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

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

    AmericanPhysicalSociety

    American Physical Society

    June 29, 2016
    Rachel Gaal

    LIGO team recruits public to help with gravitational wave data analysis

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    NSF

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    Adler Planetarium

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    Cal State Fullerton

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    Syracuse University

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    University of Alabama Huntsville

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    Zooinverse

    PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR
    Vicky Kalogera, Northwestern University
    CO-INVESTIGATORS
    Kevin Crowston, Syracuse University
    Shane Larson, Northwestern University, Adler Planetarium
    Josh Smith, California State University – Fullerton
    Laura Trouille, Adler Planetarium, Zooniverse
    PROJECT MEMBERS
    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
    Zooniverse
    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

    Summary
    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.

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    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.

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    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

    CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE? YOU BET!

    “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
    mappingcancermarkers2

    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

    FightAIDS@Home

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

    IBM – Smarter Planet
    sp

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

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

    KavliFoundation

    The Kavli Foundation

    1.18.16
    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.

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    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
    NASA/Stardust

    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
    NASA/Kepler

    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.

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    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]

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    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
    ESO E-ELT Interior
    ESO/E-ELT

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    STEM Icon

    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” 

    KavliFoundation

    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

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    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).

    CFHT
    CFHT nterior
    CFHT

    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.

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    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 .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    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/

    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 7:56 am on April 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Science   

    From ANU: “Amateur stargazers find supernovas in distant galaxies” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    2 April 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1

    More than 40,000 amateur astronomers have classified two million unidentified heavenly bodies found by the SkyMapper telescope at The Australian National University (ANU).

    ANU Skymapper telescope
    ANU Skymapper telescope interior
    ANU SkyMapper telescope

    Among the haystack of celestial data, the volunteers uncovered five sought-after supernovas, extremely bright exploding stars, which provide crucial information about the history and future of the universe.

    “It was a huge success, everyone was really excited to take part,” said Dr Richard Scalzo, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    “One volunteer was so determined to find a supernova that he stayed online for 25 hours. Unfortunately he didn’t find one, but he did find an unusual variable star, which we think might explode in the next 700 million years or so.”

    The SkyMapper telescope, at the Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in central New South Wales, is creating a digital survey of the entire southern sky with a detailed record of more than a billion stars and galaxies.

    Siding Spring Campus
    Siding Spring Observatory

    Under the volunteer project, amateur astronomers looked for differences in photos of the same patch of sky, taken at different times. Apart from the supernovas, they also found a number of variable stars and a raft of asteroids, some never previously discovered.

    Because they are so bright, supernovas are used as beacons to measure the most distant galaxies. Their study led to the discovery of the accelerating universe by Professor Brian Schmidt for which he shared the 2011 Nobel Prize.

    “When a star explodes and becomes a supernova, for approximately a month it shines more brightly than all the billions of other stars in its galaxy put together,” Dr Scalzo said.

    “The wide range of supernovas tells us how different stars evolve and end their lives in different ways,” he said.

    “Identifying them is something that human eyes are very good at. It’s hard to train a computer to do it. We had five different people classify each object, and for the borderline objects up to 20 people.”

    The scientists hope that the large data set from the program will enable them to train computers to automate the identification process.

    The program was a five-day supernova hunt run by the Zooniverse platform run by a team based at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the annual BBC Stargazing Live. It attracted volunteers in Britain and as far afield as the United States and New Zealand.

    “It was wonderful to work with a survey like SkyMapper,” said Professor Chris Lintott, Principal Investigator for Zooniverse and Oxford Professor of Astrophysics.

    “Our volunteers and the millions of Stargazing Live viewers will have got a real kick from hearing about discoveries made a matter of moments after our project launched. We’re looking forward to more collaboration and more discoveries soon,” he said.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:14 pm on April 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science, Milky Way Project - Zooinverse   

    From NASA Science: “Citizen Scientists Discover Yellow ‘Space Balls'” 

    NASA Science Science News

    April 9, 2015
    Rachel Molina

    Citizen scientists scanning images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, an orbiting infra-red observatory, recently stumbled upon a new class of curiosities that had gone largely unrecognized before: yellow balls.

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    Spitzer

    “The volunteers started chatting about the yellow balls they kept seeing in the images of our galaxy, and this brought the features to our attention,” said Grace Wolf-Chase of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

    The Milky Way Project is one of many “citizen scientist” projects making up the Zooniverse website, which relies on crowdsourcing to help process scientific data. For years, volunteers have been scanning Spitzer’s images of star-forming regions—places where clouds of gas and dust are collapsing to form clusters of young stars. Professional astronomers don’t fully understand the process of star formation; much of the underlying physics remains a mystery. Citizen scientists have been helping by looking for clues.

    Before the yellow balls popped up, volunteers had already noticed green bubbles with red centers, populating a landscape of swirling gas and dust. These bubbles are the result of massive newborn stars blowing out cavities in their surroundings. When the volunteers started reporting that they were finding objects in the shape of yellow balls, the Spitzer researchers took note.

    The rounded features captured by the telescope, of course, are not actually yellow, red, or green—they just appear that way in the infrared, color-assigned images that the telescope sends to Earth. The false colors provide a way to humans to talk about infrared wavelengths of light their eyes cannot actually see.

    “With prompting by the volunteers, we analyzed the yellow balls and figured out that they are a new way to detect the early stages of massive star formation,” said Charles Kerton of Iowa State University, Ames. “The simple question of ‘Hmm, what’s that?’ led us to this discovery.”

    A thorough analysis by the team led to the conclusion that the yellow balls precede the green bubbles, representing a phase of star formation that takes place before the bubbles form.

    “Basically, if you wind the clock backwards from the bubbles, you get the yellow balls,” said Kerton

    1
    An artist’s concept shows how “yellow balls” fit into the process of star formation.

    Researchers think the green bubble rims are made largely of organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are abundant in the dense molecular clouds where stars coalesce. Blasts of radiation and winds from newborn stars push these PAHs into a spherical shells that look like green bubbles in Spitzer’s images. The red cores of the green bubbles are made of warm dust that has not yet been pushed away from the windy stars.

    How do the yellow balls fit in?

    “The yellow balls are a missing link,” says Wolf-Chase. They represent a transition “between very young embryonic stars buried in dense, dusty clouds and slightly older, newborn stars blowing the bubbles.”

    Essentially, the yellow balls mark places where the PAHs (green) and the dust (red) have not yet separated. The superposition of green and red makes yellow.

    So far, the volunteers have identified more than 900 of these compact, yellow features. The multitude gives researchers plenty of chances to test their hypotheses and learn more about the way stars form.

    Meanwhile, citizen scientists continue to scan Spitzer’s images for new finds. Green bubbles. Red cores. Yellow balls. What’s next? You could be the one who makes the next big discovery. To get involved, go to zooniverse.org and click on “The Milky Way Project.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA leads the nation on a great journey of discovery, seeking new knowledge and understanding of our planet Earth, our Sun and solar system, and the universe out to its farthest reaches and back to its earliest moments of existence. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the nation’s science community use space observatories to conduct scientific studies of the Earth from space to visit and return samples from other bodies in the solar system, and to peer out into our Galaxy and beyond. NASA’s science program seeks answers to profound questions that touch us all:

    This is NASA’s science vision: using the vantage point of space to achieve with the science community and our partners a deep scientific understanding of our planet, other planets and solar system bodies, the interplanetary environment, the Sun and its effects on the solar system, and the universe beyond. In so doing, we lay the intellectual foundation for the robotic and human expeditions of the future while meeting today’s needs for scientific information to address national concerns, such as climate change and space weather. At every step we share the journey of scientific exploration with the public and partner with others to substantially improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education nationwide.

    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 5:18 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Science,   

    From Symmetry: “Physics for the people” 

    Symmetry

    February 19, 2015
    Manuel Gnida and Kathryn Jepsen

    Citizen scientists dive into particle physics and astrophysics research.

    1
    Illustration by Manuel Gnida, SLAC / Images courtesy of CERN, ESA/Hubble & NASA

    Citizen science, scientific work done by the general public, is having a moment.

    In June 2014, the term “citizen science” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. This month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science—one of the world’s largest general scientific societies—dedicated several sessions at its annual meeting to the topic. A two-day preconference organized by the year-old Citizen Science Association attracted an estimated 700 participants.

    Citizen scientists interested in taking part in particle physics research have few options at the moment, but they may have a new opportunity on the horizon with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

    LSST Exterior
    LSST Interior
    LSST Camera
    LSST

    Hunting the Higgs

    Citizen science projects have helped researchers predict the structure of proteins, transcribe letters from Albert Einstein, and monitor populations of bees and invasive crabs. The citizen science portal “Zooniverse,” launched in 2007, has attracted 1.3 million users from around the world. According to a report by Oxford University astronomer Brooke Simmons, the first Zooniverse project, “Galaxy Zoo,” has so far published 57 scientific papers with the help of citizen scientists.

    Of the 27 projects on the Zooniverse portal, just one allows volunteers to help with the analysis of real data from a particle physics experiment. “Higgs Hunters,” launched in November 2014, invites citizen scientists to help physicists find evidence of strange particle behavior in images of collisions from the Large Hadron Collider.

    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC

    When protons collide in the LHC, their energy transfers briefly into matter, forming different types of particles, which then decay into less massive particles and eventually dissipate back into energy. Some particle collisions create Higgs bosons, particles discovered in 2012 at the LHC.

    “We don’t yet know much about how the Higgs boson decays,” says particle physicist Alan Barr at Oxford University in the UK, one of the leads of the Higgs Hunters project. “One hypothesis is that the Higgs decays into new, lighter Higgs particles, which would travel some distance from the center of our detector where LHC’s protons collide. We wouldn’t see these new particles until they decayed themselves into known particles, generating tracks that emerge ‘out of thin air,’ away from the center.”

    So far, almost 5,000 volunteers have participated in the Higgs Hunters project. Over the past three months, they have classified 600,000 particle tracks.

    Why turn to citizen science for this task?

    “It turns out that our current algorithms aren’t trained well enough to identify the tracks we’re interested in,” Barr says. “The human eye can do much better. We hope that we can use the information from our volunteers to train our algorithms and make them better for the second run of LHC.”

    Humans are also good at finding problems an algorithm might miss. Many participants flagged as “weird” an image showing what looked like a shower of particles called muons passing through the detector, Barr says. “When we looked at it in more detail, it turned out that it was a very rare detector artifact, falsely identified as a real event by the algorithms.”

    Volunteers interested in Higgs Hunters have only a couple of months left to participate. Barr estimates that by April, the project will have collected enough data for researchers to proceed with an in-depth analysis.

    Distortions in space

    Armchair astrophysicists can find their own project in the Zooniverse. “SpaceWarps” asks volunteers to look for distortions in images of faraway galaxies—evidence of gravitational lensing.

    Gravitational lensing occurs when the gravitational force of massive galaxies or galaxy clusters bends the space around them so that light rays traveling near them follow curved paths.

    Einstein predicted this effect in his Theory of General Relativity. You can see an approximation of it by looking at a light through the bottom of a wine glass. Gravitational lensing is used to determine distances in the universe—key information in measuring the expansion of the universe and understanding dark energy.

    Recognizing gravitational lensing is a difficult task for a computer program, but a relatively easy one for a human, says Phil Marshall, a scientist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    Marshall, one of three principal investigators for SpaceWarps, says he sees a lot of potential in the interface between humans and machines. “They both have different skills that complement each other.”

    According to the SpaceWarps website, more than 51,000 volunteers have made more than 8 million classifications to date and have discovered dozens of candidates for gravitational lenses that were not detected by algorithms. The project is currently adding new data for people to analyze.

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

    Citizen science may become particularly important for another project Marshall is interested in: the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, to be built on a mountaintop in Chile.

    Technicians recently completed a giant double mirror for the project, and its groundbreaking will take place this spring. Beginning in 2022, LSST will take a complete image of the entire southern sky every few nights. It is scheduled to run for a decade, collecting 6 million gigabytes of data each year. The information collected may help scientists unravel cosmic mysteries such as dark matter and dark energy.

    “Nobody really knows what citizen science will look like for LSST,” Marshall says. “However, a good approach would be to make use of the fact that humans are very good at understanding confusing things. They could help us inspect images for odd features, potentially spotting new things or pointing out problems with the data.”

    Citizen scientists could also help with the LSST budget.

    Henry Sauermann at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Chiara Franzoni at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy recently studied seven Zooniverse projects started in 2010. They calculated the efforts of unpaid volunteers over just the first 180 days to be worth $1.5 million.

    But the value of citizen science to LSST may depend on whether it can attract a dedicated group of amateur researchers.

    Sauermann and Franzoni’s study showed that 10 percent of contributors to the citizen science projects they studied completed an average of almost 80 percent of all of the work.

    “We also see that with SpaceWarps,” Marshall says. “Most Internet users have a very short attention span.”

    It’s all about how well the researchers design the project, he says.

    “It must be easy to get started and, at the same time, empower the participant enough to make serious contributions to science,” Marshall says. “It’s on us to provide volunteers with interesting things to do.”

    See the full article here.

    I am surprised that the distinguished authors of this essay forgot one of the earliest sets of Citizen Science project, those stemming from the LHC, namely lhc@home, now named Sixtrack@home, and vLHC@home which began life as test4theory@home.

    LHC Sixtrack

    vLHC Logo

    BOINC

    These projects run on software from BOINC at UC Berkeley. BOINC enables the home computer user to participate in a large variety of scientific projects by donating time on their computers running Windows, Mac and Linux software. Dave Anderson and his cohorts at UC Berkeley practically invented Citizen Science. There are many projects of all kinds running on BOINC software. Please visit the BOINC web site and think about helping on some projects. Also, in a related group of projects is World Community Grid (WCG), a section of the Smarter Planet social effort from IBM Corporation. WCG projects also run on BOINC software. Please visit the WCG web site and take a look.

    WCGLarge

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 5:14 pm on January 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science, , ,   

    From WCG: “Using grid computing to understand an underwater world” 

    New WCG Logo

    SustainableWater screensaver

    28 Jan 2015
    By: Gerard P. Learmonth Sr., M.B.A., M.S., Ph.D.
    University of Virginia

    The Computing for Sustainable Water (CFSW) project focused on the Chesapeake Bay watershed in the United States. This is the largest watershed in the US and covers all or part of six states (Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York) and Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. The Bay has been under environmental pressure for many years. Previous efforts to address the problem have been unsuccessful. As a result, the size of the Bay’s anoxic region (dead zone) continues to affect the native blue crab (callinectes sapidus) population.

    2
    Callinectes sapidus – the blue crab

    he problem is largely a result of nutrient flow (nitrogen and phosphorous) into the Bay that occurs due to agricultural, industrial, and land development activities. Federal, state, and local agencies attempt to control nutrient flow through a set of incentives known as Best Management Practices (BMPs). Entities adopting BMPs typically receive payments. Each BMP is believed to be helpful in some way for controlling nutrient flow. However, the effectiveness of the various BMPs has not been studied on an appropriately large scale. Indeed, there is no clear scientific evidence for the effectiveness of some BMPs that have already been widely adopted.

    The Computing for Sustainable Water project conducted a set of large-scale simulation experiments of the impact of BMPs on nutrient flow into the Chesapeake Bay and the resulting environmental health of the Bay. Table 1 lists the 23 BMPs tested in this project. Initially, a simulation run with no BMPs was produced as a baseline case. Then each individual BMP was run separately and compared with the baseline. Table 2 shows the results of these statistical comparisons.

    Table 1. Best Management Practices employed in the Chesapeake Bay watershed
    3

    Table 2. Statistical results comparing each BMP to a baseline (no-BMPs) simulation experiment.
    4

    Student’s t-tests of individual BMPs compared to base case of no BMPs * = significant at α = 0.10; ** = significant at α = 0.05; *** = significant at α = 0.01
    For more information about t-statistic, click here. For more information about p-value, click here.

    These results identify several BMPs that are effective in reducing the corresponding nitrogen and phosphorous loads entering the Chesapeake Bay. In particular, BMPs 4, 7, and 23 are highly effective. These results are very informative for policymakers not only in the Chesapeake Bay watershed but globally as well, because many regions of the world experience similar problems and employ similar BMPs.

    In all, World Community Grid members facilitated over 19.1 million experiments. These include various combinations of BMPs to discover the possible effectiveness of combinations of BMPs. The analysis of these experiments continues for combinations of BMPs.

    We would like to once again express our gratitude to the World Community Grid community. A project of this size and scope simply would not have been possible without your help.

    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.

    CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE? YOU BETCHA!!

    “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
    mappingcancermarkers2

    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

    FightAIDS@Home

    Computing for Sustainable Water

     
  • richardmitnick 3:37 pm on January 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Science, , ,   

    From JPL: “Citizen Scientists Lead Astronomers to Mystery Objects in Space” 

    JPL

    January 27, 2015
    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Volunteers using the web-based Milky Way Project brought star-forming features nicknamed “yellowballs” to the attention of researchers, who later showed that they are a phase of massive star formation. The yellow balls — which are several hundred to thousands times the size of our solar system — are pictured here in the center of this image taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Infrared light has been assigned different colors; yellow occurs where green and red overlap. The yellow balls represent an intermediary stage of massive star formation that takes place before massive stars carve out cavities in the surrounding gas and dust (seen as green-rimmed bubbles with red interiors in this image).

    Infrared light of 3.6 microns is blue; 8-micron light is green; and 24-micron light is red.

    2
    This series of images show three evolutionary phases of massive star formation, as pictured in infrared images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The stars start out in thick cocoon of dust (left), evolve into hotter features dubbed “yellowballs” (center); and finally, blow out cavities in the surrounding dust and gas, resulting in green-rimmed bubbles with red centers (right). The process shown here takes roughly a million years. Even the oldest phase shown here is fairly young, as massive stars live a few million years. Eventually, the stars will migrate away from their birth clouds.

    In this image, infrared light of 3.6 microns is blue; 8-micron light is green; and 24-micron light is red.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    Spitzer

    Milkyway@home
    MilkyWay@home

    Milkyway@Home uses the BOINC platform to harness volunteered computing resources, creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). This project enables research in both astroinformatics and computer science.

    SDSS Telescope
    SDSS Telescope

    BOINC

    In computer science, the project is investigating different optimization methods which are resilient to the fault-prone, heterogeneous and asynchronous nature of Internet computing; such as evolutionary and genetic algorithms, as well as asynchronous newton methods. While in astroinformatics, Milkyway@Home is generating highly accurate three dimensional models of the Sagittarius stream, which provides knowledge about how the Milky Way galaxy was formed and how tidal tails are created when galaxies merge.

    Milkyway@Home is a joint effort between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute‘s departments of Computer Science and Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy. Feel free to contact us via our forums, or email astro@cs.lists.rpi.edu.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo
    jpl

     
    • academix2015 4:22 pm on January 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Web based Milky Way project would open up new opportunities for amateur astronomers. Thank you.

      Like

    • academix2015 4:22 pm on January 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on Academic Avenue and commented:
      How about studying the intricacies of the astronomical processes and phenomena in the Milky Way?

      Like

  • richardmitnick 4:02 pm on January 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Citizen Science,   

    From NASA Earth: “Finding Floating Forests” An Amazing Story Complete with Citizen Science 

    NASA Earth Observatory

    NASA Earth Observatory

    December 19, 2014
    By Laura Rocchio Design by Paul Przyborski & Mike Carlowicz

    Giant kelp forests are among Earth’s most productive habitats, and their great diversity of plant and animal species supports many fisheries around the world. The kelp, or Macrocystis, that make up these underwater forests truly are giant. They are the world’s largest marine plants and regularly grow up to 35 meters (115 feet) tall; the largest giant kelp on record stood 65 meters (215 feet) tall. Divers have compared swimming through mature kelp forests to walking through redwood forests.

    k

    Unlike redwoods, giant kelp are ephemeral. They live for seven years at most, and often they disappear before that because of winter storms or over-grazing by other species. As fishermen know, giant kelp forests can appear and disappear from season to season, from year to year. But is there a long-term trend or cycle at work?

    A few years ago, Jarrett Byrnes was in a bit of a quandary over these disappearing forests. As part of his postdoctoral research at the University of California–Santa Barbara (UCSB), he was studying giant kelp at four National Science Foundation-funded sites off the coast. Since 2000, biologists had been using this Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site to make monthly in situ measurements of giant kelp. But Byrnes and his colleagues found that they often could not make measurements in winter because rough seas made the diving unsafe.

    s
    Kelp are the redwoods of the sea. The world’s largest marine plants regularly grow up to 35 meters (115 feet) tall. (Photograph © Phillip Colla / Oceanlight.com)

    “Storms remove quite a bit of the canopy in the winter. Sometimes they even remove whole forests if the storms are large enough,” Byrnes explained. “But getting to those sites with regularity in the winter gets very challenging.” Most of the diving had to wait until summer, and by then the kelp had largely recovered or changed, making it difficult to measure how much damage the storms had done.

    To complicate matters, kelp forests have different seasonality depending on where they are. For instance, the forests along the Central California coast are at their maximum size in the fall; in Southern California, they often reach their peak in the winter and spring. How could these dynamic habitats be monitored more frequently without putting divers at risk?

    Kyle Cavanaugh, then a UCSB graduate student, had an idea. “These forests change so rapidly and on a variety of different time scales—months to years to decades—so we needed a long record with consistent, repeated observations,” Cavanaugh said. He devised a method to use Landsat satellite data to monitor kelp forests.

    A few things made Landsat an obvious resource. Since the 1970s, the satellites have had a regular collection schedule (twice monthly). Their data and images are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey and are reliably stored in an archive that dates back more than forty years. And Landsat’s images are calibrated, or standardized, across different generations of satellites, making it possible to compare data collected across several decades.

    l
    Landsat 8 can detect near-infrared wavelengths of light that make it easier to spot offshore kelp forests. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Mike Taylor, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)

    Landsat measures the energy reflected and emitted from Earth at many different wavelengths. By knowing how features on Earth reflect or absorb energy at certain wavelengths, scientists can map and measure changes to the surface. The most important feature for the kelp researchers is Landsat’s near-infrared band, which measures wavelengths of light that are just outside our visual range. Healthy vegetation strongly reflects near-infrared energy, so this band is often used in plant studies. Also, water absorbs a lot of near-infrared energy and reflects little, making the band particularly good for mapping boundaries between land and water.

    “The near-infrared is key for identifying kelp from surrounding water,” Cavanaugh explained. “Like other types of photosynthesizing vegetation, giant kelp have high reflectance in the near infrared. This makes the kelp canopy really stand out from the surrounding water.”

    For Byrnes, the approach was a breakthrough: “This meant we could see the forests I was analyzing right after storms hit them.”

    Growing Fast and Holding Fast

    Giant kelp are fast growers, and they thrive in cold, nutrient-dense waters, particularly where there is a rocky and shallow seafloor (5 to 30 meters or 15 to 100 feet). They attach to the seafloor with small root-like structures (haptera) also called, appropriately enough, a holdfast. The holdfast supports a stipe, or stalk, and leaf-like blades that float thanks to air-filled pockets (pneumatocysts). The fronds create dense floating canopies on the water surface, yet these massive plants rely on holdfasts barely 60 centimeters (24 inches) wide to keep them rooted and alive.

    Given the right balance of conditions, giant kelp can grow as much as 50 centimeters (1.6 feet) per day, and this robust growth makes it possible for kelp fronds to be commercially harvested. Giant kelp have been plucked from California waters since the early 1900s, and they have long appeared in products like ice cream and toothpaste. At the industry’s peak, large ships using lawnmower-like machinery could harvest more than 200,000 wet tons annually.

    b
    Kelp fronds create dense floating canopies near the water surface. Kelp have been harvested for a century for commercial products; they also pose trouble for boat propellers. (Photo courtesy of Chad King / NOAA MBNMS)

    “The satellite could definitely see the effects of harvesting, but the kelp recovery was very fast,” said Tom Bell, a UCSB researcher and collaborator with Byrnes and Cavanaugh.

    Today, only a few thousand tons of giant kelp are harvested each year, some by hand and some by mechanical harvesters. The kelp can be trimmed no lower than 4 feet below the water surface, and this sustainable harvesting is the equivalent of humans getting a haircut. Studies have shown that negative affects are negligible, although some fish populations are temporarily displaced.

    7
    Giant kelp thrive in cold, nutrient-dense waters, particularly where there is a rocky, shallow seafloor. The California coast provides ideal habitat. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Mike Taylor, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)

    For years, scientists debated whether it was nutrient availability or grazers (not human harvesters, but sea urchins) that had the most influence over kelp forest health, size, and longevity. After using Landsat to look at long-term trends, and comparing those trends to known differences between Central and Southern California waters, Cavanaugh and LTER lead Daniel Reed found that a third force—wave disturbance—was the kingmaker of kelp dynamics. Strong waves generated by storms uproot the kelp from their holdfasts and can devastate the forests far more than any grazer.

    Kelp Research Branches Out

    When giant kelp first brought Byrnes and Cavanaugh together at UCSB, their work was largely California-focused. The data they collected from the LTER study sites off Santa Barbara became a tremendous resource for kelp researchers. But that work covered four discrete locations for a species found all over the world.

    Giant kelp can grow anywhere there are cold, shallow, nutrient-rich waters and a rocky seafloor. Conditions for kelp growth have historically been ideal along the west coast of North America, as well as Chile, Peru, the Falkland Islands, South Africa, and around Australia, New Zealand, and the sub-Antarctic islands.

    More and more often these days, though, the conditions are less ideal. Climate change has brought a trifecta of kelp scourges: warmer waters with fewer nutrients; new invasive species; and severe storms.

    8
    Given the right balance of conditions, giant kelp can grow as much as 50 centimeters (1.6 feet) per day. (Photograph © Phillip Colla / Oceanlight.com)

    After a recent meeting on kelp forests and climate change, Byrnes, Cavanaugh, and other colleagues set out to consolidate all of the available kelp forest data from around the world. They wanted to take a step toward understanding how climate change is affecting kelp globally, but they quickly discovered they had a sparse patchwork of information.

    Byrnes was struck with a thought. They had used Landsat to expand their studies across time, so why not use Landsat to expand their studies around the world? Could Landsat be used to establish global trends in kelp forest extent? The answer was yes, but the problem was eyeballs.

    Unlike research on terrestrial vegetation—which uses Landsat data and powerful computer processing arrays to make worldwide calculations—distinguishing kelp forests requires manual interpretation. While kelp forests pop out to the human eye in near-infrared imagery, computers looking at the data numerically can confuse kelp patches with land vegetation. Programs and coded logic that separate aquatic vegetation from land vegetation can be confounded by things like clouds, sunglint, and sea foam.

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    Natural color (top) and near-infrared (bottom) images from Landsat 8 show the kelp-rich waters around California’s Channel Islands. Clouds, sunglint, and sea foam make it difficult for computer programs to detect the location of forests. So far, human eyes work better. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Mike Taylor and Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)

    “I’ve spent many, many years staring at satellite imagery trying to come up with new ways to extract the kelp signal from that imagery, and it is very time and work intensive,” said Cavanaugh, now based at the University of California–Los Angeles. “But automated classification methods just don’t produce acceptable levels of accuracy yet.”

    Byrnes, now based at the University of Massachusetts–Boston, realized that the best way to study global kelp changes was to turn to citizen scientists. Byrnes and Cavanaugh put together a science team and joined with Zooniverse, a group that connects professional scientists with citizen scientists in order to help analyze large amounts of data. The result was the Floating Forests project.

    Getting Help from a Few Thousand Friends

    The Floating Forest concept is all about getting more eyeballs on Landsat imagery. Citizen scientists—recruited via the Internet—are instructed in how to hunt for giant kelp in satellite imagery. They are then given Landsat images and asked to outline any giant kelp patches that they find. Their findings are crosschecked with those from other citizen scientists and then passed to the science team for verification. The size and location of these forests are catalogued and used to study global kelp trends.

    In addition to examining the California coast, which Byrnes and Cavanaugh know well, the Floating Forests project has also focused on the waters around Tasmania. Tom Bell and collaborators in Australia and New Zealand have noticed dramatic declines in giant kelp forests there over the past few decades. The decline has been so rapid and extensive that giant kelp are only found now in isolated patches.

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    Off the east coast of Tasmania, 95 percent of the kelp has disappeared since the 1940s. False-color Landsat images from September 1999 (top) and September 2014 (bottom) provide evidence of recent kelp forest disturbance. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Mike Taylor, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)

    Off Tasmania’s east coast, 95 percent of the kelp has disappeared since the 1940s. The loss has been so stark that the Australian government listed Tasmania’s giant kelp forests as an “endangered ecological community“— the first time the country has given protection to an entire ecological community. The loss is so stunning because this was a place where kelp forests were once so dense that they merited mention on nautical charts.

    Cool, subarctic waters once bathed Tasmania’s east coast, but warmer waters (as much as 2.5ºC (4.3ºF) warmer) have brought many invasive species that feast on giant kelp. Compounding the matter, the overfishing of rock lobsters has removed a key predator of the long-spined sea urchins (which eat kelp). The ecosystem’s new protected status could help curb overfishing and restore the lobsters, which would help diminish the threat from sea urchins.

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    This U.S. Hydrographic Service chart from 1925 shows Prosser Bay, Tasmania, and the distribution of giant kelp. (Source: Edyvane at al, 2003)

    Using Landsat to monitor the kelp forests and establish trends may shed more light on what is happening off of Tasmania. “We believe the data from Floating Forests will allow us to better understand the causes of these declines,” said Cavanaugh.

    As of November 2014, more than 2,700 citizen scientists had joined Byrnes and Cavanaugh to look for kelp in 260,000 Landsat images. All combined, the citizen scientists have now made more than one million kelp classifications. The response has exceeded expectations, and the project has been expanded faster than originally planned.

    Already a discovery has been made. A citizen scientist found a large patch of giant kelp on the Cortez Bank, an underwater seamount about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of San Diego. While giant kelp on this submerged island—which comes within feet of the surface at some points—had been documented by divers and fishermen in the past, the full extent of the kelp beds was unknown.

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    A citizen scientist found satellite evidence of an outlying kelp forest that was previously known only to divers and local fishermen. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Mike Taylor, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)

    “The first few months of Floating Forests have been a huge success, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to expand the project to other regions,” Cavanaugh said. “Our ultimate goal is to cover all the coastlines of the world that support giant kelp forests.”

    To learn how to participate in the Floating Forests project, visit their web page.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Earth Observatory’s mission is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and climate models. The Earth Observatory staff is supported by the Climate and Radiation Laboratory, and the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

     
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