CITIZEN SCIENCE


IN PRAISE OF CITIZEN SCIENCE AND COMPUTERS

by

John Jaksich

SETI app

Computational Citizen Science owes its origins, in part, to SETI.at.Home –the computer screen saver that dared anyone with idle computer time to utilize it for the pursuit of searching for signs of E.T. To the few astronomy-literate individuals not familiar with it, this simple adventure commenced with a single computer server in a cramped closet at the University of California, Berkeley in the mid-1990s. This inspirational endeavor born out of the silicon boom, has spawned dozens of well-meaning and educational endeavors. If allowed to continue to evolve, it may solve some of the more pressing problems faced today. Currently, the list of endeavors may be found here. The folks at Berkeley kindly developed the software so it could be adapted to different types of problems. Presently, the software is known as BOINC—or Berkeley Open Infrastructure Computing—and it is free for all to use.

One well-conceived off-shoot to the traditional screen saver has appeared. This undertaking is Cosmoquest.org which was launched in 2011, and is currently headed by five talented individuals in the astronomical community: Dr. Pamela Gay, Dr. Nicole Gugliucci, Scott Lewis, Georgia Bracey, and Joe Rhea. This is, perhaps, one of the more intelligent endeavors to prosper from the citizen science movement. The reason being—in my opinion, is their focus is precise while still having a large following. In mid-2012, the internet forum—Bad Astronomy-Universe Today joined the endeavor, and the group of “internet-inspired intellectuals” has produced a smart, vibrant community.

Although it may sound as if I am “tooting a horn” that may not need publicity, I speak because I have participated in the above endeavors. Why? For the same reason that I feel public outreach and education are the logical path of social networking.

SETI.at.HOME may be found at:  http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/

BOINC may be found at this link:: http://boinc.berkeley.edu/

COSMOQuest.org may be found here: http://cosmoquest.org/

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