Two of Galaxy Zoo’s founders, Chris Lintott, from the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, and Kate Land reflect on the project’s success in September’s Physics World.
While there has been a range of computer programs that make use of the idle time of users’ PCs to churn through scientific data, like ClimatePrediction.net for modelling global warming, Galaxy Zoo was the first of its kind to engage computer users and ask them to apply their own brain power to help sort one type of galaxy from another.
With almost a million galaxy images provided by the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico, the Galaxy Zoo team knew it was a tall order. However, even on the day of launch after a small news item on Radio 4’s Today programme, the site was receiving more than 70,000 classifications each hour.
As Lintott and Land write, “An attractive feature of the project was that these galaxies had literally never been looked at before with the human eye – so people really felt that they were helping with original and unique contributions.”
The original impetus for the project was a research dilemma that required a complete reassessment of 50,000 images. Existing criteria used to define elliptical galaxies – colour, density profile and spectral features – appeared to leave out a small fraction of important elliptical galaxies that were undergoing star formation.
The 150,000 amateur astronomers have helped make more than 50 million classifications, thereby helping the researchers obtain a good statistical error for each one. For about a third of the 900,000 galaxies, more than 80 per cent agreed on the morphology which gave the researchers an astoundingly good starting point.
Advances in our understanding of the universe have already been made and a selection of journal articles has already been published. The researchers are now developing Galaxy Zoo to make a more detailed classification of a smaller set of galaxies plus a deliberate search for more unusual objects.
The founders write, “As we develop the citizen science that powers Galaxy Zoo, we can expect many new discoveries to follow. After all, having 150,000 co-authors is an excellent motivator when it comes to writing papers.”
Also in this issue:
•Ugo Amaldi, son of Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi, reflects on his father’s remarkable scientific life in particle physics, nuclear physics and gravitational-wave research, as well as his key role in setting up CERN and the European Space Agency.
•The discovery of iron-based high-temperature superconductors has prompted a huge surge of interest in these new materials and rekindled the dream of room-temperature superconductivity.
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What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
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In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
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The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
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The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
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