Fri, 1 June 2012
Episode 6: Zooniverse & Citizen Science: How 300,000 Average People Became Astronomers, with Chris Lintott
Our guest today is Christopher Lintott, an astrophysicist, a researcher in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford and a junior research fellow at New College. also at the University of Oxford. A fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, Dr. Lintott`s work focuses on galaxies and star formation. He is the co-presenter of the BBC series The Sky at Night and a co-author of the book Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe co-authored with Patrick Moore and Brian May. It’s this focus on public engagement, and in particular the concept of citizen science that we’ll get into today, because most excitingly, Dr. Lintott is also Director of the astronomy crowdsourcing projects known as Zooniverse and Galazy Zoo, which have turned hundreds of thousands of people from around the world into scientists and astronomers.
In this discussion with Justin Trottier, the two discuss the emergence and growing sophistication of citizen science projects like Galaxy Zoo and Zooniverse. From sorting galaxies with Galaxy Zoo to identifying lunar craters with Moon Zoo to searching for planets and signs of life, not to mention a growing number of non-astronomy focused projects, Dr. Lintott explains the significant participatory impact being made daily by hundreds of thousands of people. Whether through basic categorization or unnanticipated observations like the discovery of the mysterious galaxy-like "Voorwerp," a growing army of citizen scientists are directing telescope time and providing data for research papers. The two also discuss the motives propelling this new development, and how they might grow a citizenry better informed by the tools of science.
In Current in Space we provide a final reminder about the upcoming Transit of Venus before turning to the thrilling conclusion of Dragon's landmark visit to the International Space Station. We then cover stories of life and death in the universe, highlighting the future merger of our own Milky Way with its nearest neighbour Andromeda. And finally we introduce a new Entertainment segment which will feature books, films, music and other areas of pop culture that connect to astronomy and space exploration. In particular, we tell how Haydon Planetarium's Neil deGrasse Tyson scored a victory for scientific accuracy in Hollywood when he convinced film director James Cameron to get the sky right.