Did You Know?

Fun Facts We Learned at the Library


Recently crowdsourcing has become a popular term. We hear about it a lot in regards to funding projects (a documentary on the future of the space program, for example), but crowdsourcing is used in other ways as well. Wikipedia is a well-known website that uses its users to write and edit its contents. Waze is a free GPS navigation phone app which uses the drive times of its users to provide real-time traffic conditions along with allowing users to add information such as accidents and speed traps.

A really fascinating use of crowdsourcing which has grown exponentially in the last few years is crowdsourcing science, also known as citizen science. Most of these projects consist of a bunch of data which has been collected and needs to be sorted and classified. Modern technology means that scientists can record a lot more data than they can process. And while regular citizens like you and me don’t know how to correctly interpret data, we can learn how to identify certain patterns and objects, which is what a lot of the projects ask you to do.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, okay, but that work doesn’t really mean anything,” but that’s not true. A couple of months ago, citizens working at Planet Hunters (which is part of Zooniverse) discovered a first - a planet that has four suns! Last year gamers playing Foldit solved in three weeks a problem that has been eluding scientists for a decade – the structure of a protein vital to the reproduction of HIV, which could be a key factor in fighting the disease.

Want to learn more about the science behind the crowdsourcing? Your local library has an entire section on science! Check out one of our many books about planets, stars, and moons, such as The Moon by Simon Seymour. HIV/AIDS: A Very Short Introduction by Alan Whiteside can introduce you to the two diseases and the issues surrounding them.