The last two months have been really busy, and I’m just beginning to catch up! Here’s a podcast I did for Physics Central on a few physics-themed citizen science projects that are enlisting the help of the public to sift through large datasets. In the case of Planet Hunters, the quarry is extrasolar planets that slip through the automatic algorithms designed to flag tiny dips in starlight recorded by NASA’s Kepler mission. According to co-founder Meg Schwamb, the program has been hugely successful so far, identifying several planets that would have otherwise escaped notice.
Stardust@home is another citizen science project, this one aimed at finding elusive interstellar particles trapped in the aerogel detectors returned by NASA’s Stardust mission in 2006. Project director Dr. Andrew Westphal emphasizes the inclusive nature of citizen science as a reason for the organization’s success, and Schwamb agrees. Through citizen science projects like these, members of the public can participate in the scientific process and work alongside practicing scientists to make a real difference. Check out the Zooniverse page for more volunteer opportunities, and take a look at the other links we’ve compiled over at the Physics Buzz Blog.