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Space Science

Identify Galaxies Using Spare Wetware Cycles 136

hazem invites us to have fun, learn about galaxies, and actually help astronomers by looking at pictures of galaxies and identifying the type. Warning: it's more addictive than Tetris. From the site: "GalaxyZoo... harnesses the power of the internet — and your brain — to classify a million galaxies. By taking part, you'll not only be contributing to scientific research, but you'll view parts of the Universe that literally no-one has ever seen before and get a sense of the glorious diversity of galaxies that pepper the sky. Why do we need you? The simple answer is that the human brain is much better at recognizing patterns than a computer can ever be. Any computer program we write to sort our galaxies into categories would do a reasonable job, but it would also inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird and the wonderful. To rescue these interesting systems which have a story to tell, we need you."
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Identify Galaxies Using Spare Wetware Cycles

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  • sounds familiar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @05:52PM (#19862161) Journal
    is this going to work out anything like google image tag game did? so people classify these galaxies and with like 3 or 4 classifying the same galaxy, seeing which tags/classifications are agreed upon?
  • Re:sounds familiar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Icarus1919 ( 802533 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @06:06PM (#19862239)
    It does seem as if they're looking for a consensus on galaxies. I've been doing this for about a week now and I swear up and down I've seen some of the same galaxies more than once. I'm pretty sure another thing they're looking for is that YOU agree with yourself. If one day you think it looks like an edge on spiral, and another you think it looks like an elliptical that's slightly skewed, then they're probably going to throw your data out or at least make you keep looking at it until you make up your mind.
  • by pln2bz ( 449850 ) * on Saturday July 14, 2007 @06:13PM (#19862293)
    For a quick demonstrative primer in how public relations can be used to affect public opinion in the field of astrophysics, I highly recommend comparing the article run about the Galaxy Zoo in compared to the AP article that has appeared on and elsewhere.

    NewScientist Article: ic-to-join-search-for-cosmic-axis-of-evil.html []

    Additional Background info here, linked to from that article: 00-axis-of-evil-a-cause-for-cosmic-concern.html []

    Compare this to the - AP Article: line_galaxies.html []

    For whatever reason, the article that decided to go with fails to mention anything about this project representing a threat to mainstream cosmology or the CMB. Astrophysical enthusiasts reading, in other words, would not be informed by that article that somebody has even alleged that there is a possible anomalous artifact within the cosmic microwave background. I'm not advocating anything here other than that this appears to be more than a mere "dumbing down" of a complicated story. They could have easily dumbed down the concept of aligned galaxies and why that introduces a problem for the CMB. Instead, we got the following, which appears to not suggest any threat level to BB Theory whatsoever:

    The catalog would help researchers understand how galaxies form and interact.

    "At some level, what we learn about these galaxies could tell us something quite fundamental about cosmology and particle physics,'' Nichol said.

    This sort of "damage control", if I may call it that, is not really very helpful when it comes to layman trying to understand what to believe.

    We must be very careful of how we promote certain sceintific theories over others. It would be very easy to create a false consensus within society using public relations in this way.
  • Interesting Site (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @07:12PM (#19862653)
    They might want to give more incentive. In the least some feedback would make the task a little more rewardnig. I got bored fairly quickly.

    The 'statistics' and the 'show my galaxies' sections are both not working. Perhaps once they are in place, it will be a little more fun to participate. There should be more info, such as "you were the first one to classify this galaxy", or "You were the 100th person to classify this galaxy", etc.

    If the site gets popular they might add more features. I'd like to see how many galaxies i've done. How many galaxies other users have done, etc. In any case, I hope it catches on.
  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @10:45PM (#19863969) Journal
    I'm no expert but I think the "you can't prove a negative" only works with certain kinds of problems.

    As you have demonstrated, the negative statement above, "I am not 7 feet tall" can be proven by disproving the opposite. (Let's not consider the semantic arguments about what it means - we can assume that he means that he is not 7 feet tall when standing up).

    In this case, you cannot be both (7 feet tall) and (not seven feet tall) at the same time. They are mutually exclusive states of existence - and all inclusive.

    So, you can prove the negative statement the "I am not 7 feet tall" by taking a mere measurement. The person either is or is not 7 feet tall. If it is determined that the original poster is some other height than 7 feet, then we have proven his negative statement. I don't think it matters that you can rephrase the statement to be a positive statement "I am some other height than 7 feet."

    It seems things get tricky when you try to say that in all the universe and in all time something does not exist. Finding one example simply disproves the statement. But it's practically impossible to conduct the exhaustive search required to state unequivocally the positive.

    For example:

    "There are no apartments with pianos in them." is a negative statement. I can quickly disprove this because I am in an apartment as I type this and I can look to the other wall and there is a piano.

    "There are no apartments containing a 3 metric ton sphere of pure uranium 235." Now, from a logical point of view, I would have to look in every possible apartment and determine if there is a 3 ton sphere of uranium. And until I did that exhaustive search, one could argue that I had not proven my negative. But I believe that such a quantity of uranium would reach its critical point and a spontaneous fission reaction would happen, destroying the very large apartment that might have held it. Given that, I can be pretty sure, even certain, that such an apartment/uranium pairing do not exist.

    "There is no Santa Claus (as in the fat guy with the flying reindeer delivering gifts to every good child on earth on December 25th)". Again, there is no practical way to exhaustively inspect every location in the universe to prove that Santa Claus was not there. I could make this statement, but someone could try to argue "but you didn't look on the planets of Alpha Centari, he could be there".

    I'm not sure but maybe the statement needs to be revised to "There are some negatives that cannot be conclusively and exhaustively proven. Some negatives, however, can be proven.". I think this is why we say in science that if you want to claim the existence of something the burden of proof is on the claimant, and that the default position is non-existence.

    "My cat can produce cold fusion by feeding him coco puffs" is a bold statement that requires proof before it could be accepted. It my burden to demonstrate this and not the scientific community's burden to disprove it.

    "There is no cat that can produce cold fusion by feeding him coco puffs" is a negative statement. From a scientific point of view, there is no need to prove this because it is (as far as I can tell) the default position. From a scientific sense, there is no need to feed every cat coco puffs and see if cold fusion results.

    Ultimately, I think (in all my meandering) that while logic is a tool used by science, it is not the be-all and end-all. Doing so leaves you with results that are useless.

    "Non-existence of evidence is not evidence of non-existence" is a statement often used by those trying to use logic to defend their belief in the existence of a deity. The problem with this, as I understand it, is that the scientific position is that such an entity is not said to exist until it's proven to exist.

    To say "despite the lack of evidence, God exists because we have not exhausted all possible ways he could not exist" is not a scientifically useful statement.

    Here's another ne
  • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @08:43AM (#19866277)
    It just crops up at a different point in the process.

    In the old days, you'd expose a bunch of film plates of a given chunk of sky, then have your assistant / grad student / whatever overlap them and look for anything that "appeared" or "moved" across the different frames.

    5-10 years ago, you'd take digital images, then have your assistant / grad student / whatever "blink" back and forth between them, doing the same thing.

    Nowadays, you take lots of digital images and feed them into a supercomputing cluster which analyzes them, then spits out a list of the things that "appear" or "move" that are most likely to be good targets for you... then you have your assistant / grad student / whatever take photometry, spectra, etc. to check on them.

    The process gradually becomes more efficient, but the wetware's still in there - it's just being used in places where it matters most.

    (I'm part of the wetware for one such project, in the / whatever category.)

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears