Archive for the ‘Activity’ Category

The cool thing about new technologies is that they can be used to study our universe with better SENSITIVITY than ever before. The downside to this is that with better instruments comes more data than all the professional scientists can currently analyze without outside help. Thank goodness for the internet, which makes it possible for virtually anyone, any age (well, old enough to read and use a computer) to help those scientists with the FLOOD of data they have to deal with.

Galaxy Zoo

Help scientists classify galaxies.


One such source of data is the ROBOTIC telescope of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has been taking images of galaxies (among other objects) since 2008. It has photographed about a MILLION galaxies so far with more to come. There are 4 main types of galaxies, each of which has certain unique characteristics. Because galaxies are so far away, the images taken by Sloan survey are not as crisp as photographs we might take of flowers and mountains. While there exists computer programs that can differentiate between different objects in a picture, the image quality of Sloan galaxies is not good enough for a computer to help in this area.

This is where you come in. Galaxy Zoo invites internet users to help scientists classify galaxies. Over 150,000 people are already participants and some have DISCOVERED never before seen objects like the Voorwerp, which was discovered by a school teacher who volunteered some of her free time to classifying galaxies.

Voorwerp

A new object discovered by a Galaxy Zoo volunteer.


Getting started is pretty easy. You sign-up, there is a brief tutorial on how to use Galaxy Zoo and identify different types of objects and then you are off making YOUR OWN classifications and, perhaps, new discoveries. There is usually not a right or wrong answer, just what you think an image represents. A few other people are shown the same image to garner some sort of agreement on the classification.

Well, what are you waiting for? Head over to Galaxy Zoo and get started. You might see YOUR name listed on a scientific paper along with professional scientists. That would be really COOL!

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Kodu programming interface.

Kodu programming interface.


A new week, a new TWIST.

Do you Kodu?

I have talked about the joys of graphical programming before. This week there is a NEW entry in easy and fun to use graphical programming language designed to get kids into programming. Microsoft has release the technical preview download for KODU, which “a visual programming language made specifically for creating GAMES. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.” While this has been available for the Xbox 360 for sometime, now anyone with a decent PC can jump in and start making games EASILY. Kodu’s website has all that you will need to get started and the program comes with samples of what can be accomplished with it. The cool thing is you can edit those samples and add your own flavor to them. If you make a game that you wanna show-off, feel free to post a link to it in the comments.

Quantum computer makes quantum leap.

In science, quantum is the SMALLEST piece of an object. Therefore, it is weird to me when people say that they have made a “quantum leap” to indicate a giant progress.

Anyhoo, things at the quantum level do not behave like everyday objects. Strange things can and do happen. One STRANGE thing is an object can be in two states at the same. It would be like you being asleep and awake at the same time. Scientists have been for a long time trying to use this strange behavior to build POWERFUL computers. The basic idea is what with a quantum computer it would be possible to try out all the solutions to a problem at once and extract the correct answer instantaneously. You can easily imagine how hard that is. For example, consider a simple math problem, which only has one answer. Well, there are an INFINITY of numbers to pick from, how do you create something that can hold an infinity of anything?

But, just because something may seem hard does not mean we should not try. After all, that is what makes science fun!

It was reported this week, that scientists have built a quantum computer to model the hydrogen atom. Hydrogen is the simplest of the elements consisting only of one proton and one electron so it was a great way to demonstrate the computer since it can be easily checked against other methods. The question is, once they can build a quantum computer that can solve ANY mathematical problem, will we still have do to homework? :)

Resources

How quantum computers work.
A tale of two qubits: how quantum computers work – A more technical look at how quantum computers work.

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The Internet has opened up a whole new world to public participation in science projects both big and small. These were usually restricted to the in-crowd but are now available to anyone with a computer. The level of participation can be very active, as in the case of GalaxyZoo.org (more on this later), or very passive like in Folding@home and SETI@home.

Akatsui space craft.

Illustration of the Akatsui spacecraft around the planet Venus. Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita


Sometimes, they are a one time deal that can still be very exciting to participate in. Akatsuki (Japanese for dawn) is one such opportunity. Akatsui is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) space mission to study the planet Venus. The Akatsui Message Campaign is a public outreach effort for the mission, which allows people to submit a very short message that will be printed onto an aluminum plate what will be attached to the Akatsui spacecraft.

The deadline for submissions is January 10, 2010. Sorry for the late notice but I just found out about it. I should add, although the slogan for this outreach program reads, “We will deliver your message to the bright star Venus,” Venus is actually a planet. But, you already knew that. Thanks to my friend Robert Sparks for the info.

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Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space Image by
mint imperial

“Mission: 10,000 Rockets is an educational project developed to inspire the passion for scientific discovery in young people.”

It is a drawing contest open to K-12 grade students in the United States. Please visit http://10000rockets.com/ to get all the details.

This contest is being sponsored by the Bing search engine.

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