Archive for the ‘Chemistry’ Category
Idleness never looked more productive. Here’s a citizen science project that quite literally requires zero energy from you in order to participate!
The World Community Grid is a global project that harnesses energy from idle computers to contribute to scientific research. When your computer goes idle, instead of changing to a screensaver featuring swimming fish, slideshows of your favorite animals, or free-floating geometric designs, your computer can request data for a specific project on the World Community Grid server. The Grid uses technology developed by UC Berkeley (BOINC) in order to collect and pool valuable research data. Each computation provides scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research.
“Grid computing” technology joins together remote individual computers, creating a large system with massive computational power that surpasses that of many supercomputers. Because the work is split into small pieces, research time is reduced from years to months. Not only is this more time efficient, but it’s also more cost effective.
One of their first projects, Human Proteome Folding, identified the proteins produced by human genes. With this information, scientists discovered how defects in proteins can cause disease, making it easier to find cures. In 2003, with grid computing, in less than three months, scientists identified 44 potential treatments to fight the deadly smallpox disease. Without the grid, the work would have taken more than one year to complete. Current projects include Computing for Sustainable Water, GO Fight Against Malaria, and Discovering Dengue Drugs Together.
Donate your idle computer time to a greater good in scientific research by registering for the World Community Grid and downloading their free and secure software to get started!
From screensavers to saving the world through scientific research. Get started now!
On September 18, 2011, people around the world will be taking a closer look at their local waterways during World Water Monitoring Day. Join in the project and help figure out whether the freshwater near you is clean.
Clean freshwater is an important resource for people. It keeps ecosystems healthy too. The water flowing through a small stream leads into larger rivers and lakes. All that water flows downhill together. It’s all connected in a watershed. Understanding the health of our watersheds is critical to understanding whether people, animals, and plants are getting the clean water they need. Volunteers with the World Water Monitoring Day seek to make measurements of freshwater to identify the health of the world’s watersheds.
Using a test kit, volunteers figure out what’s in their water. They measure the temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen (DO) of water and then report the findings online. The test kit costs $13 plus shipping, or you can use your own water monitoring equipment if you’d like. There are kits available at no charge for participants from low and middle-income countries thanks to support of sponsors. Test kit instructions are available in 17 languages.
As summer comes to a close, a young person’s fancy may turn to fretting at the thought of being cooped up in a classroom. But for fans of science and nature—and by that we mean kids who like to watch clouds, hunt mushrooms, prowl around graveyards, and check out what gets squashed on the side of the road—fall need not signal the end of fun.
To keep young minds entertained as well as enlightened, we recommend the following 10 back-to-school projects for student citizen scientists. Teachers and parents, please note: Many of these programs provide materials around which you can build lessons. And there are lots more where these came from. Visit our Project Finder for a full list of citizen science projects for primary and secondary school students.
World Water Monitoring Day: World Water Monitoring Day is an international program that encourages citizen volunteers to monitor their local water bodies. An easy-to-use test kit enables everyone from children to adults to sample local water bodies for basic water quality parameters: temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen. Though World Water Monitoring Day is officially celebrated on September 18, the monitoring window is extended to cover the period from March 22 (World Water Day) until December 31. Check out what one of our members said about the project.
School of Ants: Join North Carolina State University researchers in a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. Collection kits are available to anyone interested in participating. Teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol so that project coordinators can make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside their doorsteps.
The Albedo Project: Wherever you are – anywhere in the world – on September 23th, contribute to science by taking a photo of a blank white piece of paper, outside in the sun, between 4:00 and 7:00 pm local time. Your photo will used to to help students measure how much of the sun’s energy is reflected back from the Earth — our planet’s “albedo.” It’s one way scientists can monitor how much energy – and heat – is being absorbed by our planet.
Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line (S’COOL): Report your observations of clouds—their shapes, height, coverage, and related conditions—so that NASA scientists can compare them with data from weather satellites passing over your area. Tutorials and observing guides are available for students. For teachers, the program provides lesson plans, charts, and advice on related educational standards.
Physics Songs: Physics Songs aims to be the world’s premier website devoted to collecting and organizing all songs about physics. It is managed by Walter F. Smith, Professor of Physics at Haverford College. Songs about physics can help students to remember critical concepts and formulas, but perhaps more importantly they communicate the lesson that physics can be fun.
Guest post by Kate Atkins
If your first thoughts when you hear the word “cruise” are fruity drinks with paper umbrellas, jet skis, and late nights in the hot tub: think again.
Replace the hot tub with Mendenhall Glacier, the fruity drink with test tubes of fresh stream water, and the jet ski with a whale watching boat, and you begin to get the picture. If you have the fortune to find yourself on a ship through Alaska’s Inside Passage, you’ll find an extra citizen science kick in Juneau. The Whales and Glacier Science Adventure, run by Gastineau Guiding, does not disappoint.
On the surface, the excursion seems little different from any One Day in Juneau itinerary: visiting the mighty Mendenhall, going whale watching. (I would add eating at Tracy’s King Crab Shack to the list as well, but you’re not here for menu tips.)
But on this excursion, participants collect real data that will be put to real use. On the day my family and I joined the tour, our guides were a PhD student in evolutionary biology, and a Juneau native on her way to her first biology degree. Jason and Annika did a great job engaging a group whose ages ranged from 7 to 70, which is no small feat in itself. Each of us emerged having learned something new and having gotten our hands dirty.
In the Mendenhall area, we stopped at a small fresh water stream to test water quality. Our guides provided us with kits to measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and salinity. In a rapidly changing, successional ecosystem, these data are forming the baseline for tracking change as the glacier continues to melt, and as tourist infrastructure evolves around it. The data will be shared with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Juneau Watershed Partnership and other organizations for analysis in myriad projects. Read the rest of this entry »
Changing Currents, a project originating in Toronto, Canada, familiarizes middle- and high-school students with local watersheds and teaches them how to conduct water quality analyses.
This is a great way for students to become environmental scientists for a day! After heading out to a local stream and donning hip waders, students collect water samples and analyze their data. Through this program, students get out in nature for a while and learn about the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems.
Urban watersheds can be adversely affected by many problems, including urban run-off and storm water, agriculture, and pesticide use. It is imperative to keep watersheds clean, not only for us humans (who depend on natural sources for our drinking water!) but also for the animals and plants in the larger ecosystems that these waterways support.
In addition to learning a bit about science and nature, students also contribute their data to a larger study of Toronto-area watersheds and are encouraged to take action if they find problems in their local streams and rivers. Want to see what it’s like? Check out their fun video!
The Changing Currents group created a thorough, well-organized field manual for teachers to help organize scholarly stream outings. Take a look inside and learn how to conduct a survey and identify aquatic critters!
To get involved, first register with the group and then attend a training session or host a Student Stream Assessment Workshop. Students can learn more about water quality and biomonitoring in the Student Area of the website.
We think you’d look great in hip waders, so take a look and get out there! Read the rest of this entry »
Up north, in Washington State’s tranquil San Juan Islands, members of the Kwiáht marine research team are hard at work keeping an eye on local sea life and terrestrial critters. Kwiaht, a word in the Coast Salish dialect, refers to a place that is physically healthy and spiritually clean.
The group hopes to ensure the continued health of the San Juan Island ecosystem by allowing local citizen scientists to participate in ecological research.
Want to volunteer? Contact Kwiaht’s program director to find out how you can become involved as well!
In addition to research and outreach, Kwiaht also aims to help restore terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems by working with public land managers to develop conservation strategies.
Did you know that you can contribute to science by blowing bubbles? It’s true! The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network is asking citizen scientists in England to use bubbles to calculate wind direction and speed.
All you need to do is create a “bubble cone” using a piece of paper and some tape. Then, with some bubble solution, you’re ready to start launching bubbles and recording in which direction and how far they travel. Researchers on OPAL’s Climate Survey will use this data to investigate how human activities affect the climate.
This is just one of five easy ways that you can help scientists study the state of England’s natural environment. OPAL’s projects offer a wide range of opportunities to study biodiversity, soil health, air and water quality, and the impact of humans on climate.
The best part: people from all age groups and skill levels can participate, and the project website offers easy step-by-step instructions. It usually doesn’t take more than an hour to make an important contribution to science.
This guest post was contributed by Dr. Stuart Farrimond, a science teacher at Wiltshire College in the United Kingdom.
If you’ve ever felt like you could be an undiscovered genius, then today’s blog post is for you!
Get ready to use your grey matter to push back the boundaries of science… by playing video games! If you think you could be the next Einstein (without the hair, of course), just put down that Sudoku and take a look at these computer games. You never know, you just might help discover the cure for cancer (seriously)!
Now, a new way of crowdsourcing our brain power has arrived. No longer do you need to feel guilty for playing Angry Birds because now you can indulge your puzzle gaming passion for a good cause. By doing some online puzzles, you can unwittingly do some of the problem solving that scientists don’t have the time to do. And take heart because researchers have even discovered that members of the public are just as good as professionals at solving even the most complex of problems!
5. Old Weather: Help Predict Global Warming
Do you enjoy history? Do you like trying to decipher and decode riddles? If so, then Old Weather could be up your street.
After registering online at the Old Weather website, you “climb aboard” a World War I Royal Navy warship. You are tasked with reading and deciphering a scanned image of the ship’s weather log. As you and other online players simultaneously track work out through the ship’s journey, you can watch the warship move across the globe, your efforts being shown on a world map for all to see!
Good For: history buffs, environmentally-minded crossword fans, and nautical enthusiasts.
Play Old Weather!
What class of molecules dominated the primordial stages of evolution, and seems to function as an exquisite operating system for our cells? RNA — the single-stranded cousin of DNA. Scientists suspect that a better understanding of RNAs will allow us to more deeply understand healthy cells, and to design better treatments for those infected by disease. (See below for more RNA info.)
Now EteRNA, a collaborative online game, allows ordinary citizens to help biologists take a crack at solving a challenging RNA mystery, namely: what are the rules governing its folding? Players who assemble the best RNA designs online will see their creations synthesized in a Stanford biochemistry lab!
Drs. Adrien Treuille (Asst. Prof. of Computer Science at CMU) and Rhiju Das (Asst. Prof. of Biochemistry at Stanford) met while completing their postdoctoral research at the University of Washington, and collaborated on another online venture — FoldIt — aimed at understanding protein folding. Hoping that a similar approach could be used to crack the mysteries of RNA folding, they teamed up with doctoral student Jeehyung Lee to create a multi-player RNA-folding game. In an added twist, the RNA that players design is then synthesized in a Stanford biochemistry lab, to see if the folding pattern was indeed correct.
What’s so hard about RNA folding?
“Our computational models are not yet sophisticated enough to correctly predict when a particular RNA design will fold correctly in practice,” Treuille said in an email interview. “It is easy to create RNA designs which computers predict will fold properly, but which will not when synthesized. … We hope that the EteRNA community will be able to put forth a more complete set of hypotheses about when RNAs fold properly, and use these hypotheses to design a set of new RNA designs that fold into exotic, and ultimately medically useful shapes.”
Songs have helped me remember a lot of academic information – from learning all 50 states* in alphabetic order when I was in elementary school to figuring out which French verbs take “être” (to be) in the past tense by humming “Heigh Ho” from the musical Snow White.
My science classes got in on the vocal act as well. In math class, we learned the quadratic equation to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” In graduate school, my friends created a statistics rap to help their students get interested in difficult material. In my own Biopsychology classes, students enjoyed learning parts of the brain from Pinky and the Brain. (Well, at least they got a laugh!)
Does anyone actually keep track of this scientific creativity? For one, physicist Walter Smith of Haverford College is collecting all of the physics songs he can find. Do you have a physics song? Send an email to have yours added as well.
Whether they’re learning the citric acid cycle to the tune of “Fly Me to the Moon” (start with “oxaloacetate” and the lyrics fit the tune quite well) or the names of every single element thanks to Tom Lehrer, students of all ages remember scientific information more easily through song. Tunes are also a creative way to share your new-found knowledge. If the muse strikes you, come up with your own song to remember something scientific and add it to our member blogs page. Or, if you’re more daring, add a music video to the site!
*For those who want extra credit for singing the states and their capitals, try out this Animaniacs video.