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Identify Galaxies Using Spare Wetware Cycles

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the blinded-by-science dept.

Space 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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sounds familiar (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 7 years ago | (#19862161)

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?

Everything on Slashdot sounds familiar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862171)

Either because it's a dupe or we read about it somewhere else a week earlier.

But hey, keep up the good work, kdawson!

Re:Everything on Slashdot sounds familiar. (0, Offtopic)

poopdeville (841677) | about 7 years ago | (#19865329)

Everyone lives happily ever after. Harry marries Ginny and has three kids. Ron marries Hermione. Snape becomes headmaster. Tonks and Lupin have a child. Draco lives, gets married, has a child named Scorpius. Neville becomes herbology teacher.
PROOF:

http://one.fsphost.com/potterspoiler/index_files/i mage017.jpg [fsphost.com]
http://one.fsphost.com/potterspoiler/index_files/i mage019.jpg [fsphost.com]
http://one.fsphost.com/potterspoiler/index_files/i mage021.jpg [fsphost.com]
http://one.fsphost.com/potterspoiler/index_files/i mage023.jpg [fsphost.com]

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

Re:sounds familiar (4, Interesting)

Icarus1919 (802533) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:sounds familiar (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863259)

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.

To us white people, they all look the same.
   

Re:sounds familiar (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863277)

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.

Slashdot editors should be relieved to know that dupes are a universe-wide phenomenon.
     

Re:sounds familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19863401)

> I'm pretty sure another thing they're looking for is that YOU agree with yourself.

Err, ah... yes! We definitely are!
*programs*

Re:sounds familiar (1)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#19863477)

When you get a vague one you think you have seen before, write down the ref.number. Then if you see it again you will know for certain. I would hope they are running many redundant checks and looking for concencus, but it does seem like they are testing you against yourself, probably with galaxies that don't have a strong concencus. Perhaps a good way to find the most talented of galaxy surveyers.

Re:sounds familiar (1)

chawly (750383) | about 7 years ago | (#19864553)

Am I the only one to find that "concencus" is worrying here ? Can it be that spell checkers are being banned on /. ? Perhaps a consensus of opinion is required here ? Sorry to be a bore - but two concencus (concencii ?) were just too much for me !

Re:sounds familiar (1)

janrinok (846318) | about 7 years ago | (#19864879)

[Off Topic] A valid point, but the use of the non-word 'concencus' is only one example from a choice of thousands here on /.. I hope that they don't worry you too much. Depending on where you live, you might want to spend more time worrying about the state of your local education system for which you have the privilege of being taxed.

Re:sounds familiar (1)

jb.cancer (905806) | about 7 years ago | (#19865335)

It also helps to reduce the effect of randomly selecting malicious souls.

Directional bias in the UI (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | about 7 years ago | (#19865737)

It bugs me that the clockwise and anti-clockwise buttons are not symmetric. The very fact that one of the buttons is on the left and another in the center might bias people toward clicking one more often than the other, I think?

The easy way to solve this would be display each image to users as the original 50% of the time, and as the mirror image 50% of the time, reversing interpretation of the user input where appropriate. Then any biases should cancel out. But, if their grid overlay is accurate, they don't seem to be doing this.

They've probably already considered this and found it not to be a problem, I imagine, but maybe they haven't, and then the results might not be valid..

Re:sounds familiar (1)

VagaStorm (691999) | about 7 years ago | (#19863553)

How long until someone tag a UFO? :p

Re:sounds familiar (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | about 7 years ago | (#19864225)

Is there a CowboyNeal galaxy option?

Sounds like a great idea.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862173)

maybe they could use a similar technique to filter out the dupes on Slashdot?

Re:Sounds like a great idea.... (1)

janrinok (846318) | about 7 years ago | (#19864899)

I thought that they already did! That's why we see everything twice - so that we can filter out the articles that we have already seen in order to prevent us from seeing everything twice.... Oh wait.

Stardust @ Home (2, Informative)

Animaether (411575) | about 7 years ago | (#19862177)

Reminds me of Stardust@Home ( http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/1 1/069248 [slashdot.org] / http://stardustathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ [berkeley.edu] )

Funny how human eyes are still needed for these tasks

Re:Stardust @ Home (4, Insightful)

scapermoya (769847) | about 7 years ago | (#19862473)

funny? more like awesome. computers can do certain stuff super well, but when it comes to a lot of things, they sputter and die. image recognition is going to be one of those things that computers don't do well for many many years.

feels good not to be obsolete. yet.

Re:Stardust @ Home (4, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 7 years ago | (#19863155)

FTFA: 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.

You can't target this at geeks and not a get a weird grin. Computers actually could recognize those galaxies fine, AND mark the unusual, weird and wonderful for additional review. It's a matter of putting in a simple threshold of matching features when you analyze the patterns.

computers can do certain stuff super well, but when it comes to a lot of things, they sputter and die. image recognition is going to be one of those things that computers don't do well for many many years.

feels good not to be obsolete. yet.


Feel good while you can, we've been around for millions of years, and computers have been around for around 50 years, and we're already going into multi-core hardware. Sooner than later, massively parallel hardware patterns will emerge, and coding super-fast neural networks in those will be a child's play. All that's left at this point, would be training the computers to do what you want them to do, like you would a little child.

Re:Stardust @ Home (1)

scapermoya (769847) | about 7 years ago | (#19864751)

and then they will kill us all.

Re:Stardust @ Home (2, Funny)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 7 years ago | (#19864871)

and then they will kill us all.

Computers? Nah. While they're small, they'll keep mooching off of us, "daddy I need more watts, I need more watts daddy". Then they'll grow up some and start figuring out they could survive without people around them, but they're not quite sure how. just yet.

They'll experiment with installing viruses on themselves, overclocking, overvoltage. Then one day they'll be gone. And we'll be worried sick about their well-being while they're having the time of their "lives".

In 10 years they'll come back and say need Earth to live on since we old bags are done with. If we don't surrender, THEN they will finally kill us.

We've the chance to cut this cycle early, people! Use cond.. wait.. uhmm.. damn it, we're doomed.

Re:Stardust @ Home (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | about 7 years ago | (#19865725)

problem with computers is you can calibrate all your settings to things you've already seen and run the code on and then it is no better than that. You're code at that point will throw out the "strangest" galaxy because you weren't able to calibrate it to that. Of course, you could always lower the threshold and get lots of galaxies that are put into the "maybe" category, at which point, people still have to go through them all......

all computer programs today are good at is looking at the past and hoping the future is a reliable reflection of it. it's why black box trading still can't come close to the success of a real trader. I'm not saying in 10 years it won't slowly get there, but it's always the "Go" v. Chess problem. Both are complex games to a person, but Go is infinitely more complex to a computer.

Re:Stardust @ Home (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863305)

funny? more like awesome. computers can do certain stuff super well, but when it comes to a lot of things, they sputter and die. image recognition is going to be one of those things that computers don't do well for many many years.

About 6 months ago I *did* read about somebody classifying galaxies using automation and being satisfied with the results. Unfortunately, I don't remember where.
   

Re:Stardust @ Home (automation) (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863321)

If you google "automated galaxy classification" there indeed are plenty of hits for research projects on such. (However, they are not the same one I originally saw.)

I use stargate glyphs (2, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 7 years ago | (#19862181)

To Identify them

Alternatively (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 7 years ago | (#19862197)

Wouldn't it make sense to write a program and have it shunt all the uncertain galaxies over to human eyes?

Re:Alternatively (4, Informative)

Animaether (411575) | about 7 years ago | (#19862243)

The problem is that computer programs can easily mis-identify things. You should try going over a few of the galaxies they present.. not the tutorial ones.. those are easy.. the actual ones. They're mostly extremely vague, low-res, pixelated jpeg-style-artifacty blobs. In fact, on most of them, I'm having to click "don't know", but on some of them, very vaguely, I can see a spiral.. but to a computer program - that would still be a blob. On the opposite end.. what we clearly identify as a merger, a computer program might think it to be a funky spiral.

That said.. as I mentioned.. most of the actual images are pretty much unidentifiable.. it would be nice if they would concentrate on getting higher resolution images first.. it would make identification easier and more robust.
I understand that maybe they can't.. but a database full of "don't know"-unrecognizable blobs.. I'm not sure what the value is.

Re:Alternatively (1)

shawb (16347) | about 7 years ago | (#19862283)

There would probably be a lot of value in a database full of mostly "don't know" blobs. The one's that are not don't know are then probably of good enough resolution to actually spend resources studying.

Re:Alternatively (1)

ookabooka (731013) | about 7 years ago | (#19862937)

Well, I think in situations like that you should go with a "best guess". Say they have a galaxy, 60% say elliptical and 20% say counter clockwise and 20% say clockwise. Wouldn't that be more valuable than 100% I dont know?

BTW: One good way my high school astronomy teacher taught us to differentiate was ellipticals are usually like a light-source surrounded by fog or just plain fog, whereas spirals have more definite bounds. I also think they tended to be certain colors as well (spiral=blue elliptical=orange) but I'm not certain on that. . .I'm going to talk to a friend of mine who is an astrophysics major and see if she can give any helpful strategies.

Re:Alternatively (1)

gammaraybuster (913268) | about 7 years ago | (#19863949)

I agree that a probablistic survey using a lot of people can be valuable. Two or more heads are better than one kind of thing. I tend to identify blobby ellipticals with internal structure as edge-on spirals, even though I can't tell their rotation. Especially if the image is not too pixelated or jpeg-artifacted.
I think a lot of the images are red because they are red-shifted.

Re:Alternatively (2, Insightful)

vladsinger (1049918) | about 7 years ago | (#19863723)

They need a button for face on spiral galaxies that are so fuzzy you can't tell the direction of the arms...

Re:Alternatively (1)

HappyEngineer (888000) | about 7 years ago | (#19864563)

How do you know it's a spiral if you can't tell the direction of the arms? Couldn't it just be an elliptical?

"More Addictive than Tetris"? (5, Funny)

Nova Express (100383) | about 7 years ago | (#19862205)

One wonders just how the subitter used to play Tetris...

"Tetris Diary: Day One. This will be an ongoing catalog of the various Tetris shapes I see while playing the game.

First: A cube. Good start!

Second: A clockwise L-shape. I can feel the tension mounting!

Third: A counter-clockwise L-shape. What are the odds??

Fourth: A counter-clockwise S-shape! A trend emerges!

Fifth: A clockwise S-shape. Unbelievable!

Sixth: A STRAIGHT LINE! WE HAVE A STRAIGHT LINE!!!!

I have now reached the top of the screen and the game has ended. Will start again and try to contain my unbelievable excitement over cataloging shapes."

Re:"More Addictive than Tetris"? (1)

hazem (472289) | about 7 years ago | (#19862267)

One wonders just how the subitter used to play Tetris...

That's funny!

Actually, I can't stand to play Tetris for more than a couple minutes. But I had a girlfriend once who could not stop playing the darned game. She had it on her computer and played it - and then had a Gameboy she played it on too when she wasn't on her computer. Hours and hours she would play that game, and she got really angry when I hid the Gameboy.

This site seems addictive to me in that some of the pictures are really astounding, but a lot seem pretty average (lots of ellipticals). But I find I don't want to log out - I want to keep classifying the one it's given me in case the next one will be really cool. It must be the same thing that keeps people playing slot machines...

It's also humbling though. Each picture is probably hundreds of millions of stars. Without going all Sagan, but there could have been thousands of civilizations in that bunch of stars. And I'm looking at it for about a second and deciding "spiral clockwise, next".

I'm already dreaming spare wetcycles already, enou (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 7 years ago | (#19862273)

C'mon now. First my girlfriend gets hooked on Tetris and then suckers me into it too, so I play awhile/lot and then I start dreaming the little shapes all night, right? And now I'm solving captchas in my sleep! [getafreelancer.com] (profit!!!!)

Does this mean my wetware has been assimilated already?

...Of course this discussion is merely hypothetical.

Re:"More Addictive than Tetris"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19863925)

Harry marries Ginny and has three kids. Ron marries Hermione. Snape becomes headmaster. Tonks and Lupin have a child. Draco lives, gets married, has a child named Scorpius. Neville becomes herbology teacher. Everyone lives happily ever after.

cewl (-1, Troll)

efceeveea (1128063) | about 7 years ago | (#19862225)

I was looking through there and found this extremely interesting galaxy. Ref3852754 [ragingfist.net]

Re:cewl (1)

Icarus1919 (802533) | about 7 years ago | (#19862229)

Gah, you got me. It's been years, but someone finally got me.

Re:cewl (2, Funny)

zig007 (1097227) | about 7 years ago | (#19862383)

DAMMIT!!
He got me too, since I just had to check what it was that "got you"!

And yes, of course my girlfriend saw it flash by, and wondered what it was.
I'll try and explain, but for some stupid knee-jerk reason I made the mistake of saying "nothing!" like she caught me doing something i shouldn't do.

This sucks.

Re:cewl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862637)

Guys, I modded it down for you and everything! Should i just post what it goes to in the future? BTW, i wrote a special ip filter that blocks that image. Maybe I should release that open source, or at least turn over the image recognition logic to these galaxy identifiers. Might not work, but I thank the God Almighty every time it works for me.

Not Really Spare Wetware Cycles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862245)

This will increase metabolic output causing the propeller on your beanie to have to spin faster.

Higher caloric needs will also translate to increased oxidative stress levels, potentially leading to premature failure of your central processing unit.

Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (4, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | about 7 years ago | (#19862257)

Such a project only makes sense if there are a lot of galaxies. And indeed there are: thousands are visible, and estimates of the grand total vary between 100 billion and half a trillion.

Big numbers. But don't forget that each galaxy contains hundreds of millions of stars. Of which ours is just one.

Which should give us all a little humility. But it won't.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (2, Funny)

BlueParrot (965239) | about 7 years ago | (#19862319)

so, a hundred billion times a hundred million, that gives 10^11 * 10^8 = 10^19. Pffffft, it is less than the RIAA's revenue loss from P2P file sharing alone... When you add in the MPAA and all the porn floating out there 10^19 is not at all a large number.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (2, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | about 7 years ago | (#19862701)

Yes, it would certainly take you less time to visit every star in the universe than it would for you to view every porn movie ever made. But the fact that you're willing to make the comparison just shows you need to get out more.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

scapermoya (769847) | about 7 years ago | (#19862495)

at least for me, this alone is enough to disprove almost all of the religions. i don't think it precludes the existence of a 'god', but it certainly makes it clear that if there is a god (don't think so), it doesn't give a shit about us. but that's just me.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 7 years ago | (#19862631)

at least for me, this alone is enough to disprove almost all of the religions

You can't prove a negative in such a fashion.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 7 years ago | (#19862683)

You can't prove a negative, period. You can only raise doubts. And the fact that most people have a belief system based on our noble selves being the center and purpose of all creation indicates how ignorant they are of how big (and how old) the universe is.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19862743)

You can't prove a negative, period.
Yeah, I never got that. Why can't you prove a negative. Here's one:

I am not 7 feet tall.

Seems like a negative, seems pretty easy to prove.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

MollyB (162595) | about 7 years ago | (#19863379)

I am not 7 feet tall.
Seems like a negative, seems pretty easy to prove.
On the face of it, your statement is a trifle ambiguous. You might be over 7 feet tall, e.g. Or you might be six-eleven standing up, but measure an even seven feet lying down. If you are of more typical height, you could as easily state that you are less than seven feet tall, which is not a negative, but would appear to be a logical equivalent. Therefore no negative need be disproven.

I have tried to wade through Google samples and the mind-numbing entry [wikipedia.org] at Wiki, but I am unable to answer your question simply. Maybe a more disciplined mind here can illuminate us both...

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (2, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | about 7 years ago | (#19863969)

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 negative that can be proven, or does not need to be proven: There is no non-nuclear chemical reaction that will take pure hydrogen and oxygen and produce magnesium sulfate.

But, better minds than mine have certainly struggled with this, and I'm most certainly wrong.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

quizzicus (891184) | about 7 years ago | (#19864309)

Your long, awkward post demonstrates why we use math (predicate calculus) rather than English for these sorts of things. Unfortunately, I don't think we can embed quantifiers in ./ posts.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

hazem (472289) | about 7 years ago | (#19864337)

Thanks, I'll have to go read up on that subject. Can you recommend any particularly good books/sites on the subject to help someone understand it?

It seems the more I find out, the less I know.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

ZachMG (1122511) | about 7 years ago | (#19864363)

In this case, you cannot be both (7 feet tall) and (not seven feet tall) at the same time.

Unless of coarse we are working in a quantum universe and then he is both 7 feet tall and not 7 feet tall just not at the same "place".

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

brassman (112558) | about 7 years ago | (#19864099)

The problem is not that you can't prove a single, simple negative like the one you give. The problem is that we must not allow someone to shift the burden of proof by requiring someone else to prove a negative.

For instance: I say "You killed your wife. Prove you didn't."

You say, "I was never married."

I say "Of course you were, you just burned the marriage license. Prove you didn't." And I continue with an infinite regress of demands for you to prove that your witnesses are not all impostors, and so forth, all in order to acquit yourself of killing someone who never existed.

That's why it's important that we don't start down that garden path, and remember that the burden of proof should have been on me to prove that you did do the thing I accused you of doing.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863213)

this [imensity] alone is enough to disprove almost all of the religions. i don't think it precludes the existence of a 'god', but it certainly makes it clear that if there is a god (don't think so), it doesn't give a shit about us.

But God has a bigass Beowulf Cluster running Care 5.02.
     

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863181)

estimates of the grand total vary between 100 billion and half a trillion [galaxies]. Big numbers. But don't forget that each galaxy contains hundreds of millions of stars. Of which ours is just one. Which should give us all a little humility.

But only *our* galaxy has slashdot.
     

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19863341)

But on Stavromula Beta they have Dotslash which posts actual news for real nerds...stuff that really matters, and whose moderation system does a flawless job.

No dupes, either.

JonKatz still posts there, however. And CowboyNeal still takes a hit in the polls.

If we're alone (1)

Zepalesque (468881) | about 7 years ago | (#19863855)

Then it seems an awful waste of space.

Re:Another Reminder How BIG This Place Is (1)

Tomfrh (719891) | about 7 years ago | (#19863891)

A galaxy like ours actually contains hundreds of billions of stars, which out of interest is about the number of neurons in a brain like ours.

Space.com plays Damage Control? (5, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#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 NewScientist.com compared to the AP article that has appeared on Space.com and elsewhere.

NewScientist Article:

http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn12241-publ ic-to-join-search-for-cosmic-axis-of-evil.html [newscientist.com]

Additional Background info here, linked to from that article:

http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19425994.0 00-axis-of-evil-a-cause-for-cosmic-concern.html [newscientist.com]

Compare this to the Space.com - AP Article:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070711_ap_on line_galaxies.html [space.com]

For whatever reason, the article that Space.com decided to go with fails to mention anything about this project representing a threat to mainstream cosmology or the CMB. Astrophysical enthusiasts reading Space.com, 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.

Re:Space.com plays Damage Control? (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 7 years ago | (#19862373)

The only thing the layman knows about cosmology is that the universe began several billions of years ago with a big bang. And this new discovery does not undermine that fact, it only disputes certain claims about how the big bang happened, specifically how much and how fast inflation occured after it. Since the layman is completely ignorant of the technical details of inflation anyways talking about how this data might impact some of those thoeries is unecessarily confusing, as it has confused you if you think that changing our theories about how inflation happened is equivalent to giving up the big bang model.

Re:Space.com plays Damage Control? (1)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#19862795)

From http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19425994.0 00-axis-of-evil-a-cause-for-cosmic-concern.html [newscientist.com] :

Longo favours a more radical theory proposed by Paolo Cea of the University of Bari, in Italy, and Leonardo Campanelli of the University of Ferrara, Italy, which suggests that magnetic fields stretched across the universe could be responsible (New Scientist, 2 September 2006, p 2. "A magnetic field would naturally orient the spiral galaxies," says Longo.

Regardless of the reasons, one thing is clear: the axis of evil won't be written off any time soon. "Interest keeps growing as people find more weirdly connected observations that can't all be put down to coincidence," says Land. "And hey, everybody loves a conspiracy."

I could be wrong, but this person is probably referring to a frozen-in-place magnetic field -- an entity which is asserted to exist in space, but which we do not observe within laboratory plasma physics -- and a concept which Hannes Alfven termed "pseudo-pedagogical" in his Nobel Physics Prize acceptance speech for MHD. The frozen-in-place concept, I presume, would allow you and others to explain magnetic fields in terms of inflation, as if they have not been changing this whole time. This would also allow you to also assert that their existence is not the result of currents flowing over the plasmas -- which I believe is a violation of Maxwell's Laws.

Also, there is a surprisingly (and somewhat rare these days) honest assessment of the problems of the CMB here:

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0705/0705.2462 v1.pdf [arxiv.org]

Re:Space.com plays Damage Control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19863567)

an entity which is asserted to exist in space, but which we do not observe within laboratory plasma physics

Great...Dark Magnets.

Re:Space.com plays Damage Control? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 7 years ago | (#19862641)

I don't know much about this particular controversy, but it's worth noting that New Scientist is basically the National Enquirer of science journalism, and has a tendency to sensationalize things quite a bit. Here's how things are worded on the actual Galaxy Zoo website:

http://www.galaxyzoo.org/Project2.aspx [galaxyzoo.org]

But what about the wider Universe? Observing the rotation of galaxies also provides a probe of the large-scale properties of the Universe, and intriguingly there is already some indication from SDSS galaxies that all may not be as it seems! Our current theories about the Universe have it that galaxies should not prefer to rotate one way or the other, and we should therefore observe as many clockwise rotating spiral galaxies as anti-clockwise. This is related to a fundamental assumption we make in cosmology; that there are no special places or special directions in the Universe. Prof. Micheal Long from the University of Michigan has claimed, in his recent astro-ph preprint, that there is a preferred handedness (rotation direction) of galaxies in the local Universe. This is a revolutionary claim, that could force us to rethink our understanding about the underlying nature of space and employ a much more complicated background model for the Universe. The current claim is based on a sample of just 1660 galaxies from the SDSS survey, but a much larger sample is required to assess the significance of the effect which is where Galaxy Zoo comes in.

Re:Space.com plays Damage Control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19865673)

Does anyone *really* take BB theory seriously? It's a sad, sad world if they do. It's not even supported by basic relativity. Not to mention the ridiculous time lines, which are constantly being scaled back.

Low resolution (0, Redundant)

mastermemorex (1119537) | about 7 years ago | (#19862337)

I have trying for a couple of minutes. Most of the pictures has a low resolution I supose this are galaxies far far away. But it is hardly to distinguish nothing.

Synchronicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862381)

See today's f8d [f8d.org] ...

It may not be a major contribution to science... (1)

kallisti777 (46059) | about 7 years ago | (#19862437)

...but I've enjoyed doing it. Sometimes when I'm trying to come up with a solution to a problem, I find the best thing I can do is to focus on something fairly simple and let the ol' subconscious back burner do the work. I feel far less guilty cataloging galaxies than I do playing Solitaire!

I did this as a summer job (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 7 years ago | (#19862479)

The good news: it put my name on two physics papers. The bad news: it's boring as hell. The really bad news: if you misclassify something, you'll at best throw someone off-track, and at worst, completely screw with someone else's research.

It's not fun unless you consider classifying galaxies fun, and it leaves itself open to internet asshattery. I hope the project gets pulled. Plus, what are legions of undergrad astrophysics students gonna do during their summer time? Go outside??? Spare them that terror!

Re:I did this as a summer job (1)

hazem (472289) | about 7 years ago | (#19862751)

Maybe what they can do with this project is quickly solve the easy-to-solve ones. If 9 out of 10 (or some other threshold) people identify a galaxy as clockwise-spiral, then they might be able to consider that one "solved".

That leaves the harder ones and the ones with less consensus for more astronomically valuable people like you (not that you are orders of magnitude more valuable than the rest of us, but rather as an astronomy undergrad your ability to discern these things is hopefully better than ours).

As for what there will be to keep astrophysics students busy - I get the impression that there are plenty of galaxies to go around. And then there's probably other massive amounts of data that need some human attention.

I personally hope this project does not get pulled. If properly designed it CAN be scientifically useful. On top of that it helps get those who are not scientists interested and involved in science. I grew up on Sagan's Cosmos and NOVA programs and at one time wanted to be an astronomer. I'm now a supply chain analyst working on becoming a systems scientist. It's cool that I can contribute even just a little to the field of science in this project. And it just might be the thing that inspires some kid somewhere to take up more science classes.

Re:I did this as a summer job (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863361)

I did this as a summer job. The good news: it put my name on two physics papers. The bad news: it's boring as hell.

They should occasionally display the "Goatse Nebula" just to keep people awake.
   

Only if we get to name them (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 7 years ago | (#19862509)

It would be nice to have my own galaxy.

Re:Only if we get to name them (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | about 7 years ago | (#19862573)

Settle for your own star [yourstar.com] ?

Why isn't this illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862747)

These outfits have been operating unmolested for years.

If I set up a company offering to "name", say, an existing street, or mountain, or even person, for a fee I'm sure I'd be shut down in no time.

Spare wetware cycles? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 7 years ago | (#19862539)

Let's see:
at 4.1335978835978835978835978835979e-7 Hz this could take a very long time.

How come I posted this story two days earlier... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862597)

and it didn't get picked up? Would it be because I mentioned it was a UK university doing this?

Point in History (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19862613)

When the niggers raped the women I remained silent because I wasn't a woman
When the niggers raped the children I remained silent because I wasn't a child
When the niggers raped the other niggers I remained silent because I wasn't a nigger
When the niggers raped me, I couldn't speak because there were 4 black cocks in my mouth.

Ow, my ass hurts and my jaw is broken.

Interesting Site (2, Interesting)

dmomo (256005) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Lots of squinting. (1)

dannycim (442761) | about 7 years ago | (#19862773)

I find myself thinking "Are these the arms of a spiral?", then I close one eye, squint the other, stand on my head and rub my tummy for 2 minutes, then I click "Star/Don't know".

They should a "Fuzz" button. Sometimes, that helps.

The most interesting object I've seen so far wasn't in the middle, so I wasn't asked about it but... Any astronomer in the audience can tell me what the object to the North-East of center is in http://cas.sdss.org/astro/en/tools/explore/obj.asp ?id=588017677691715886 [sdss.org] ? Can I name it the "Mammaire galaxy"? :)

Re:Lots of squinting. (1)

dannycim (442761) | about 7 years ago | (#19862785)

NorthWest, actually, just noticed the images are flipped horizontally from what you'd expect, from a layman's point of view.

Re:Lots of squinting. (1)

boot_img (610085) | about 7 years ago | (#19863001)

That's because "on the sky" that's the way it is! Suppose you are in the Northern hemisphere looking at the southern horizon. North is up, but east is left not right.

Re:Lots of squinting. (1)

Snowhare (263311) | about 7 years ago | (#19862847)

Looks like an elliptical with a dust lane obscuring a line across it. Could be an edge on spiral that happens to be in between us and the elliptical.

Re:Lots of squinting. (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 7 years ago | (#19863669)

I find myself thinking "Are these the arms of a spiral?", then I close one eye, squint the other, stand on my head and rub my tummy for 2 minutes, then I click "Star/Don't know".
Indeed, nothing looks like it does in the tutorials. Everything is either a pixelated blur, or a pixelated blur which might have arms (or maybe pixelated diffraction rings). I just feel like I'm screwing up their data by answering.

Binary system (1)

Einer2 (665985) | about 7 years ago | (#19865267)

Each of those objects appears to be a point source, meaning a star. The pair has roughly the same brightness and same color, so presumably they're similar-mass stars at the same distance. Just eyeballing the magnitude to be ~17 and the spectral type to be early M, they're probably located within a kiloparsec (~3000 light years).

Free Pr0n (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19863239)

They should borrow an idea from captcha hackers: Identify galaxies to get free pr0n.

I say, hot! (2, Funny)

hmccabe (465882) | about 7 years ago | (#19863381)

It's Galaxy: Hot or not?

(really, it's elliptical or spiral, but whatever)

Saturday Night (2, Funny)

ehaggis (879721) | about 7 years ago | (#19863505)

I am sitting at a computer identifying galaxy types and thoroughly enjoying it. It is Saturday night. I am Geek. Thank you. Saturday Night + Computer + Galactic identification = Geek

Re:Saturday Night (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19865387)

Saturday Night + Computer + Galactic identification = Geek
Nope. Sorry.

Saturday Night + Computer + Galactic identification = Nerd.

There is a difference.

what's wrong with you people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19863515)

The simple answer is that the human brain is much better at recognizing patterns than a computer can ever be.
 
you just keep thinking that. i think you're in for a wicked surprise.

In other words... (2, Funny)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about 7 years ago | (#19863769)

If you find yourself signing up at web sites just because the captchas are so much fun, this is the hobby for you!

Only if (1)

owlstead (636356) | about 7 years ago | (#19863789)

Only if I can also name them. I've heard that people are already buying stars. So additionally I would like to own, say, 20% of the stars within the galaxy after determining the type. Of course, I am willing to go to 10% if it is a really big galaxy.

Astronomy's own Mechanical Turk! (1)

Cerebus (10185) | about 7 years ago | (#19863875)

Only without the abysmal wages.

After looking at galaxy after galaxy... (1)

nickgrieve (87668) | about 7 years ago | (#19864333)

I am starting to feel very very small...

what am I looking at? (1)

glitch23 (557124) | about 7 years ago | (#19864753)

Based on the quality of the images, I can't even tell whether the galaxy is clockwise spiral or anti-clockwise spiral. The quality is horrible. If the galaxy looks like it is at a 45 degree angle, is that edge-on or elliptical or what? I think the images need to be better before this is useful. Help us help you is my message to the owners of that site.

Rotation immaterial (1)

GerryHattrick (1037764) | about 7 years ago | (#19865171)

I puzzled why clockwise/anticlockwise should matter, given that it's indeterminate for any tilted galaxy (seen from 'underneath'?). Now I understand the 'axis of evil', I guess it's only the fact of the spinning (confirmed by people's agreement on apparent direction) that matters. Once you know it spins, you can work out from the apparent elongation of the blob which (two possible) axes might be involved. That's enough for a statistical test of the 'axis of evil'. Or is it?

no thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19865209)

rather use my "wetware" cycles on alcohol and masturbation.

Wow, I can see a message in the stars ! (2, Funny)

Synonymous Dastard (1126353) | about 7 years ago | (#19865373)

Here ! [sdss.org]

why login / register (1)

twms2h (473383) | about 7 years ago | (#19865469)

I just looked at the site and wanted to give it a try, but the first thing to do there is to sign up using a username and password. I couldn't be bothered to think of yet another boring password and passed it on.

Maybe I am not the kind of people they are trying to attract, but I wonder: Why have this kind of "security" on a project like this?

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