Chris Meets the Zoo
Galaxy Zoo Get-Together No. 4 – Chris’s RAS Lecture in London
Greetings to all looking forward to Zoo II, and welcome to a taste of its progress. I’d like to invite you on a journey with me in spirit, to Oxford, where I went on Wednesday 11th June. I visited Chris and Kevin at their zookeeper headquarters and had a go at classifying galaxies with a lot of bits of paper and some very thought-provoking buttons.
The day before, Chris was giving the lunchtime lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society, and he and Jules arranged our fourth Galaxy Zoo Get-Together. Organisation, of course, was exemplary: I had train troubles all day; the RAS lecture theatre didn’t appear to like Chris’s laptop; Chris had assumed I’d bring my laptop to Oxford; and I had assumed that if they wanted me to bring my laptop they’d have asked. The lecture theatre was tiny. I had wondered if we’d be in the one I’d read about in Arthur Miller’s Empire of the Stars, in which a young Chandrasekhar told his audience his mathematical discovery – disbelieved at the time, 1935 – that there was an upper limit to the mass of a white dwarf, and anything heavier would collapse under the force of its own gravity . . .
Chris – who wouldn’t have known at the time that most of the back row (where else?) was full of Zooites – took us on a cheerful tour of gorgeous Hubble slides, physics, and ancedotes. Hubble’s mirror, for instance, was manufactured to be so flat that if it was blown up to the size of the Gulf of Mexico, the largest bump would be ¼ of an inch high. When it turned out to have a wobble, rather than ship a new mirror up, the sensible engineers gave Hubble the equivalent of a pair of glasses, which fixed the problem! At another point, Chris said, “I haven’t got time for this slide, but I can’t resist,” and up came our favourite picture: Hanny’s Voorwerp, for which we have been given Hubble time. A soft cheer rang up from the back row! Actually I think the staff were forming quite a poor impression of us loonies, because Rick kindly saved me a seat and went out to get me when all the other latecomers had to go upstairs, and then the ten or so of us loitered around while other people queued to question Chris. We did manage not to get thrown out this time.
Astronomers clearly find excellent pubs as well as stars as part of their job description. Amidst drinks and picnic treats, Chris, after introductions, told us of some other projects taking off, inspired by the methods of Galaxy Zoo. We have set an example: citizen science does work. I wondered if this heralds an intellectual revolution. Both science and the public could soar . . . I’d spent months complaining that the science curriculum teaches children little besides how to luckily second-guess a mark scheme. Perhaps that will matter less, when everyone can do real science and talk about it together as we do. Perhaps, one day, prospective science undergraduates will not be asked “What grades did you get in school?” but “What science projects have you been involved in?” . . .
Sadly, I had to go almost as soon as I’d arrived – you’ll find out why next time.
Thanks very much for posting this, Kevin!
And thanks to Jules and Adam for letting me filch your photographs.
[quote] We did manage not to get thrown out this time. [/quote]
Heh, lol! 😀
[quote] Perhaps, one day, prospective science undergraduates will not be asked “What grades did you get in school?” but “What science projects have you been involved in?” [/quote]
Yeah! Amen to that! 😉
Alice, love your piece! x
Well, what I hope even more is that there will be a better science curriculum! But it would be cool if, for simple or easy science projects (or even environmental ones, for example), doing this is included on a school curriculum – and that all adults could do this kind of thing, too.
“…Chris, after introductions, told us of some other projects taking off, inspired by the methods of Galaxy Zoo. We have set an example: citizen science does work. I wondered if this heralds an intellectual revolution.”
This is quite an intriguing prospect. Please allow me to offer one organizational suggestion. Such projects, in which participation is inherently active in nature, would be well served by development and implementation of a “parent” website that would list each project and provide basic details as to the objectives of the research, background information on the Principal Investigator of the project, relevant publications, funding sources, etc. The point is to provide one centralized location where potential volunteers can find out about existing and new projects and evaluate the merits of each project on objective grounds. News from each project could also be posted to advantage.
I might also add that developers of new projects need be fully aware that their active and continued participation in the project forums is critical to their success.
Eigenstate… have you been sneaking a peek at our future plans? : )
Could someone please identify the folks in the photographs. I assume they are Zooites.
Yes – they are.
In the first pic I see (from left to right): Tom, Els, Jules, Rick, Jeff and “Halibut”.
In the second one: Jules, Chris, Els and Rick.
And the last one (starting at the left again): Els, Rick, Alice, Halibut, Fluffy, Adam, Tom, Jules, Jeff and Chris.
EigenState, I like your parent website suggestion! It would have to be looked after by good-natured people, I must say.
Hanny, thanks for the identifications.
Jules and Adam – as somebody has pointed out, I may have muddled up the credits, as Jules is in a picture she is credited with (unless it was just taken with her camera by someone else?). Did you both take the pictures with your names under them? I know it was their photos I used originally. And Infinity, as ever, is hiding.
Eigenstate – we’re on it!
No Kevin, I was merely attempting to be logical.
Yes Alice, they would need to be good-natured, and dedicated to science. But the effort would be very worthwhile.
Glad to hear that Chris. Perhaps you can find some volunteers among the participants at GalaxyZoo, should they be needed.
Thank you very much, Alice for the interesting narration and update on ZOO.
After all this time, I’ve noticed that since the move back to the normal GZ forum, one of the links is dud. The “future projects” I mention are referred to briefly here: http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/tempforum/index.php?topic=85.msg4841#msg4841