We’ve landed on the moon, can grow organs and even skydive from space, yet when it comes to understanding the brain, scientists are mostly in the dark. EyeWire is a citizen science game that will radically increase the rate at which neuroscientists discover neural connections and subsequently begin to understand how neurons collectively function, yielding higher level cognition such as visual perception.
Map the 3D structure of neurons by playing EyeWire and become a part of Seung Lab at MIT.
For more, watch computational neuroscientist H. Sebastian Seung (Living Systems DC Salon) explain what the wiring of the brain reveals about genetics, personality, and memory. Seung suggests that complex maps of neural connective structures, or connectomes, will reveal that our experiences literally shape our brains.
GalaxyZoo, a citizen-science site, has classified millions of objects in space, discovering characteristics that have led to a raft of scientific papers.
On the collaborative blog MathOverflow, mathematicians earn reputation points for contributing to solutions; in another math experiment dubbed the Polymath Project, mathematicians commenting on the Fields medalist Timothy Gower’s blog in 2009 found a new proof for a particularly complicated theorem in just six weeks.
And a social networking site called ResearchGate — where scientists can answer one another’s questions, share papers and find collaborators — is rapidly gaining popularity.
Science Fellow Yasser Ansari’s (PopTech 2010) Project Noah (Networked Organisms and Habitats) allows you to record your sightings of plants, birds, insects and animals using your mobile device. You can make field notes, add pictures, and geo-locate where your sighting took place, giving other users and researchers important information on the go. Project Noah was recently used by National Geographic and the National Park Service at this year’s BioBlitz held at Saguaro National Park in Arizona.
Aesthetic Species Maps by David C. Montgomery
A time-based detail of the range of shapes and patterns within several species of flora and fauna. Genetic diversity visualized by forms which simultaneously reflect balance, symmetry, and an infinite potential for variation.
Speaking of citizen science, Gale McCullough (PopTech 2010), a former nursery school teacher and old-fashioned naturalist, discovered a whale that had journeyed an unprecedented 6,000 miles from Brazil to Madagascar. The technology she used? Flickr. Through the photo sharing website where people post their “I-went-on-a-whale-watch-trip” photos, she found matching photos of the whales.
Last year, the spectacle of 80 million people flocking to the faux greenery of FarmVille, a social networking game on Facebook, held particular irony for environmentalists who have ritually bemoaned low levels of public interest in biodiversity. Every traditional method and media has been tapped to penetrate this elephantine indifference, from documentaries to dire predictions. Rarely a week goes by without reports on crashing ecosystems or mass extinction, a blizzard of bad news inspiring little more than hand-wringing.
But in the spirit of joining rather than beating, conservationists have begun embracing the enemy, the very force that alienated people from nature in the first place: technology.
Social media have become the latest, hottest tools in natural history circles as scientists confront a populace that knows laptops better than landscapes. In the quest to give communities a grasp on complex ecological systems - particularly as they face decisions imposed by climate change - social networking promises to link scientists with the public, empowering naturalist armies to act on their behalf: monitoring species, observing behavioral patterns, and reporting the presence of invasives and changes in climate, vegetation, and populations.
Citizen science - natural history - has been the province of amateur enthusiasts for centuries, long before a young beetle-lover found himself in the Galapagos, flinging marine iguanas into the sea to see if they’d swim back. The popularity of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, launched in 1900, brought new rigor to backyard observations, revealing the scientific potential of simultaneously gathering thousands of data points across wide geographical areas.
Today, I would like to introduce you all to Isabel Rubio Pérez. You might know her better by her nickname Isabela. She made Project Noah history this week when she submitted her 1000th spotting! She is one of our earliest supporters and has contributed an amazing assortment of beautiful…