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  • richardmitnick 9:22 am on April 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Science, , , Exoplanet discovery by an amateur astronomer shows the power of citizen science,   

    From CSIRO via The Conversation: “Exoplanet discovery by an amateur astronomer shows the power of citizen science “ 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    The Conversation

    Ray Norris

    You don’t need to be a professional astronomer to find new worlds orbiting distant stars. Darwin mechanic and amateur astronomer Andrew Grey this week helped to discover a new exoplanet system with at least four orbiting planets.

    An artist’s impression of some of the thousands of exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL

    But Andrew did have professional help and support.

    The discovery was a highlight moment of this week’s three-evening special ABC Stargazing Live, featuring British physicist Brian Cox, presenter Julia Zemiro and others.

    Viewers were encouraged to join in the search for exoplanets – planets orbiting distant stars – using the Exoplanet Explorers website. After a quick tutorial they were then asked to trawl through data on thousands of stars recently observed with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    Grey checked out more than 1,000 stars on the website before discovering the characteristic dips in brightness of the star in the data that signify an exoplanet.

    As the planet passes in front of the star, it hides part of the star, causing a characteristic dip in brightness. ABC/Zooniverse

    Together with other co-discoverers, Grey’s name will appear on a scientific paper reporting the very significant discovery of a star with four planets, orbiting closer to the star than Mercury is to our Sun.

    Grey told Stargazing Live:

    “That is amazing. Definitely my first scientific publication … just glad that I can contribute. It feels very good.”

    Cox was clearly impressed by the new discovery:

    “In the seven years I’ve been making Stargazing Live this is the most significant scientific discovery we’ve ever made.”

    A breakthrough for citizen science

    So just what does this discovery signify? First, let’s be clear: this is no publicity stunt, or a bit of fake news dressed up to make a good story.

    This is a real scientific discovery, to be reported in the scientific literature like other discoveries made by astronomers.

    It will help us understand the formation of our own Earth. It’s also a step towards establishing whether we are alone in the universe, or whether there are other planets populated by other civilisations.

    On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that this discovery joins the list of more than 2,300 known exoplanets discovered by Kepler so far. There are thousands more candidate planets to be examined.

    If Grey and his colleagues hadn’t discovered this new planetary system, then somebody else would have eventually discovered it. But that can be said of all discoveries. The fact remains that this particular discovery was made by Grey and his fellow citizen scientists.

    Amateurs and professionals working together

    I think that the greatest significance of this discovery is that it heralds a change in the way we do science.

    As I said earlier, Grey didn’t make this discovery alone. He used data from the Kepler spacecraft with a mission cost of US$600 million.

    Although we can build stunning telescopes that produce vast amounts of valuable data, we can’t yet build an algorithm that approaches the extraordinary abilities of the human brain to examine that data.

    A human brain can detect patterns in the data far more effectively than any machine-learning algorithm yet devised. Because of the large volume of data generated by Kepler and other scientific instruments, we need large teams of human brains – larger than any research lab.

    But the brains don’t need to be trained astrophysicists, they just need to have the amazing cognitive abilities of the human brain.

    This results in a partnership where big science produces data, and citizen scientists inspect the data to help make discoveries. It means that anyone can be involved in cutting-edge science, accelerating the growth of human knowledge.

    A gathering of brainpower

    This is happening all over science and even the arts, from butterfly hunting to transcribing Shakespeare’s handwriting.

    Last year citizen scientists in the Australian-led Radio Galaxy Zoo project discovered the largest known cluster of galaxies.

    None of these projects would be possible without widespread access to the internet, and readily-available tools to build citizen science projects, such as the Zooniverse project.

    Will machines ever make citizen scientists redundant? I have argued before that we need to build algorithms called “machine scientists” to make future discoveries from the vast volumes of data we are generating.

    But these algorithms still need to be trained by humans. The larger our human-generated training set, the better our machine scientists will work.

    So rather than making citizen scientists redundant, the machine scientists multiply the power of citizen scientists, so that a discovery made by a future Andrew Grey may result in hundreds of discoveries by machines trained using his discovery.

    I see the power of citizen scientists continuing to grow. I suspect this is only the start. We can do much more. We can increase the “fun” of doing citizen science by introducing “gaming” elements into citizen science programs, or by taking advantage of new technologies such as augmented reality and immersive virtual reality.

    Perhaps we can tap into other human qualities such as imagination and creativity to achieve goals that still frustrate machines.

    I look forward to the day when a Nobel prize is won by someone in a developing country without access to a traditional university education, but who uses the power of their mind, the wealth of information on the web and the tools of citizen science to transcend the dreams of traditional science.

    See the full article here .

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    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on March 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Astronomy Rewind, , , , Citizen Science, ,   

    From CfA: “With Astronomy Rewind, Citizen Scientists Will Bring Zombie Astrophotos Back to Life” 

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Center For Astrophysics

    March 22, 2017
    Rick Fienberg / Julie Steffen
    AAS Press Officer / AAS Director of Publishing
    +1 202-328-2010 x116 / +1 202-328-2010 x125
    rick.fienberg@aas.org / julie.steffen@aas.org

    Rob Bernstein
    Publisher, IOP Publishing
    +1 202-747-1807

    Megan Watzke / Peter Edmonds
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    +1 617-496-7998 / +1 617-571-7279
    mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu / pedmonds@cfa.harvard.edu

    Alyssa Goodman
    Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Science

    Laura Trouille
    Director of Citizen Science, Adler Planetarium
    Co-Investigator, Zooniverse
    +1 312-322-0820


    A new citizen-science project will rescue tens of thousands of potentially valuable cosmic images that are mostly dead to science and bring them fully back to life. Called Astronomy Rewind, the effort, which launches today (22 March 2017), will take photographs, radio maps, and other telescopic images that have been scanned from the pages of dusty old journals and place them in context in digital sky atlases and catalogs. Anyone will then be able to find them online and compare them with modern electronic data from ground- and space-based telescopes, making possible new studies of short- and long-term changes in the heavens.

    “There’s no telling what discoveries await,” says Alyssa Goodman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, CfA), one of the project’s founders. “Turning historical scientific literature into searchable, retrievable data is like turning the key to a treasure chest.”

    Astronomy Rewind is the latest citizen-science program on the Zooniverse platform, which debuted at Oxford University a decade ago with Galaxy Zoo and now hosts more than 50 active “people-powered” projects across a variety of scientific disciplines. After going through a short exercise to learn what they’re looking for, users will view scanned pages from the journals of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) dating from the 19th century to the mid-1990s, when the Society began publishing electronically. Volunteers’ first task will be to determine what types of images the pages contain: photos of celestial objects with (or without) sky coordinates? maps of planetary surfaces with (or without) grids of latitude and longitude? graphs or other types of diagrams?

    The images of most interest are ones whose scale, orientation, and sky position can be nailed down by some combination of labels on or around the images plus details provided in the text or captions. Pictures that lack such information but clearly show recognizable stars, galaxies, or other celestial objects will be sent to Astrometry.net, an automated online service that compares astrophotos to star catalogs to determine what areas of sky they show.

    Modern electronic astronomical images often include information about where they fit on the sky, along with which telescope and camera were used and many other details. But such “metadata” are useful to researchers only if the original image files are published along with the journal articles in which they’re analyzed and interpreted. This isn’t always the case — though it’s becoming more common with encouragement by the AAS — so some electronic journal pages will eventually be run through Astronomy Rewind and Astrometry.net too.

    Thanks to these human-assisted and automated efforts, many thousands of “new old” images will ultimately end up in NASA’s and others’ data repositories alongside pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. They will also be incorporated into the Astronomy Image Explorer, a service of the AAS and its journal-publishing partner, the UK Institute of Physics (IOP) Publishing, and viewable in WorldWide Telescope, a powerful data-visualization tool and digital sky atlas originally developed by Microsoft Research and now managed by the AAS.

    The scans of pages from the AAS journals — the Astronomical Journal (AJ), Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), ApJ Letters, and the ApJ Supplement Series — are being provided by the Astrophysics Data System (ADS), a NASA-funded bibliographic service and archive at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), part of the CfA.

    Astronomy Rewind is built on a foundation laid by the ADS All-Sky Survey, an earlier effort to extract scientifically valuable images from old astronomy papers using computers. “It turns out that machines aren’t very good at recognizing celestial images on digitized pages that contain a mixture of text and graphics,” says Alberto Accomazzi (SAO/ADS). “And they really get confused with multiple images of the sky on the same page. Humans do much better.”

    Accomazzi’s CfA colleague Goodman, who runs a collaboration called Seamless Astronomy to develop, refine, and share tools that accelerate the pace of astronomical research, helped bring ADS and Zooniverse together. According to Zooniverse co-investigator Laura Trouille (Adler Planetarium), 1.6 million volunteers have made about 4 billion image classifications or other contributions using the platform over the last 10 years. “This isn’t just busywork,” says Trouille. “Zooniverse projects have led to many surprising discoveries and to more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications.”

    If Astronomy Rewind attracts volunteers in numbers comparable to other astronomy projects on Zooniverse, Trouille estimates that at least 1,000 journal pages will be processed daily. Each page will be examined by five different citizen scientists; the more of them agree on what a given page shows, the higher the confidence that they’re right. It shouldn’t take more than a few months to get through the initial batch of pages from the AAS journals and move most of them on to the next stage, where the celestial scenes they contain will be annotated with essential information, extracted into digital images, mapped onto the sky, and made available to anyone who wants access to them.

    “You simply couldn’t do a project like this in any reasonable amount of time without ‘crowdsourcing,'” says Julie Steffen, AAS Director of Publishing. “Astronomy Rewind will breathe new life into old journal articles and put long-lost images of the night sky back into circulation, and that’s exciting. But what’s more exciting is what happens when a volunteer on Zooniverse looks at one of our journal pages and goes, ‘Hmm, that’s odd!’ That’ll be the first step toward learning something new about the universe.”

    This video provides a quick demonstration of the value of placing “antique” astronomy images back on the sky in WorldWide Telescope through the project called Astronomy Rewind.

    Astronomy Rewind and its partners and precursors have received funding from NASA’s Astrophysics Data Analysis Program, Microsoft Research, Astrometry.net, Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS), IOP Publishing, and the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

    The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 8,000) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

    IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. Beyond IOP’s core journals program of more than 70 publications, high-value scientific information is made easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, open-access conference proceedings, and a multitude of electronic services. The company is focused on making the most of new technologies and continually improving electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best. IOP Publishing is part of the Institute of Physics (IOP), a leading scientific society with more than 50,000 international members. The Institute aims to advance physics for the benefit of all by working to advance physics research, application, and education; and engaging with policymakers and the public to develop awareness and understanding of physics. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of the Institute.

    Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers — hundreds of thousands of people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Its goal is to enable research that would not otherwise be possible or practical. Zooniverse research results in new discoveries, datasets useful to the wider research community, and many refereed publications.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

  • richardmitnick 2:04 pm on March 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Citizen Science, , Major French Bank Now Supporting Humanitarian Research Through World Community Grid, SILCA,   

    From WCG via HPC Wire: “Major French Bank Now Supporting Humanitarian Research Through World Community Grid” 

    New WCG Logo


    World Community Grid (WCG)


    HPC Wire

    March 10, 2017
    No writer credit

    SILCA, the information technology and services arm for Crédit Agricole Group, has formally signed on to donate its surplus computer processing power to IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) World Community Grid in support of humanitarian research.

    In just its first month of participation, after installing the World Community Grid app on 1,100 employee workstations, it contributed the equivalent of three years of computing time to scientific research.

    World Community Grid is an IBM-funded and managed program that advances scientific research by harnessing computing power “donated” by volunteers around the globe. This resource is the equivalent of a virtual supercomputer that helps enable scientists to more quickly conduct millions of virtual experiments. These experiments aim to pinpoint promising drug candidates for further study.

    SILCA, which ensures the security and digital transformation of Crédit Agricole Group, first proposed this project at Crédit Agricole Group’s “Innovation Day” event, and won the company’s top award, chosen from among 60 initiatives described by the bank’s subsidiaries. Thanks to this project, SILCA will contribute to significant research studies in many areas, including Zika, tuberculosis, AIDS, Ebola, cancer and clean energy.

    For Philippe Mangematin, in charge of innovation development at SILCA, its participation is “a powerful message for Crédit Agricole to send about its commitment to a social responsibility agenda.”

    To date, World Community Grid has connected researchers to half a billion U.S. dollars’ worth of free supercomputing power. This resource to accelerate scientific discovery, partially hosted in IBM’s cloud, has been fueled by 720,000 individuals and 440 institutions from 80 countries who have donated more than 1 million years of computing time on more than 3 million desktops, laptops, and Android mobile devices. Their participation has helped identify potential treatments for childhood cancer, more efficient solar cells, and more efficient water filtration materials.

    World Community Grid is enabled by Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), an open source software platform developed at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Join World Community Grid today to enable your computer or Android device for a humanitarian project.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”
    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper



    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

    Please visit the project pages-

    FightAIDS@home Phase II

    FAAH Phase II

    Rutgers Open Zika

    Help Stop TB
    WCG Help Stop TB
    Outsmart Ebola together

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Mapping Cancer Markers

    Uncovering Genome Mysteries
    Uncovering Genome Mysteries

    Say No to Schistosoma

    GO Fight Against Malaria

    Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

    Computing for Clean Water

    The Clean Energy Project

    Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

    Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

    Help Fight Childhood Cancer

    Help Conquer Cancer

    Human Proteome Folding




    World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
    IBM Corporation

    IBM – Smarter Planet

  • richardmitnick 1:41 pm on February 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Citizen Science,   

    From CfA: “Astronomers Propose a Cell Phone Search for Galactic Fast Radio Bursts” 

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Center For Astrophysics

    February 14, 2017
    Christine Pulliam
    Media Relations Manager
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


    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.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA
    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    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.

    “The search for nearby fast radio bursts offers an opportunity for citizen scientists to help astronomers find and study one of the newest species in the galactic zoo,” says theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

    Previous FRBs were detected at radio frequencies that match those used by cell phones, Wi-Fi, and similar devices. Consumers could potentially download a free smartphone app that would run in the background, monitoring appropriate frequencies and sending the data to a central processing facility.

    “An FRB in the Milky Way, essentially in our own back yard, would wash over the entire planet at once. If thousands of cell phones picked up a radio blip at nearly the same time, that would be a good sign that we’ve found a real event,” explains lead author Dan Maoz of Tel Aviv University.

    Finding a Milky Way FRB might require some patience. Based on the few, more distant ones, that have been spotted so far, Maoz and Loeb estimate that a new one might pop off in the Milky Way once every 30 to 1,500 years. However, given that some FRBs are known to burst repeatedly, perhaps for decades or even centuries, there might be one alive in the Milky Way today. If so, success could become a yearly or even weekly event.

    A dedicated network of specialized detectors could be even more helpful in the search for a nearby FRB. For as little as $10 each, off-the-shelf devices that plug into the USB port of a laptop or desktop computer can be purchased. If thousands of such detectors were deployed around the world, especially in areas relatively free from Earthly radio interference, then finding a close FRB might just be a matter of time.

    This work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available online.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

  • richardmitnick 1:11 pm on October 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Citizen Science, , ,   

    From Symmetry: “Citizen scientists join search for gravitational waves” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Amanda Solliday

    Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    A new project pairs volunteers and machine learning to sort through data from LIGO.

    Barbara Téglás was looking to try something different while on a break from her biotechnology work.

    So she joined Zooniverse, a website dedicated to citizen science projects, and began to hunt pulsars and classify cyclones from her home computer.

    “It’s a great thing that scientists share data and others can analyze it and participate,” Téglás says. “The project helps me stay connected with science in other fields, from anywhere.”

    In April, at her home in the Caribbean Islands, Téglás saw a request for volunteers to help with a new gravitational-wave project called Gravity Spy. Inspired by the discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, she signed up the same day.

    LSC LIGO Scientific Collaboration
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    “To be a complete outsider and have the opportunity to contribute to an astrophysics project such as LIGO, it’s extraordinary,” Téglás says.

    Tuning out the noise

    It took a century after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves—or ripples in space-time—for scientists to build an instrument sophisticated enough to see them. LIGO observed these ripples for the first (and second) time, using two L-shaped detectors called interferometers designed to measure infinitesimal changes in distance. These changes were generated by two black holes that collided a billion years in the past, giving off gravitational waves that eventually passed through Earth. As they traveled through our planet, these gravitational waves stretched and shrank the 4-kilometer arms of the detectors.

    The LIGO detectors can measure a change in distance about 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a proton. Because the instruments are so sensitive, this also makes them prone to capturing other vibrations, such as earthquakes or heavy vehicles driving near the detectors. Equipment fluctuations can also create noise.

    The noise, also called a glitch, can move the arms of the detector and potentially mimic an astrophysical signal.

    The two detectors are located nearly 2000 miles apart, one in Louisiana and the other in Washington state. Gravitational waves from astrophysical events will hit both detectors at nearly the same time, since gravitational waves travel straight through Earth at the speed of light. However, the distance between the two makes it unlikely that other types of vibrations will be felt simultaneously.

    “But that’s really not enough,” says Mike Zevin, a physics and astronomy graduate student at Northwestern University and a member of the Gravity Spy science team. “Glitches happen often enough that similar vibrations can appear in both detectors at nearly the same time. The glitches can tarnish the data and make it unusable.”

    Gravity Spy enlists the help of volunteers to analyze noise that appears in LIGO detectors.

    This information is converted to an image called spectrogram, and the patterns show the time and frequencies of the noise. Shifts in blue, green and yellow indicate the loudness of the glitch, or how much the noise moved the arms of the detector. The glitches show up frequently in the large amount of information generated by the detectors.

    “Some of these glitches in the spectrograms are easily identified by computers, while others aren’t,” Zevin says. “Humans are actually better at spotting new patterns in the images.”

    The Gravity Spy volunteers are tasked with labeling these hard-to-identify categories of glitches. In addition, the information is used to create training sets for computer algorithms.

    As the training sets grow larger, the computers become better at classifying glitches. That can help scientists eliminate the noise from the detectors or find ways to account for glitches as they look at the data.

    “One of our goals is to create a new way of doing citizen science that scales with the big-data era we live in now,” Zevin says.

    Gravity Spy is a collaboration between Adler Planetarium, California State University-Fullerton, Northwestern University, Syracuse University, University of Alabama at Huntsville, and Zooniverse. The project is supported by an interdisciplinary grant from the National Science Foundation.

    About 1400 people volunteered for initial tests of Gravity Spy. Once the beta testing of Gravity Spy is complete, the volunteers will look at new images created when LIGO begins to collect data during its second observing run.

    Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    A human endeavor

    The project also provides an avenue for human-computer interaction research.

    Another goal for Gravity Spy is to learn the best ways to keep citizen scientists motivated while looking at immense data sets, says Carsten Oesterlund, information studies professor at Syracuse University and member of the Gravity Spy research team.

    “What is really exciting from our perspective is that we can look at how human learning and machine learning can go hand-in-hand,” Oesterlund says. “While the humans are training the machines, how can we organize the task to also facilitate human learning? We don’t want them simply looking at image after image. We want developmental opportunities for the volunteers.”

    The researchers are examining how to encourage the citizen scientists to collaborate as a team. They also want to support new discoveries, or make it easier for people to find unique sets of glitches.

    One test involves incentives—in an earlier study, the computing researchers found if a volunteer knows that they are the first to classify an image, they go on to classify more images.

    “We’ve found that the sense of novelty is actually quite motivating,” says Kevin Crowston, a member of the Gravity Spy science team and associate dean for research at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.

    Almost every day, Téglás works on the Gravity Spy project. When she has spare time, she sits down at her computer and looks at glitches. Since April, she’s classified nearly 15,000 glitches and assisted other volunteers with hundreds of additional images through talk forums on Zooniverse.

    She’s pleased that her professional skills developed while inspecting genetics data can also help many citizen science projects.

    On her first day with Gravity Spy, Téglás helped identify a new type of glitch. Later, she classified another unique glitch called “paired doves” after its repeating, chirp-like patterns, which closely mimic the signal created by binary black holes. She’s also found several new variations of known glitches. Her work is recognized in LIGO’s log, and the newly found glitches are now part of the official workflow for the experiment.

    Different experiences, backgrounds and ways of thinking can make citizen science projects stronger, she says.

    “For this project, you’re not only using your eyes,” Téglás says. “It’s also an opportunity to understand an important experiment in modern science.”

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 11:43 am on August 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science,   

    From The Conversation: “Expanding citizen science models to enhance open innovation” 

    The Conversation

    August 3, 2016
    Kendra L. Smith

    Over the years, citizen scientists have provided vital data and contributed in invaluable ways to various scientific quests. But they’re typically relegated to helping traditional scientists complete tasks the pros don’t have the time or resources to deal with on their own. Citizens are asked to count wildlife, for instance, or classify photos that are of interest to the lead researchers.

    This type of top-down engagement has consigned citizen science to the fringes, where it fills a manpower gap but not much more. As a result, its full value has not been realized. Marginalizing the citizen scientists and their potential contribution is a grave mistake – it limits how far we can go in science and the speed and scope of discovery.

    Instead, by harnessing globalization’s increased interconnectivity, citizen science should become an integral part of open innovation. Science agendas can be set by citizens, data can be open, and open-source software and hardware can be shared to assist in the scientific process. And as the model proves itself, it can be expanded even further, into nonscience realms.

    Since 1900 the Audubon Society has sponsored its annual Christmas Bird Count, which relies on amateur volunteers nationwide. USFWS Mountain-Prairie, CC BY

    Some major citizen science successes

    Citizen-powered science has been around for over 100 years, utilizing the collective brainpower of regular, everyday people to collect, observe, input, identify and crossmatch data that contribute to and expand scientific discovery. And there have been some marked successes.

    eBird allows scores of citizen scientists to record bird abundance via field observation; those data have contributed to over 90 peer-reviewed research articles. Did You Feel It? crowdsources information from people around that world who have experienced an earthquake. Snapshot Serengeti uses volunteers to identify, classify and catalog photos taken daily in this African ecosystem.

    FoldIt is an online game where players are tasked with using the tools provided to virtually fold protein structures. The goal is to help scientists figure out if these structures can be used in medical applications. A set of users determined the crystal structure of an enzyme involved in the monkey version of AIDS in just three weeks – a problem that had previously gone unsolved for 15 years.

    Galaxy Zoo is perhaps the most well-known online citizen science project. It uploads images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey [SDSS] and allows users to assist with the morphological classification of galaxies. The citizen astronomers discovered an entirely new class of galaxy – “green pea” galaxies – that have gone on to be the subject of over 20 academic articles.

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point, NM, USA
    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point, NM, USA

    These are all notable successes, with citizens contributing to the projects set out by professional scientists. But there’s so much more potential in the model. What does the next generation of citizen science look like?

    People can contribute to crowdsourced projects from just about anywhere. Nazareth College, CC BY

    Open innovation could advance citizen science

    The time is right for citizen science to join forces with open innovation. This is a concept that describes partnering with other people and sharing ideas to come up with something new. The assumption is that more can be achieved when boundaries are lowered and resources – including ideas, data, designs and software and hardware – are opened and made freely available.

    Open innovation is collaborative, distributed, cumulative and it develops over time. Citizen science can be a critical element here because its professional-amateurs can become another significant source of data, standards and best practices that could further the work of scientific and lay communities.

    Globalization has spurred on this trend through the ubiquity of internet and wireless connections, affordable devices to collect data (such as cameras, smartphones, smart sensors, wearable technologies), and the ability to easily connect with others. Increased access to people, information and ideas points the way to unlock new synergies, new relationships and new forms of collaboration that transcend boundaries. And individuals can focus their attention and spend their time on anything they want.

    We are seeing this emerge in what has been termed the “solution economy” – where citizens find fixes to challenges that are traditionally managed by government.

    Consider the issue of accessibility. Passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act aimed to improve accessibility issues in the U.S. But more than two decades later, individuals with disabilities are still dealing with substantial mobility issues in public spaces – due to street conditions, cracked or nonexistent sidewalks, missing curb cuts, obstructions or only portions of a building being accessible. These all can create physical and emotional challenges for the disabled.

    To help deal with this issue, several individual solution seekers have merged citizen science, open innovation and open sourcing to create mobile and web applications that provide information about navigating city streets. For instance, Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker with multiple sclerosis, developed AXS Map – a free online and mobile app powered by Google Places API. It crowdsources information from people across the country about wheelchair accessibility in cities nationwide.

    Broadening the model

    There’s no reason the diffuse resources and open process of the citizen scientist model need be applied only to science questions.

    For instance, Science Gossip is a Zooniverse citizen science project. It’s rooted in Victorian-era natural history – the period considered to be the dawn of modern science – but it crosses disciplinary boundaries. At the time, scientific information was produced everywhere and recorded in letters, books, newspapers and periodicals (it was also the beginning of mass printing). Science Gossip allows citizen scientists to pore through pages of Victorian natural history periodicals. The site prompts them with questions meant to ensure continuity with other user entries.

    The final product is digitized data based on the 140,000 pages of 19th-century periodicals. Anyone can access it on Biodiversity Heritage Library easily and for free. This work has obvious benefits for natural history researchers but it also can be used by art enthusiasts, ethnographers, biographers, historians, rhetoricians, or authors of historical fiction or filmmakers of period pieces who seek to create accurate settings. The collection possesses value that goes beyond scientific data and becomes critical to understanding the period in which data was collected.

    It’s also possible to imagine flipping the citizen science script, with the citizens themselves calling the shots about what they want to see investigated. Implementing this version of citizen science in disenfranchised communities could be a means of access and empowerment. Imagine Flint, Michigan residents directing expert researchers on studies of their drinking water.

    Or consider the aim of many localities to become so-called smart cities – connected cities that integrate information and communication technologies to improve the quality of life for residents as well as manage the city’s assets. Citizen science could have a direct impact on community engagement and urban planning via data consumption and analysis, feedback loops and project testing. Or residents can even collect data on topics important to local government. With technology and open innovation, much of this is practical and possible.

    What stands in the way?

    Perhaps the most pressing limitation of scaling up the citizen science model is issues with reliability. While many of these projects have been proven reliable, others have fallen short.

    For instance, crowdsourced damage assessments from satellite images following 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines faced challenges. But according to aid agencies, remote damage assessments by citizen scientists had a devastatingly low accuracy of 36 percent. They overrepresented “destroyed” structures by 134 percent.

    Crowds can’t reliably rate typhoon damage like this without adequate training. Bronze Yu, CC BY-NC-ND

    Reliability problems often stem from a lack of training, coordination and standardization in platforms and data collection. It turned out in the case of Typhoon Haiyan the satellite imagery did not provide enough detail or high enough resolution for contributors to accurately classify buildings. Further, volunteers weren’t given proper guidance on making accurate assessments. There also were no standardized validation review procedures for contributor data.

    Another challenge for open source innovation is organizing and standardizing data in a way that would be useful to others. Understandably, we collect data to fit our own needs – there isn’t anything wrong with that. However, those in charge of databases need to commit to data collection and curation standards so anyone may use the data with complete understanding of why, by whom and when they were collected.

    Finally, deciding to open data – making it freely available for anyone to use and republish – is critical. There’s been a strong, popular push for government to open data of late but it isn’t done widely or well enough to have widespread impact. Further, the opening of of nonproprietary data from nongovernment entities – nonprofits, universities, businesses – is lacking. If they are in a position to, organizations and individuals should seek to open their data to spur innovation ecosystems in the future.

    Citizen science has proven itself in some fields and has the potential to expand to others as organizers leverage the effects of globalization to enhance innovation. To do so, we must keep an eye on citizen science reliability, open data whenever possible, and constantly seek to expand the model to new disciplines and communities.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

  • richardmitnick 4:50 pm on July 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science, , ,   

    From APS News: “Citizen Science Project Gravity Spy Undergoes Testing” 


    American Physical Society

    June 29, 2016
    Rachel Gaal

    LIGO team recruits public to help with gravitational wave data analysis

    Gravity SpyImage. Gravityspy.org

    In the wake of LIGO’s second black hole merger observation, scientists are hopeful of the future possibilities for gravitational wave detection. To ease the chore of sifting the data, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) is turning to their followers to test out an upcoming project that will help the LIGO team improve their search for gravitational waves.

    A project aimed at identifying glitches in LIGO data, Gravity Spy combines human collaboration and automated processing to improve the classification abilities of computers designed to filter out erroneous data. With help from volunteers, the Gravity Spy team hopes to increase public engagement with science and to provide training to both citizens and their machine learning algorithms.

    This image shows a particular kind of glitch common in LIGO data called a “whistle.” In this case, the origin of the glitch is known to be part of the electronic control systems. Features like this in the data can fool astrophysics search codes. The Gravity Spy project will help discover and classify glitches, and help make our computer search algorithms more adept at recognizing them in the data.

    The classification of glitches, which is done manually by volunteers and vetted by the Gravity Spy team, helps the algorithms preform the same cataloging on larger datasets and provides researchers the ability to define and discard sources of noise, increasing LIGO’s detection sensitivity.

    The Gravity Spy team, representing multiple institutions and researchers, runs the project through Zooniverse — an online platform that hosts popular citizen-science projects in multiple disciplines. LIGO researchers within The Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astronomy (CIERA) at Northwestern University, LIGO Researchers at Caltech, machine learning researchers at Northwestern University, and crowd-sourced researchers at Syracuse make up the main team players.

    Gravity Spy is now in beta testing and accepting open feedback from the public. Visit gravityspy.org to learn more and participate.

    Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration & Research in Astrophysics

    Northwestern U bloc

    Gravity Spy Project

    Gravity Spy is an NSF-funded interdisciplinary project incorporating citizen science, machine learning, social science, and aLIGO detector characterization
    One major issue afflicting aLIGO’s ability to detect gravitational waves is poorly-modeled noise known as “glitches”
    Gravity Spy will aid in the classification and characterization of glitches by combining human intuition and pattern recognition with the power of computers to process large amounts of data systematically
    Zooniverse Project volunteers will morphologically classify glitches from the LIGO data stream, which are used to train machine learning algorithms for further classification
    In addition to the characterization and elimination of problematic noise in the aLIGO data stream, Gravity Spy promotes gravitational wave science and involves the lay public in scientific progress


    Adler Planetarium

    Cal State Fullerton

    Syracuse University

    University of Alabama Huntsville


    Vicky Kalogera, Northwestern University
    Kevin Crowston, Syracuse University
    Shane Larson, Northwestern University, Adler Planetarium
    Josh Smith, California State University – Fullerton
    Laura Trouille, Adler Planetarium, Zooniverse
    Northwestern University
    Sara Bahaadini
    Emre Besler
    Scotty Coughlin
    Vicky Kalogera
    Aggelos Katsaggelos
    Shane Larson
    Avery Miller
    Brandon Miller
    Ben Nelson
    Neda Rohani
    Laura Sampson
    Mike Zevin

    Adler Planetarium
    Shane Larson
    Laura Trouille
    California State University – Fullerton
    Josh Smith
    Syracuse University
    Kevin Crowston
    Tae Lee
    Carsten Osterlund
    University of Alabama at Huntsville
    Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research
    Tyson Littenberg
    Sarah Allen
    Laura Trouille

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    American Physical Society
    Physicists are drowning in a flood of research papers in their own fields and coping with an even larger deluge in other areas of physics. How can an active researcher stay informed about the most important developments in physics? Physics highlights a selection of papers from the Physical Review journals. In consultation with expert scientists, the editors choose these papers for their importance and/or intrinsic interest. To highlight these papers, Physics features three kinds of articles: Viewpoints are commentaries written by active researchers, who are asked to explain the results to physicists in other subfields. Focus stories are written by professional science writers in a journalistic style and are intended to be accessible to students and non-experts. Synopses are brief editor-written summaries.

  • richardmitnick 4:39 pm on January 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science,   

    From World Community Grid: “New and improved sign-up page leads to 25 percent increase in registration rate” 

    New WCG Logo

    13 Jan 2016
    No writer credit found

    World Community Grid volunteers asked us to better explain the power and potential of volunteer computing, so that they could more easily recruit their family and friends. We listened, and our new sign-up page has already increased the registration rate by 25 percent.

    There’s a new way for World Community Grid volunteers to explain their work and help new members sign up.

    Temp 1

    Temp 2

    Temp 3

    In our 2013 member study, many volunteers told us that they’re eager to share World Community Grid with friends and family, but had difficulty getting them to join. Many volunteers felt that new recruits had to be relatively tech-savvy to understand World Community Grid and navigate the sign-up process. To improve the sign-up experience, we worked with designers and user experience (UX) experts, rethinking the experience of learning about and joining World Community Grid from the point of view of someone who is completely unfamiliar with the program.

    After extensive testing and refinement, we launched a new web experience to explain what World Community Grid is, how it works, and the scientific impact of volunteer computing. The new web page also guides people through the sign-up process in a simple and clear way. During the month of December, we compared the performance of the new web page to the performance of World Community Grid’s home page. The registration rate of the new page was 25 percent higher, suggesting that this new approach to registration may resonate with greater numbers of potential volunteers in the future.

    Volunteers are the heart of World Community Grid. Your dedication is essential, and you’ve done so much to help build the community – now it’s easier for you to help it grow! So be sure to use your personal recruitment link [shown below, visit the article to get it.] to share the new web experience today.

    Temp 4

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”

    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper


    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

    Please visit the project pages-
    Outsmart Ebola together

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Mapping Cancer Markers

    Uncovering Genome Mysteries
    Uncovering Genome Mysteries

    Say No to Schistosoma

    GO Fight Against Malaria

    Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

    Computing for Clean Water

    The Clean Energy Project

    Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

    Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

    Help Fight Childhood Cancer

    Help Conquer Cancer

    Human Proteome Folding


    World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
    IBM Corporation

    IBM – Smarter Planet

  • richardmitnick 12:42 pm on January 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science,   

    From Kavli: “Crowdsourcing the Universe: How Citizen Scientists are Driving Discovery” 


    The Kavli Foundation

    Winter 2016
    Adam Hadhazy

    Legions of volunteer, amateur astronomers are turning their eyes to the sky thanks to online image portals and doing extraordinary science.

    ASTRONOMERS ARE INCREASINGLY enlisting volunteer “citizen scientists” to help them examine a seemingly endless stream of images and measurements of the universe. These volunteers’ combined efforts are having a powerful impact on the study of the cosmos.

    A collage of the 29 new gravitational lensing candidates discovered by citizen scientists using Space Warps. (Credit: Space Warps, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey)

    Just last November, a citizen science project called Space Warps announced the discovery of 29 new gravitational lenses, regions in the universe where massive objects bend the paths of photons (from galaxies and other light sources) as they travel toward Earth. As cosmic phenomena go, the lenses are highly prized by scientists because they offer tantalizing glimpses of objects too distant, and dim, to be seen through existing telescopes, as well as key information on the lensing objects themselves.

    The Space Warps’ haul of lenses is all the more impressive because of how it was obtained. During an eight-month period, about 37,000 volunteers combed through more than 430,000 digital images in a huge, online photo library of deep space. Automated computer programs have identified most of the 500 gravitational lenses on astronomer’s books. However, computers failed to flag the 29 lenses the Space Warps volunteers spotted, speaking to unique skills we humans possess.

    The Kavli Foundation spoke with three researchers, all co-authors of two papers published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society describing the Space Warps findings. In our roundtable, the researchers discussed the findings and the critical role citizen science is playing in furthering astronomical discovery.

    The participants were:

    Anupreeta More – is a project researcher at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) at the University of Tokyo. More is a co-principal investigator for Space Warps, a citizen project dedicated to identifying gravitational lenses.
    Aprajita Verma – is a senior researcher in the department of physics at the University of Oxford. Verma is also a co-principal investigator for Space Warps.
    Chris Lintott – is a professor of astrophysics and the citizen science lead at the University of Oxford. Lintott is a co-founder of Galaxy Zoo, a citizen science project in which volunteers classify types of galaxies, and the principal investigator for the Zooniverse citizen science web portal.

    The following is an edited transcript of the roundtable discussion. The participants have been provided the opportunity to amend or edit their remarks.

    The Kavli Foundation: Anupreeta and Aprajita, where did you get the idea — along with your co-principal investigator Phil Marshall of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University — to put volunteers to work on identifying gravitational lenses starting back in 2013?

    ANUPREETA MORE: A few years ago, Chris Lintott gave a talk on citizen science at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics in Chicago, where I was working at the time. It got me thinking about a lens search by citizen scientists.

    APRAJITA VERMA: For Phil Marshall and I, Space Warps grew out of Galaxy Zoo. Soon after Galaxy Zoo launched, I started to look at some of the galaxies that were being posted on the Galaxy Zoo user forum that had potential lensed features surrounding them. This was a great by product of the core Galaxy Zoo project. However, we realized that to find these incredibly rare sources, which are often confused with other objects, we really needed a tailored interface to efficiently find lenses. This grew into Space Warps.

    TKF: Chris, Galaxy Zoo itself was inspired by Stardust@home [a project running on BOINC software from UC Berkeley], the first astronomy-based citizen science project in which people played an active role. Until then, citizen scientists were often computer owners who offered up free processing power on their devices to aid in machine-driven data analysis. Were you concerned when you started Galaxy Zoo in 2007 that it would be hard to attract volunteers?

    CHRIS LINTOTT: Since Stardust@home involved people looking at images of a comet’s dust grains brought back by NASA’s Stardust space probe, we thought “Well, if people are willing to look at dust grains, then surely they’d be happy to look at our galaxies!”

    NASA Stardust spacecraft

    But that turned out to be almost beside the point. As we’ve done many of these citizen science projects over the years, we’ve discovered it’s not the quality of the images that matter. After all, our galaxies aren’t typically beautiful. They are not the Hubble Space Telescope shots that you’d expect to find on the front page of the New York Times.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Our galaxies are often fuzzy, little, enigmatic blobs. The Space Warps images are pretty, but again they’re not the kind of thing you would sell as a poster in the gift shop at the Kennedy Space Center.

    It’s actually the ideas that get people excited. I think Space Warps and Galaxy Zoo have been successful because they have done a great job of explaining to people why we need their help. We’re saying to them: “Look, if you do this simple task, it allows us to do science.” This idea is best shown by Planet Hunters, a citizen science project that searches for exoplanets in data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

    NASA Kepler Telescope

    Users are looking at graphs for fun. But because the idea is the discovery of exoplanets, people will put up with looking at data.

    TKF: What sort of unique science is made possible because of Space Warps?

    VERMA: Gravitational lenses allow us to look at objects, such as very distant galaxies, that are fainter and in much more detail than with the telescopes we have now. It’s enabling the kind of science we’ll be routinely doing with extremely large telescopes in the future.

    MORE: That’s right. Something unique about gravitational lensing is that it acts like a natural telescope and allows us to study some really faint, distant galaxies which we wouldn’t get to study otherwise. We’re seeing these distant galaxies in the early stages of their life cycle, which helps us understand how galaxies evolve over time.

    Also, in a gravitational lens system, it’s possible for us to study the properties of the foreground galaxies or galaxy groups that are gravitationally lensing the background sources. For example, we can measure the mass of these foreground galaxies and also study how mass is distributed in them.

    Anupreeta More’s research specialty is gravitational lensing and its applications in measuring the mass distributions of matter and dark matter in galaxies, galaxy clusters and the universe as a whole. (Credit: Anupreeta More)

    TKF: Space Warps and other citizen science projects flourish because computer programs sometimes struggle at identifying features in data. Why do computers have trouble spotting the characteristic arc or blobby shapes of gravitational lenses that humans can?

    MORE: The problem is that these arc-like images of distant galaxies can have very different shapes and profiles. The process of lensing magnifies these galaxies’ images and can distort them. Also, these distant galaxies emit light at different wavelengths and can appear to have different colors. Furthermore, there are structures in these galaxies that can change the shape of the arcs.

    VERMA: Also, lots of spiral galaxies have bluish spiral arms that can look like lenses. We call these objects “lens impostors” and we find many more of these false positives compared to rare, true gravitational lenses.

    MORE: All these differences make it difficult to automate the process for finding lenses. But human beings are very good at pattern recognition. The dynamic range that our eyes and our brains offer is much greater than a computer algorithm.

    LINTOTT: Another thing to bear in mind in astronomy, particularly in Space Warps, is that we’re often looking for rare objects. A computer’s performance depends very strongly on how many examples you have to “train” it with. When you’re dealing with rare things, that’s often very difficult to do. We can’t assemble large collections of hundreds of thousands of examples of gravitational lenses because we don’t have them yet.

    Also, people — unlike computers — check beyond what we are telling them to look for when they review images. One of the great Space Warps examples is the discovery of a “red ring” gravitational lens. All the example lenses on the Space Warps site are blue in color. But because we have human classifiers, they had no trouble noticing this red thing that looks a little like these blue things they’ve been taught to keep an eye out for. Humans have an ability to make intuitive leaps like that, and that’s very important.

    VERMA: I echo the point that it’s very difficult to program diversity and adaptability into any computer algorithm, whereas we kind of get it for free from the citizen scientists! [Laughter]

    Aprajita Verma researches galaxy formation and evolution, and is particularly interested in understanding the nature of galaxies at high redshift. She is also involved with two major next generation astronomy telescopes, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). (Credit: Aprajita Verma)

    ESO E-ELT Interior

    LSST Exterior
    LSST Interior
    LSST Camera
    LSST, building which will house it in Chile, and the camera, being built at SLAC

    KF: Aprajita and Anupreeta, what’s the importance of the red ring object Chris just mentioned that the Space Warps community discovered in 2014 and has nicknamed 9io9?

    VERMA: This object was a really exciting find, and it’s a classic example of something we hadn’t seen before that citizen scientists quickly found. We think that inside the background galaxy there’s both an active black hole, which is producing radio wave emissions, as well as regions of star-formation. They’re both stretched by the lensing into these spectacular arcs. It’s just a really nice example of what lensing can do. We’re still putting in further observations to try and really understand what this object is like.

    MORE: In this particular case with 9io9, there is the usual, main lensing galaxy, but then there is also another, small, satellite galaxy, whose mass and gravity are also contributing to the lensing. The satellite galaxy produces visible effects on the lensed images and we can use this to study its mass distribution. There are no other methods besides gravitational lensing which can provide as accurate a mass estimate for galaxies at such great distances.

    TKF: Besides 9io9, citizen astrophysicists have turned up other bizarre, previously unknown phenomena. One example is Hanny’s Voorwerp, a galaxy-size gas cloud discovered in 2007 in Galaxy Zoo. More recently, in 2015, Planet Hunters spotted huge decreases in the starlight coming from a star called KIC 8462. The cause could be an eclipsing swarm of comets; another, albeit unlikely, possibility that has set off rampant speculation on the Internet is that an alien megastructure is blocking light from the star. Why does citizen science seemingly work so well at making completely unexpected discoveries?

    LINTOTT: I often talk about the human ability to be distracted as a good thing. If we’re doing a routine task and something unusual comes along, we stop to pay attention to it. That’s rather hard to develop with automated computer systems. They can look for anomalies, but in astronomy, most anomalies are boring, such as satellites crossing in front of the telescope, or the telescope’s camera malfunctions.

    However, humans are really good at spotting interesting anomalies like Hanny’s Voorwerp, which looks like either an amorphous green blob or an evil Kermit the Frog, depending on how you squint at it. [Laughter] The point is, it’s something you want to pay attention to.

    The other great thing about citizen science is that the volunteers who find these unusual things start to investigate and become advocates for them. Citizen scientists will jump up and down and tell us professional scientists we should pay attention to something. The great Zooniverse discoveries have always been from that combination of somebody who’s distracted and then asks questions about what he or she has found.

    TKF: Aprajita and Chris, you are both working on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). It will conduct the largest-ever scan of the sky starting in 2022 and should turn up tons of new gravitational lenses. Do you envision a Space Warps-style citizen science project for LSST?

    VERMA: Citizens will play a huge role in the LSST, which is a game-changer for lensing. We know of about 500 lenses currently. LSST will find on the order of tens to hundreds of thousands of lenses. We will potentially require the skill that citizen scientists have in looking for exotic and challenging objects.

    Also, LSST’s dataset will have a time dimension. We’re really going to make a movie of the universe, and this will turn up a number of surprises. I can see citizen scientists being instrumental in a lot of the discoveries LSST will make.

    LINTOTT: One thing that’s challenging about LSST is the sheer size of the dataset. If you were a citizen scientist, say, who had subscribed to receive text message alerts for when objects change in the sky as LSST makes its movie of the universe, then you would end up with a couple of billion text messages a night. Obviously that would not work. So that means we need to filter the data. We’ll dynamically decide whether to assign a task to a machine or to a citizen scientist, or indeed to a professional scientist.

    Chris Lintott develops a range of citizen science projects, with a particular focus on galaxy formation. (Credit: Chris Lintott)

    TKF: Chris, that comment reminds me of something you said to TIME magazine in 2008: “In many parts of science, we’re not constrained by what data we can get, we’re constrained by what we can do with the data we have. Citizen science is a very powerful way of solving that problem.” In this era of big data, how important do you all see citizen science being moving forward, given that computers will surely get better at visual recognition tasks?

    LINTOTT: In astronomy, if you’re looking at things that are routine, like a spiral galaxy or a common type of supernova, I think the machines will take over. They will do so having been trained on the large datasets that citizen scientists will provide. But I think there will be citizen involvement for a long while and it will become more interesting as we use machines to do more of the routine work and filter the data. The tasks for citizen scientists will involve more varied things — more of the unusual, Hanny’s Voorwerp-type of discoveries. Plus, a lot of unusual discoveries will need to be followed up, and I’d like to see citizen scientists get further into the process of analysis. Without them, I think we’re going to end up with a pile of interesting objects which professional scientists just don’t have time to deal with.

    VERMA: We have already seen a huge commitment from citizen scientists, particularly those who’ve spent a long time on Galaxy Zoo and Space Warps. For example, on Space Warps, we have a group of people who are interested in doing gravitational lens modeling, which has long been the domain of the professional astronomer. So we know that there’s an appetite there to do further analysis with the objects they’ve found. I think in the future, the citizen science community will work hand-in-hand with professional astronomers.

    TKF: Are there new citizen astrophysicist opportunities on the horizon related to your projects?

    LINTOTT: Galaxy Zoo has a new lease on life, actually. We just added in new galaxies from a telescope in Chile. These galaxies are relatively close and their images are beautiful. It’s our first proper look at the southern sky, so we have an all-new part of the universe to explore. It gives users a chance to be the first to see galaxies — if they get over to Galaxy Zoo quickly!

    VERMA: For Space Warps, we are expecting new data and new projects to be online next year.

    MORE: Here in Japan, we are leading an imaging survey called the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) survey and it’s going to be much larger and deeper than what we have been looking at so far. We expect to find more than an order of magnitude increase in the number of lenses. Currently, we are preparing images of the candidates from the HSC survey and hope to start a new lens search with Space Warps soon.

    Arguably the most famous citizen astrophysicist discovery, Hanny’s Voorwerp—Dutch for Hanny’s Object—is seen here by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011. The Voorwerp is a gas cloud the size of galaxy and appears green due to glowing oxygen. A Dutch schoolteacher, Hanny van Arkel, spotted the object while volunteering for Galaxy Zoo. Credit: NASA, ESA, W. Keel (University of Alabama), and the Galaxy Zoo Team)

    TKF: Is it the thrill of discovery that entices most citizen scientist volunteers? Some of the images in Galaxy Zoo have never been seen before because they were taken by a robotic telescope and stored away. Volunteers therefore have the chance to see something no one else ever has.

    MORE: That discovery aspect is personal. I think it’s always exciting for anyone.

    LINTOTT: When we set up Galaxy Zoo, we thought it would be a huge motivation to see something that’s yours and be the first human to lay eyes on a galaxy. Exploring space in that way is something that until Galaxy Zoo only happened on “Star Trek.” [Laughter]

    In the years since, we’ve also come to realize that citizen science is a collective endeavor. The people who’ve been through 10,000 images without finding anything have contributed to the discovery of something like the red ring galaxy just as much as the person who happens to stumble across it. You need to get rid of the empty data as well. I’ve been surprised by how much our volunteers believe that. It’s a far cry from the traditional, public view of scientific discovery in which the lone genius makes the discovery and gets all the credit.

    VERMA: We set out with Space Warps for citizen scientists to be part of our collaboration and they’ve really enabled us to produce important findings. They’ve inspired us with their dedication and productivity. We’ve learned from our analysis that basically anyone who joins Space Warps has an impact on the results. We are also especially grateful for a very dedicated, diligent group that has made most of the lens classifications. We look forward to welcoming everyone back in our future projects!

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition
    The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.

    The Foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

  • richardmitnick 9:54 am on September 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science, ,   

    From Kavli IPMU: “Discovery of potential gravitational lenses shows citizen science value” 


    The Kavli Foundation

    Kavli IPMU
    Kavli IMPU

    September 24, 2015
    Press Contact

    Motoko Kakubayashi
    Press officer, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe
    E: press@ipmu.jp
    T: +81-4-7136-5980
    F: +81-4-7136-4941

    Research Contact

    Anupreeta More
    Project Researcher, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe
    E: anupreeta.more@ipmu.jp

    Figure 1: 29 gravitational lens candidates found through Space Warps (credit: Space Warps, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey)

    Around 37,000 citizen scientists combed through 430,000 images to help an international team of researchers to discover 29 new gravitational lens candidates through SpaceWarps, an online classification system which guides citizen scientists to become lens hunters.

    Gravitational lens systems are massive galaxies that act like special lenses through their gravity, bending the light coming from a distant galaxy in the background and distorting its image. Dark matter around these massive galaxies also contributes to this lensing effect, and so studying these gravitational lenses gives scientists a way to study this exotic matter that emits no light.

    Since gravitational lenses are rare, only about 500 of them have been discovered to date, and the universe is enormous, it made sense for researchers to call on an extra pair of eyes to help scour through the mountain of images taken from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope [CFHT] Legacy Survey (CFHTLS).

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    Details of the discoveries will be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    “Computer algorithms have been somewhat successful in identifying gravitational lenses, but they can miss lensed images that appear similar to other features commonly found in galaxies, for example the blue spiral arms of a spiral galaxy,” said Anupreeta More, co-principal investigator of Space Warps and project researcher at the University of Tokyo’s Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe.

    “All that was needed was the ability to recognise patterns of shapes and colours,” said citizen scientist and paper co-author Christine Macmillan from Scotland. “It was fascinating to look at galaxies so far away, and realize that there is another behind it, even further away, whose light gets distorted in an arc.”

    Not only did this project give the public a chance to make scientific discoveries, it also gave them a chance to develop as researchers themselves. “I benefited from this project with an increase of my knowledge and some experience on making models of lenses,” said citizen scientist and paper co-author Claude Cornen from France.

    More, and two other collaborators, Phil Marshall at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Stanford University, and Aprajita Verma at the Department of Physics, University of Oxford, are co-principal investigators of Space Warps, which taps into the unique strength of humans in analysing visual information essential for finding gravitational lenses.

    The team will now move onto studying some of the interesting gravitational lens candidates by observing them with telescopes to uncover some of the mysteries related to dark matter. They are keen to work together with more volunteers in the near future as they are preparing new images from other ongoing imaging surveys to discover many more lenses.

    Figure 2: How one galaxy’s image appears distorted due to another galaxy (credit: Kavli IPMU)

    Paper details

    Journal: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS)

    Title: Space Warps II. New Gravitational Lens Candidates from the CFHTLS Discovered through Citizen Science

    To download preprint, click here.
    Useful Links

    All images can be downloaded from this page: http://web.ipmu.jp/press/20150903-SpaceWarps

    Full list of citizens who took part: http://spacewarps.org/#/projects/CFHTLS/contributors

    To download preprint of another paper also accepted to MNRAS journal that describes the details of Space Warps, click here.

    See the full article here .

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    Kavli IPMU (Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe) is an international research institute with English as its official language. The goal of the institute is to discover the fundamental laws of nature and to understand the Universe from the synergistic perspectives of mathematics, astronomy, and theoretical and experimental physics. The Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) was established in October 2007 under the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) of the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan with the University of Tokyo as the host institution. IPMU was designated as the first research institute within the University of Tokyo Institutes for Advanced Study (UTIAS) in January 2011. It received an endowment from The Kavli Foundation and was renamed the “Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe” in April 2012. Kavli IPMU is located on the Kashiwa campus of the University of Tokyo, and more than half of its full-time scientific members come from outside Japan. http://www.ipmu.jp/

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    The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.

    The Foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

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