Teenage American Civil War buff Bill Martin was fascinated by a legend of soldiers at the battle of Shiloh whose wounds glowed an eerie blue-green at night and who subsequently had better recoveries, a phenomenon dubbed "the angel's glow." He knew from his microbiologist mom's work that some soil bacteria were bioluminescent, and wondered if there could be a connection. Turns out, yes there probably was! [more inside]
"A few months earlier, an archivist friend had mentioned over lunch that she had a connection to my hometown—in fact her first job as an archivist was in St. Louis, organizing the papers from a midcentury study of radioactivity in children’s teeth. I had been unable to shake the story, and found myself up late at night reading about nuclear weapons testing, or daydreaming during work about purity and milk, innocence and poison, the movement of invisible contamination. A follow-up with my archivist friend revealed that the archive contained letters from children—to scientists, and to the tooth fairy." From The Appendix: "Atomic Anxiety and the Tooth Fairy: Citizen Science in the Midcentury Midwest."
Whale.fm is a project (which you can contribute to!) to help "marine researchers understand what whales are saying." - really it's a project looking at the effects that manmade sound has on marine life, but what whales are communicating with their songs is still a really interesting question, so I've listed some relevant links in extended description. [more inside]
Volunteer as a rover driver for Extrasolar, a crowdsourced citizen-science initiative sponsored by the Exoplanetary Research Institute. Help scientists classify the flora and fauna of Epsilon Eridani b! However, not everyone seems to be on board with the project.. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
With the help of Stargazing Live, 10,506 citizen scientists are exploring the surface of Mars like never before.
Next weekend, February 17-20, is the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab for Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada. [more inside]
Measurements separated by decades can yield a wealth of knowledge. Old Weather is a citizen science project (part of the Zoouniverse initiative for crowdsourced analysis) to transcribe the weather logs of Royal Navy ships from WWI in order to gather data on climate change; analysis of the data on punch cards from 1967 were recently used to form one of the longest retrospective studies ever on cholesterol.
Galaxy Zoo 2: Help astronomers sort through 250,000 galaxies! The Sloan Digital Sky Survey found hundreds of thousands of galaxies which needed to be accurately classified; the original Galaxy Zoo project was a collaborative effort by tens of thousands of volunteers around the world to sort these galaxies into spiral and elliptical categories. Now, it's entered its second phase: describing the details of these galaxies. Read the tutorial, and then you can jump in and start classifying. [more inside]
Once every 27 years or so, the mysterious binary star system of Epsilon Aurigae undergoes an eclipse, lasting nearly two years. This gives this system the distinction of having both the longest eclipse and the longest period of any known binary system. However, it is not clear why the eclipses last so long, or even what the structure of the system actually looks like--the main star is a supergiant, with a radius as big as the distance from the earth to the sun, and yet its light is dimmed for two years by something yet bigger. The next eclipse is due to begin in August of 2009, and as part of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, amateur astronomers are being called on to make their own observations of the changing brightness of Epsilon Aurigae. If you want to try it yourself, you can read the training guide to find out how to do your own observations and report them. In addition, the two scientists who organized observations of the previous eclipse both have webpages [1, 2] which are coordinating the organization for the upcoming observation. If you want to learn more about the science behind ε Aurigae, a good rundown with links to papers is available here.
Thoreau was into it. Scientists are using it to understand climate change. When Project Budburst starts again on Febraury 15th, you can participate, too. [more inside]