Category Archives: Fun

Our 2013 Advent Calendar Begins

It’s December 1st and that can mean only one thing at The Zooniverse: our advent calendar returns! It’s time for another citizen-science-fuelled, festive charge at the unsuspecting Christmas break for many around the world. 24 digital days of fun from us to you, our lovely, lovely volunteers! It’s a fun way of saying thank you each year. To kick things off, behind door 1 is is a bit of digital wallpaper for you: a pair of galaxies made from galaxies.

Galaxy from Galaxies

This lovely mosaic was created by Galaxy Zoo‘s Kyle Willett who was the lead author of this year’s mammoth Galaxy Zoo 2 paper. Whether it’s galaxies like these or science like this that bring you to the Zooniverse, we hope you enjoy what you find.

Have a fun December, and check back on zooniverse.org/advent to see what we have behind the door each day.

The Elise Andrew Effect – What a post on IFLS does to your numbers

AP-IFLS

Recenty the Andromeda Project was the feature of one of the posts on the ‘I fucking Love Science’ Facebook page. The page, which was started by Elise Andrew in March 2012, currently has 8 million likes, so some form of noticeable impact was to be expected! Here are some of the interesting numbers the post is responsible for:

I’ll start with the Facebook post itself. As of writing (16 hours after original posting), it has been shard 1,842 times, liked by 6,494 people and has 218 comments. These numbers are actually relatively low for an IFLS post, some of which can reach over 70,000 shares!

AP-IFLS-2
The ‘IFLS spike’ in the Andromeda Project classifications and active users

Let’s now have a look at what it did for the Andromeda Project. The project, which was launched two days previous and was already pretty popular, had settled down to around 100 active users per hour. This number shot up to almost 600 immediately following the post. In the space of 5 minutes the number of visitors on the site went from 13 to 1,300! After a few hours it settled down again, but now the steady rate looks to be about 25% higher than before. The number of classifications per hour follows the same pattern. The amazing figure here is that almost 100,000 classifications were made in the 4 hours following the post. This number corresponds to around 1/6th of the total needed to complete the project!

PH-IFLS-spike
The number of visitors per day to the Planet Hunters site over the last two weeks. Visits increased by a factor of ten on the day of the IFLS post, and three days later the numbers are still greater than before.

Two days after her post about the Andromeda Project, Elise put up a post about the discovery of a seventh planet around the dwarf star KIC 11442793, which was found by citizen scientist on the Planet Hunters project. This post proved even more popular than the previous one with more than 3,000 shares, and led to a similar spike of the same magnitude in the number of visitors to the site (as can be seen in the plot above).

Finally, what did it do for the Zooniverse as a whole? Well there have been over 4,000 new Zooniverse accounts registered within the last four days and the Facebook page, which was linked in the AP article, got a healthy boost of around 1,000 new likes. So all things considered, it seems that an IFLS post can be very useful for promoting your project indeed!

Thanks Elise, the Andromeda Project, Planet Hunters and  Zooniverse teams love you!

Zooniverse: Live

Yesterday we pushed Zooniverse Live to be… er… live. Zooniverse Live is a constantly updated screen, showing live updates from most of our projects. You’ll see a map displaying the location of recent Zooniverse volunteer’s classifications and a fast-moving list of recently classified images. Zooniverse Live is on display in our Chicago and Oxford offices, but we thought it would be cool to share it with everyone.

At the time this screenshot was taken, the USA was very active and Snapshot Serengeti was busy.
At the time this screenshot was taken, the USA was very active and Snapshot Serengeti was busy.

The Zooniverse is a very busy place these days and we’ve been looking for ways to visualize activity across all the projects. Zooniverse Live is a fairly simple web application. Its backend is written in Clojure (pronounced Closure) and the front end is written in JavaScript using a library for data visualization called D3. The Zooniverse Live server listens to a stream of classification information provided by the Zooniverse projects – via a database technology called Redis. Zooniverse Live then updates its own internal database of classifications on the backend, with the front end periodically asking for updates.

The secret sauce is figuring out where users are classifying from. Zooniverse Live does that using IP Addresses. Everyone connected to the internet is assigned an IP Address by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). While the IP address assigned may change each time a computer connects to the internet, each address is unique and can be tied to a rough geographical area. When Zooniverse projects send their classifications to Zooniverse Live, they include the IP Address the user was classifying from, letting Zooniverse Live do a lookup for the user’s location to plot on the map. The locations obtained in this way are approximate, and in most cases represent your local Internet exchange.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy having a look at Zooniverse Live, and we’d love to hear ideas for other Zooniverse data visualizations you’d like to see.

Zooniverse Live Chat

A small team of scientists and developers from across the Zooniverse are gathered at Adler Planetarium in Chicago this week to pitch and work on ideas for advanced tools for some of your favorite Zooniverse projects. Our goal is to come up with some  tools and experiences that will help the Zooniverse volunteers further explore, beyond the scope of the main classification interfaces, the rich datasets behind the projects in new and different ways. As part of the three days of hacking, there will be a live chat with representatives from Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, Snapshot Serengeti, and Planet Four (as well as a special guest or two) tomorrow Thursday July 11th at 2pm CDT ( 3 pm EDT, 8 pm BST). We’ll also give you an inside peek into the US Zooniverse Headquarters on the floor of the Adler Planetarium where much of the coding and development behind the Zooniverse happens.

You can find the video feed here on the blog. If you can’t watch live, the video is recorded and will be available to view later. If you have questions for the science teams you can post them in the comments or tweet @the_zooniverse

 

52 Years of Human Effort

At ZooCon last week I spoke about the scale of human attention that the Zooniverse receives. One of my favourite stats in this realm (from Clay Shirky’s book ‘Cognitive Surplus’) is that in the USA, adults cumulatively spend about 200 billion hours watching TV every year. By contrast it took 100 million hours of combined effort for Wikipedia to reach its status as the world’s encyclopaedia.

In the previous year people collectively spent just shy of half a million hours working on Zooniverse projects. Better put, the community invested about 52 years worth of effort[1]. That’s to say that if an individual sat down and did nothing but classify on Zooniverse sites for 52 years they’d only just have done the same amount of work as our community did between June 2012 and June 2013. The number is always rising too. Citizen science is amazing!

Another way of thinking about it is to convert this time into Full Time Equivalents (FTEs). One person working 40 hours per week, for 50 weeks a year works for 2000 hours a year – that’s 1 FTE. So our 460,000 hours of Zooniverse effort are equivalent to 230 FTEs. It’s as if we had a building with 230 people in who only came in every day to click on Zooniverse projects.

Zooniverse Effort Distribution to June 2013

This amazing investment by the community is not broken down evenly of course, as the above ‘snail’ chart shows. In fact Planet Hunters alone would occupy 62 of the people in our fictional building: the project took up 27% of the effort in the last year. Galaxy Zoo took 17%, which means it had almost 9 years of your effort all to itself. Planet Four had a meteoric launch on the BBC’s Stargazing Live less than six months ago and since that time it has gobbled up just over 5 years of human attention – 10% of the whole for the past year.

What’s wonderful is that our 230 metaphorical workers, and the 52 years they represent, are not confined to one building or one crazed click-worker. Our community is made of hundreds of thousands of individuals across the world – 850,000 of whom have signed up through zooniverse.org. Some of them have contributed a single classification, others have given our researchers far, far more of their time and attention. Through clicking on our sites, discussing ideas on Talk, or just spreading the word: Zooniverse volunteers are making a significant contribution to research in areas from astronomy to zoology.

Congratulations to everyone who’s taken part and let’s hope this number increases again by next year!

[1] In my ZooCon talk I incorrectly gave the figure of 35 years. This was wrong for two reasons; firstly, I had neglected Andromeda Project, Planet Four and Snapshot Serengeti for technical reasons. Secondly I had calculated the numbers incorrectly, in my rush to get my slides ready, and I underestimated them all by about 20%.

740,000 People – Part Two

Volunteers Poster

To end our 2012 advent calendar, we have the second of our 740,000 posters. We’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday – whatever you do at this time of year! We’ll be back in 2013 with more news, new projects and more science based on your work. The Universe is too big to explore without you.

740,000 People

Growing Community

The Zooniverse community keeps growing. This time last year, we passed 500,000 volunteers – and now there’s nearly 740,000 people out there, clicking, classifying and contributing to science via their web browser. To celebrate we’ve produced a great poster showing how the Zooniverse has grown from 2007 to the present. Down the PDF here.

Long may she reign!

Podcast About the Zooniverse

Today’s advent calendar entry is a special episode of the Recycled Electrons podcast. Recycled Electrons began just over a year ago and features the voices of Chris Lintott (Zooniverse PI) and Robert Simpson (Milky Way Project PI and Zooniverse developer). Although they both work full-time on the Zooniverse they have never yet spent an entire episode talking about it. This week the whole show is just about the Zooniverse! Conversation is focussed of the backstory of the past ten days, which includes the launch of the Andromeda Project and Snapshot Serengeti.

Podcast

Recycled Electrons is a (mostly) weekly podcast about astronomy, space and science. It is a light-hearted and often peculiar take on the week that is recorded in the heart of Oxford University, not too far from Oxford’s Zooniverse HQ.

Clerihews

A Clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. We had fun hearing your Haiku last week, so about some science- and Zooniverse-based Clerihews?

One of the best known examples is:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

…but we can also find some fun science Clerihews online:

Sir James Dewar
Is smarter than you are
None of you asses
Can liquify gases.

To rhyme Carlos Frenck
I’ve drawn a complete blenk
But I found in the lexicon
A good one for Mexican

That last one is from blogger (and apparently cosmologist) Peter Coles. If you need more inspiration, he has plenty more topical Clerihews (from 2009) on his blog, Telescoper.

Here at the Zooniverse, we’ve been coming up with own Clerihews. Chris created one for Stuart Lynn (lead developer of Planet Hunters):

Old Stuart Lynn
may drink gallons of gin,
but his Planet Hunters site
turned out quite alright.

In turn, I’ve made one for Chris:

Dr. Chris Lintott
likes astrophysics a lot.
He came up with Galaxy Zoo
while having a drink or two.

We’d love to hear your science Clerihews either here in the comments or on twitter @the_zooniverse. I’m sure the subject can be one of the projects as well as a person…

Zooniverse Cocktail Hour

Our advent calendar gets really festive today with the publication of Zooniverse Cocktails. If you make any of these, please do take a picture or two so we can share them around.

Tequila Solar Stormwatch

Pour 2 shots of tequila in a highball glass with ice, and top with orange juice. Stir. Slowly add a couple of dashes of grenadine by pouring onto the back of a spoon and letting it lie on the surface of the ice. The grenadine will slowly drop down into the drink as a sort of alcoholic mass ejection (AME).

Galaxy Zoo Spiral Cider

Pour two glasses of mulled cider into two identical glasses. Stir one anticlockwise, and the other clockwise. Once the drinks are spinning nicely drink them blindfolded and see if you can taste the difference.

Moon Zoo (on the) Rocks

Pour out a generous portion of Baileys into a tumblr and cut a Malteser in half. Drop the half-Malteser into your drink as your Apollo lander. You should try and film yourself making the drink on an anonymous sound stage in the remote United States.

The Milky Way Cocktail Project

Take a glass of chilled Prosecco, accompanied by a shot of Midori and a glacier cherry. See how many bubbles you can drink/find – watch out for red fuzzies.

Storm in a Teapcup (Old Weather)

2 shots of gin and one of chilled Earl Grey tea. Add 20 ml of lemon juice (to prevent scurvy) and a dash of sugar syrup. Serve in an English teacup with a twist of lemon peel.

Whale FM Cocktail

Place 2 cups of prawns, 4 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp creamed horseradish and 1 tbsp tomato ketchup into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine all the ingredients; make sure all the prawns are coated in sauce. Divide 2 cups of shredded lettuce between 4 large wine glasses and top with the prawns and sauce.
Decorate with a wedge of lime and a large prawn on the edge of the glass and serve with small slices of buttered brown bread.

The Ice Hunter

Straight-up vodka martini served with a twist (the twist is that there is no ice).

Planet Hunter’s Eclipse

Shake and strain 1.5 oz sloe gin and 0.5 oz gin into a cordial glass containing a cherry. Sink 0.5 oz of grenadine until just covering the cherry. Garnish with half a slice of orange, and serve.