HISTORY’S VERY BEST MINDS, HUMANITY’S GREATEST HITS, IF YOU WILL, have all taken a keen interest in science. Think: Aristotle, Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Ben Franklin — they all mixed science into their long list (erm, solution?) of achievements.
Ben Franklin’s resume (abridged version).
Are you a closet genius? Of course you are. And thanks to the Internet, you don’t need a PhD to call yourself a real scientist. Now-a-days, crowd-sourced science projects can turn the regular Joe into an honest-to-goodness member of the scientific community.
And you can be one too!
Here’s our list of the best citizen science projects ever to egg on your brain prowess.
But wait! Need even more inspiration? Sure you do! To aid you in your scientific discovery, the entire TSJ staff has added theme music to each entry to pump your adrenaline as you move science forward, change the world, and save us all from ourselves.
1. Be a Martian (NASA & Microsoft)
Not every kid who dreams of space grows up to be an astronaut. But just because you won’t be the first human on Mars doesn’t mean you can’t participate in Mars history-making.
NASA’s Be a Martian project has users view pictures of the red planet from rovers and satellites to identify craters and match them up to create accurate maps. By participating, you may be identifying the next landing spot for a rover, or even the place where a human being will first step on Mars.
And that would rule.
2. SETI Live
Are we alone in this vast universe?
If you want to believe, then SETI@Home is your chance to help try and answer that question. Built from the remains of a cancelled government project, SETI searches the sky for transmissions from other intelligent beings.
All it requires is the spare computing power from your computer devices to crunch data and signals. For that few hours a day you aren’t playing World of Warcraft or reading The Smoking Jacket, you could be giving us first contact with new civilizations.
3. Cosmo Quest
Mars isn’t exotic enough for you? Or else you fear contacting aliens will make Independence Day a non-fiction film? Right. Well, worry-wort, Cosmo Quest may be right up your alley. Cosmo Quest is all about mapping out craters on the Moon, on Mercury, and the asteroid Vesta. (Vesta??)
And many more extraterrestrial worlds may be added in the future.
So. Armchair crater-counting could be your thing. Think about it.
4. Galaxy Zoo
Is the solar system too close to home for you? If your curiosity cannot be contained by the sun’s gravitational pull, Galaxy Zoo may be the project for you. Using images gathered from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey between 2000 and 2008, the viewer answers basic questions about the size and shape of galaxies.
This has led to discovery of new types of galaxies and several scientific papers. YOU could author papers like that. You totally could!
Most of the time, science seeks to better humankind. Sometimes, however, science is used for vengeance. If HIV, cancer or Alzheimer’s has taken your loved one, FoldIt it your chance to enact vengeance with video games.
The game has players learn to fold proteins, which are collected by a computer to study ways in which diseases from proteins are formed and how they can be defeated by advanced drugs.
Whittle a little online origami and play a part in discovering cures to fatal illnesses or unlocking the secrets to human immortality. No less.
6. Phylo Game
If you love genetics, but harbor bad memories from being unable to properly make an origami swan in middle school art class, Phylo is for you.
The purpose of Phylo is recognizes patterns in DNA that match between humans and other species.
By finding matching gene sequences, science is better able to locate where certain genes that cause disease occur. The only thing missing in Mr. DNA from Jurassic Park.
7. Snapshot Serengeti
Space is fine and all, but maybe you want to be more down to earth.
Snapshot Serengeti bring you back to your days watching Wild Discovery. Hundreds of cameras set up in Serengeti National Park capture the wildlife, making millions of pictures.
By having volunteers tag and catalog species and describe their activity, scientists can track previously unknown patterns of behavior.
8. Field Expedition: Mongolia
Aim high. Why not be the biggest badass scientist of all? Be Indiana Jones.
With National Geographic’s Field Expedition: Mongolia, you aren’t fighting Nazis or running from trap boulders, but you are helping to find the lost tomb of Genghis Khan! The real deal!
Using non-invasive digital images from space, air and land-based systems, users (aka, YOU) identify human-made structures, helping scientists to locate Khan’s (KAHHHHN’s) tomb.
While the mission doesn’t go in gangbusters, like in Indy, Field Expedition: Mongolia will provide rich scientific data that could be used for the next film. Or just make you the most important scientist the planet ever saw.