A few days ago I read an article on the upsurge of what has come to be known as “citizen science,” where people volunteer their time, or computer time, to assist scientists in their research. The idea isn’t new, I signed up for the SETI At Home project many years ago. But now Citizen Science seems to have taken off in a big way and you can sign up for multiple projects of all kinds.
The Planet Hunters project, for example, uses data from the Kepler space telescope to let people look for dimming transitions and and find previously undiscovered planets. The system is very easy to get started and you can dedicate whatever time you have available to it.
I also receieved notification of Disk Detectives – which uses NASA’s WISE satellite data to look for debris disks that could reveal the early stages of planetary development.
I found both of these on the Zooniverse site which provides links to a diverse number of project categories including Space, Climate, Humanities, Nature and Biology, so there’s something for most people’s interests. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you might want to head over to Wikipedia, Scientific American or the Citizen Science Center, for an even greater list of projects you can get involved in.
All too often it’s the negative aspects of the internet that get the most publicity, so it’s important to remember the wonderful things that it empowers us to do by working together collaboratively for the benefit of everyone.
Have fun! Help Science! That seems an unbeatable combination to me.