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.
Liquid crystals in nanopores produce a surprisingly large negative pressure
25.04.2019 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences
New robust device may scale up quantum tech, researchers say
25.04.2019 | Purdue University
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The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.
Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.
Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.
Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...
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A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
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