 square miles, volunteer online spotters found 48 animal species, many mugging for the camera. The effort, which included more than 28,000 registered contributors who classified 10.8 million images for the presence of animals, represents a win for the citizen science idea. In the end, users found more than 320,000 images that contained animals in them. The group’s work is expected to bring new insights useful in wildlife conservation and machine learning. 

Some of the images showed predators with their prizes, others depicted brushfires on the savanna, and a few could grace the pages of National Geographic. See more images below.

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anonymous asked:

you missed a really awesome citizen science group! the natural products discovery group at the university of Oklahoma will send anyone in the US a soil collection kit that they can send back. the npdg will then isolate and identify all of the fungi in that sample and then screen it for bioactivity against MRSA, C. albicans, pancreatic cancer, glioblastomas, and Trichomonas vaginalis. updates are sent to everyone that submits, and several promising drug leads have come from this project!

NICE! Just looked them up and I love their description: “SEND US YOUR DIRT.”

Just a reminder: this message is referring to my post about the citizen science projects that you can get involved with. Some projects let you contribute to science while just lounging around at home, which is the ideal type of scienceing for some people. Check it out!

“The concept for the Ultrascope arose when I realized that the tools and technologies to pull it off—cloud computing; high-speed phone networks; low-cost, high performance chips and CCDs; 3D printing; and the Maker Movement—had all matured around the same time, enabling a new era in citizen science. This couldn’t have been done 24 months ago, but now it’s all here.” - Inventor James Parr on OnQ

Needlessly territorial and bellicose, Whooping Cranes have a well-deserved negative reputation among the Gruiformes. Because of their needless aggression, these provocative birds were hunted until scarcely two dozen existed in the entire world. Thanks to the tireless efforts of multiple non-profit groups and citizen mad science associations dedicated to making angry birds a daily threat to humanity, there are now nearly four hundred and fifty Whooping Cranes on the loose and ready to deliver their namesake upon innocent bystanders.


Above, a solitary Whooping Crane ruins a picnic being held by a large group of Sandhill Cranes.