Millions of “Citizen Scientists” Are Transforming Our World From Their Homes

Written by on September 18, 2017 in Sci-Tech, Science with 0 Comments

By Karla Lant | Futurism


Andrew Grey, a mechanic from Australia, was able to discover an entire star system through analyzing data from the Kepler Space Telescope. Grey is among the millions of “citizen scientists,” ordinary people with a curiosity and interest in science, who help researchers with their projects in order to expand the collective knowledge of humanity. Although science has always been the province of ordinary people to some extent, advances in technology have democratized science in a much more radical way.

“This is a collaborative endeavor that anyone could get involved in,” Oxford University astrophysicist Chris Lintott told The Christian Science Monitor. Lintott is also the co-founder of Zooniverse, a citizen science project platform that allows anyone to participate in a range of projects online from home.

The Milky Way Project, now on Zooniverse, is another example of citizen scientists helping classify images from space. In this case, volunteers study infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE satellite observatory in order to classify various objects. Citizen scientists helped astronomers source “yellowballs,” star-forming regions, as part of this project.

Citizen scientists can advance research in almost any field, and so long as pattern recognition is part of a project, it has the potential to become a citizen science endeavor. According to Lintott, anyone can identify patterns in data, graphs, or images after a short tutorial. And while machine learning enables computers to recognize patterns, the human brain gets distracted easily — and in this case, that’s actually a benefit. Lintott told The CSM that distracted observers are the ones who notice unusual things in data sets.

A professional scientist himself, Lintott commented to The CSM, “people think that we’re intelligent, but science is easy and we need your help.


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