By Carolyn Graybeal November 5th, 2013 at 11:54 am | Comment
Absolute pitch, also known as “perfect pitch” is the ability to instantaneously identify a musical note or recreate that note without an external reference. It is not fully understood why some people have perfect pitch and others do not, but it seems to require both an innate predisposition as well as musical training.
Do you think you have absolute pitch? It so, try out the project Perfect Pitch. This project, conducted through the University of Toronto, examines if the timbre or source of a sound affects how accurately we identify that pitch. So, though the frequency of a note might be the same, that note produced by a piano might be easier to identify than that if that same note was produced by a digital synthesize. Why? That is what researchers hopes to understand.
In this study, participants complete a brief questionnaire about their musical training and background before starting the sound test. There are four rounds. In each round, 24 pitches from A3 to Gb5 are played in random order. You have three seconds to identify the note before another pitch is played. In each round, the source of the sound will differ. The whole test only takes about 15 minutes.
If this sounds fun, be sure check out the other music themed projects highlighted in this week’s newsletter!
Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.
By Jenna Lang November 4th, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Comment 1
We’ve synthesized a list of five musical citizen science projects. Fine tune your brain while contributing to research!
Do you have absolute pitch, the ability to identify or recreate a musical note without any reference? If so, researchers at the Perfect Pitch Test need your help. Get started!
Imagine listening to your favorite song. When do you nod your head and sing along? That’s the hook! Everyone knows the hook when they hear it, but scientists don’t know why. Help them figure it out. Get started!
Over four thousand digitized scores, mostly piano music from the 19th century, are available online. Provide descriptions of these scores and help future research into music of the Victorian age. Get started!
SingAboutScience has a searchable database which teachers and others can use to find content-rich songs on specific scientific and mathematical topics. Help find and catalogue relevant songs. Get started!
A citizen science project for a song about citizen science! Musician Monty Harper has written an original song about citizen science (and SciStarter!) and needs your help. Send him photos of you or others doing citizen science by November 12 to be compiled into a slideshow-style music video that will accompany the song. Get started!
If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are partnering up with WHYY–a National Public Radio station–to help share stories about citizen science projects and people in PA, NJ and DE. If you have a story to share, let us know! Contact email@example.com.
The TODAY Show participated in Project MERCCURI, a citizen science project to compare microbes on Earth and in space. Check it out!
By Lily Bui October 31st, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Comment
The TODAY Show recently participated in Project MERCCURI, presented by UC Davis, SciStarter, and Science Cheerleader. They anchors swabbed Studio 1A for microbes on air! Looks like they had fun. They’ve sent their microbes to UC Davis where they will be cultured and sent to the International Space Station along with 39 other surface samples collected from NFL and NBA stadiums and other landmarks. Astronauts on the International Space Station will analyze their growth rates in space while researchers at UC Davis keep an eye on their growth rates on Earth. Learn more about our citizen science project, Project MERCCURI.
From the set to the space station–the opportunities to participate in citizen science abound!
By Lily Bui October 31st, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Comment
If you’re in the Bay Area this weekend, come down to the Bay Area Science Festival at AT&T Park! This event is FREE and hosts a plethora of interactive exhibits, experiments, games, and shows. Unleash your inner scientist!
Bay Area Science FestivalAT&T Park
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107
Saturday, November 2, 2013
While you’re there, make sure to stop by the Project MERCCURI station! This is a collaborative citizen science research project presented by UC Davis, SciStarter, and Science Cheerleader. The research team from UC Davis (Jenna Lang, Russell Neches, and David Coil) and the Science Cheerleaders will be there (including Wendy Brown, PI on Project MERCCURI; Thera, aerospace engineer, Golden State Warriors; from the Golden State Warriors; Ana, econ/stats major, Sacramento State; and Anastasha Frandell, Sacramento State, Oakland Raiders)! They’ll be wrapping up the collection of microbe samples from sports venues to be a part of a growth experiment on board the International Space Station. You can participate in this national survey of microbes if you stop by their station! They’ll be distributing microbe kits to those interested in submitting sample swabs from cell phones or shoes.
Don’t miss this amazing event! For more information, visit the official website and follow @bayareascience on Twitter.
By Angus R. Chen October 29th, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Comment
Drag your bones toward even more Halloween-themed citizen science!
We know from basic ecology that organisms are adapted to their environment, and where certain organisms live should fall along a gradient of critical environmental factors such as moisture, temperature, nutrient availability, or substrate. How these factors impact diversity and distribution are questions that we could solve for macroorganisms like trees, but the hidden world of microbes still has yet to yield the answers to these mysteries.
Dr. Andy Whiteley and Dr. Christine Whiteley are investigating these questions with MicroBlitz, a citizen science project centered at the University of Western Australia. They’re interested in digging up soil and finding out what lives inside. To do this, they’ve been enlisting the help of volunteers around Western Australia to sample soil. Volunteers go out, bite into the earth with a shovel, and send their specific blend of microbes to the University of Western Australia for Dr. Whiteley to analyze.
To understand this, it’s useful to think of the Gaia hypothesis. This is the idea that the entire Earth, as a biosphere, acts as a living organism. We can imagine soil in a similar light. It’s not actually living but is a teeming metropolis of trillions of microscopic citizens. In a fistful of soil, you might find 10,000 different species of microbe. Dr. Whiteley describes it as “a rainforest under your foot” with each footfall. Soil microbes are the powerhouses of many biogeochemical cycles on the planet, turning over oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur, and are critical to plant growth and productivity. They work unceasingly and are, in a way, the hidden machinery of the planet.
You can imagine microbes as being somewhat specialized. There are bacteria that eat sulfur and others that eat nitrogen, such as Rhizobium, a genus of nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in soil. While you might find these bacteria in many places, presumably you would expect to find more in areas that naturally have more nitrogen or perhaps in areas that have added nitrogen due to industrial processes. And depending on environmental conditions, each place cultivates a specific mix of microbes. There would be certain bacteria that one might find associating with farms or a river. This is what MicroBlitz is trying to understand, and more precisely, trying to map where these bacteria are and what kinds of conditions generate one population of microbes over another.
The project grew out of a similar survey that Dr. Whiteley had done in England in 2007, where they completed a map of soil microbes with the help of trained scientists. It was possible to do it that way, Dr. Whiteley affirms, since there’s less land than in Australia and more scientists per square kilometer. Now two years later, beginning in the March of this year, MicroBlitz is working with the help of citizen scientists to do a map of a much larger scale. Without a large number of MicroBlitz volunteers, the project would be impossible since the territory to cover in Western Australia is vast. How many citizen scientists exactly? Deborah Bowie, the project manager for MicroBlitz, says hundreds have registered, “We’ve sent out over 750 sampling kits so far. People from all over the state are involved, sometimes individually, and sometimes through a group.”
In order to find out what’s inside the soil samples they get, Dr. Whiteley and his lab freeze the soil and extract and sequence the DNA of the microbes. They can use this information to find out what species are living inside the soil and how many of each there are. The data are then uploaded to their website and are accessible for all to appreciate. Whiteley hopes the maps will be available soon. “I’d like to use satellites linked to our maps to understand country-scale levels of things such as microbial mediated greenhouse gas emissions – having the maps let us potentially calibrate this approach,” Whiteley says. Once maps are available, Whiteley plans to be able to repeat the process and begin understanding how environmental change might be affecting the soil and what the soil might be affecting, such as global warming.
The goal is currently to get as many samples from as diverse places as the MicroBlitz team can get. So Whiteley and Bowie often go to under sampled areas to reach out to people, teach them about the project, and encourage them to get involved. Both Whiteley and Bowie agree; it’s the best part of the project. “We ran a DNA workshop for seniors, and they loved it. It was something they had never experienced before … extracting DNA from strawberries, but the smiles on their faces and the feedback will stay with the whole team forever,” Dr. Whiteley says. The project helps teach science to the community and connect them to their environment by showing them what lives beneath their feet.
Photograph: Deborah Bowie
Angus R. Chen is a research assistant at Princeton University, where he does geochronology research using uranium and lead isotopes from zircon crystals. Previously, he was a research intern at the Harvard Forest, studying the impacts of climate change on soil. He recently graduated from Oberlin College with a double major in environmental science and creative writing. When he’s not in the lab admiring rocks and then pulverizing them, he writes poetry, fiction, science articles, and makes cool videos.