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Space Science Games

Astronomers Invent "Galaxy Game" 55

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that astronomers have invented a game to help uncover the basis of galactic collisions, showing players images of colliding galaxies and asking them to match those to simulations. These galactic mergers could be the key to why the Universe contains a mixture of different galaxies — some with trailing spiral arms, others more like compact balls of stars. Astronomers say that humans are 'much better than computers' at spotting the patterns and similarities. 'The strength of the game is that it takes results from many people,' says Dr Chris Lintott from Oxford University, one of the members of the Galaxy Zoo team. The developers describe the game as a 'cosmic fruit machine' (i.e., slot machine). The game shows players one real galaxy image and, on command, eight randomly selected simulations pop into the 'slot'" surrounding that image. The aim is for players to choose the simulations that look most similar to the real galaxy and take those through to the next round to examine them further. The simulated images show the different aspects of galaxy formation, so as people play, they will generate data that will help astronomers understand these collisions. 'These collisions take millions of years to unfold,' says Anthony Holincheck, a graduate student at George Mason University and another member of the team. 'All we get from the Universe is a single snapshot of each one. [With] simulations, we will be able to watch each cosmic car crash unfold in the computer.'"
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Astronomers Invent "Galaxy Game"

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  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @05:09PM (#30230612) Journal

    And they can quote you the best insurance rates for galactic collisions.

    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      I love it when I look up NFS commands and all the ads are for the newest "Need For Speed" game.

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        I love it when I look up NFS commands and all the ads are for the newest "Need For Speed" game.

        Try googling for exportfs.

        The weird stuff is found in a search for exportfs. Not disturbing weird like a goatse, just plain old weird.

        A pirate flag, some cartoon simpsons looking dude, pages of kanji, a picture of someones little white dog...

    • by ndogg ( 158021 )

      And I'm betting you could probably find one on eBay too.

    • Considering that there's a saggitarius starstream colliding with the milky way right now, and that, if it went horribly wrong instead, I'd probably die, I'd give you pretty good insurance on that too.

  • Boring (Score:4, Funny)

    by inhuman_4 ( 1294516 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @05:18PM (#30230682)

    I thought games were supposed to be fun. This just sounds like grunt work. Don't these researchers have grad students to do this kind of thing?

    • Re:Boring (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrsquid0 ( 1335303 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @05:42PM (#30230888) Homepage

      Something like this would be a waste of good grad students.

      • I had intended it to be a joke about grad students having to do the grunt work. But I guess my post wasn't very clear because I got modded down as a troll :(

        That or I have been reading too much PhD comics.

        • Actually I've found out myself, a rather long time ago, that I was modding perfectly insightful comments to "troll" because I used the mouse wheel to scroll down before I clicked out of the little Mod drop-down box. Result? Some poor sod gets a karma hit. So there's some potential for your "troll" mod to have been that sort of mistake.

          I'd much prefer that the bottom of the "moderate" list was a no-op, for that reason.

      • by Zadaz ( 950521 )

        Given the last few classes of grad students, no, not so much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You're just jealous I set the high score.

    • Actually, I think more to the point (some people might call that fun) I was wondering if it's a game, how do you "lose" or get out? Do they have one of the eight choices inserted as knowingly wrong? Bzzzt! Start over and see how many you can get in a row this time?

      I am all for Galaxy Zoo and the like, but if it's more human brain grunt-working, just call it that, chances are the people who are keen to do it won't mind either way.
      • Maybe we could just replace Solitaire with this on windows installs. Enough people spend some serious mind-numbing hours (over time at least) playing that, surely Galaxy Zoo couldn't be any less boring...
    • They're fresh out of undergrads

    • I thought games were supposed to be fun. This just sounds like grunt work. Don't these researchers have grad students to do this kind of thing?

      Fun? That's so old-school. Now it's all about how many hoops you can make your player base jump through for achievement points.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So quit complaining.

  • There's already a "game" that uses people to find the best way to fold protiens. []
  • Why is this in science? Shouldn't it be in idle?

  • The very first mission is a boss fight :(
  • First thing that came to my mind, that planet pool scene from Red Dwarf:

    Red Dwarf - Planet Pool: []

  • Colliding galaxies together? Watch out for celebrity endorsement by Mike Meyers: "Smashing Baby!"

  • A lot of people are bashing this. I think its kind of neat. I will "play" for a while.
  • This has been around for two and a half years and they relaunched it as Galaxy Zoo 2 back in Feb. of this year. Wonder why the BBC is rehashing the story now...
    • Not only that, but slashdot covered the release of galaxy zoo [] and covered it again when it found a rare specimen []. I spent quite a bit of time going through pictures when it first launched, but the interest had died off before it changed to Galaxy Zoo 2. It seems to have improved quite a bit since the original, but I wouldn't have imagined adding extra pictures to every page is enough to get to the front page of slashdot. Especially since as you said that change was made back in February.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meglon ( 1001833 )
      And along the same lines, computer programs have been around for DECADES.. yet they still make news. Who'da thunk.

      The GZ2 wasn't a relaunch in the typical sense, it was new and more precise information, with new goals. This galaxy merger tool is also new, and has yet another new goal.

      Perhaps we could have gone with the idea back in the day that "Everything that can be invented has been invented," Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899.... yet, we didn't. New things are still makin
  • Sorry, but British scientists already screwed up with their climate "research" so I'll wait for the next go 'round...

  • CAPTCHA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sherakama ( 1411161 )
    A game. Pssht. I have better games to play. Now make it a type of CAPTCHA and you will have your data prompto.
  • I'm torn. On the one hand there are very very few opportunities for someone with basic education to help scientists, and especially astronomers do real work. On the other hand as a "game" this is about as boring as you can get. I think there are enough amateur astronomers who are willing to help , especially in bite sized chunks (just look at the amateur effort tracking variable stars!) so why not call it what it is - volunteer work - and drop the lame game interface?

  • I see what you did there...
  • If they added this kind of stuff to loading / zoning screens in online games i'm sure people would use it to kill a few seconds
  • Slashdot is crowdsourcing. Welcome to the hivemind. Everything is fractal and you have your branch and I have mine.
  • Anonymous Coward (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If I remember correctly, many years ago Sydney University (Australia) built up a PC with LINUX just to study what happens when Galaxies collide. They may have come a long way with their calculations by now.
    Unfortunately I do not remember who was doing the work but I built that PC.

  • They get the young ones interested in exploring the universe (I'd loved this 10 years ago!), a lil better than being productive on joecartoon. Those gerbils are too damn cute though...

  • Other groups have aleready made games out of protein folding puzzles [].

  • Wow, I remember this from when was in high school, learning about polynomials.

    For perspective, I have anxieties about having too little time to prepare for the GRE nowadays. (Glances at source) Oh, of course. Does anybody know a site like slashdot, you know, news for nerds stuff, only the news are actually... Umm... new?

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