Category Archives: Fun

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 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.


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.


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.