Several years ago I decided to take part in an interesting experiment run by Galaxy Zoo (http://www.galaxyzoo.org). I and thousands of colleagues were presented with myriad images of potential galaxies and asked to identify if they were galaxies (as opposed to visual artifacts) and, if so, were they elliptical or spiral. Furthermore, if they spiral, what their direction was: did they spiral to the left or to the right. It turns out humans apparently can do these tasks with greater accuracy and speed than computers.
The power of crowds
The result of the initial work was published in astronomy journals, and has since led to other studies in which trainable amateurs (like myself) helped scientists make fundamental discoveries in the Universe. The results of some of the recent work resulted in Galaxy Zoo getting “Hubble time” to look at some new galactic structures. Their blog shows some amazing new photos of their discoveries!
This kind of project shows what power lies in social networking when applied to the sciences. There IS wisdom in crowds and it is nice to see it in action.
In addition to continuing their work on galaxies, the project has led to a spin-off involving the search for interesting artifacts on the surface of the Moon. My guess is that this project will provide interesting results as well.
Register with this project – you may just help to make a major discovery in the field of astronomy!