3 Ways You Can Contribute to Science Right Now

  1. Foldit

This gem was developed by the university of Washington to gain insight into protein structure. Basically, you have to “fold” a protein in a puzzle-solving manner; the proteins with the highest scores are then analyzed by researchers. The whole point is to improve protein structure prediction algorithms by gaining insights from human players. The game has already helped decipher the structure of an AIDS-causing monkey virus – unsolved for 15 years – in just ten days!

2. Stardust@home

The Stardust spacecraft collected the first interstellar dust particles ever brought to Earth through an encounter with the comet Wild 2. There’s a slight problem, however: the particles are a millionth of a meter in size, embedded in a collector 1,000 square centimeters in size. There’s estimated to be about 45 such particles. Through Stardust@home, mere mortals can look through stacks of images using a virtual microscope to find these precious interstellar particles – if you find one, you will be listed as a coauthor and can name the particle! A man from Canada has already discovered a particle and named it “Orion”.

3. Planet Hunters

Yes, hunt for planets! Look through data from the Kepler spacecraft for a characteristic drop in light, which indicates an exoplanet crossing its star. The original project discovered several unknown candidates and confirmed planets; the whole motivation here is that we may be better at detecting visual patterns than current algorithms. This is also the project that discovered the unusual light curve of Tabby’s Star which led to a lot of buzz about the possibility of an alien civilization’s Dyson sphere being behind it.

Obviously, there are quite a bit more citizen science projects out there for you to dive into – Eyewire, Old Weather, Whale FM, etc. The brainpower of the human species directed towards a single problem – it’s really quite ingenious when you think about it.

Happy science-ing,