This weekend’s All Things Considered from NPR featured a professional astronomer turned bold citizen scientist who is building a satellite to convert the Earth’s magnetic field high in the ionosphere into MIDI music.
DPR featured Alex Antunes in September 2009 (read more), and we are excited to update that his notice is growing into a public, national audience. Dr. Antunes is also a key contributor on Science 2.0, and you may also stay updated with his progress on his Project Calliope site.
“DIY Satellites Let You Find Your Own Space” :: NPR All Things Considered with Audie Cornish :: July 24, 2010 :: [ READ ]
In 2008, DPR discussed the emergence of an extreme case of amateur research [READ more] where a growing number of independent citizens (see the list) are developing working fusion reactors at home.
There must be an emphasis on the extreme here as a citizen science project, since the financial requirements are high (an understatement, for sure). Although the actual process of low-scale fusion in a properly sealed chamber is reasonably safe (in particular, there is low radiation and no nasty nuclear waste left over to throw away), high voltages are required and an advanced technical flair must be developed.
A fusion reaction occurs when two similar light weight atoms are brought together under high temperature and high pressure, slam together, and re-form as a single atom. Energy is released from the process … a lot of energy … and efficiently harnessing the outgoing energy has been a holy-grail project of physicists for more than a half-century. This is the energy process that powers our Sun. And it has been efficiently glowing for some time now.
One of the key challenges is that it takes more energy to generate the fusion reaction in the laboratory than what you can extract, which doesn’t make so much economic sense for the utility industry.
So, the primary goal of institution researchers — and of the amateurs — is to design and create a functioning “break-even” fusion reactor, where you harvest the same amount of energy that you put into the system. Success here still would not be the end-game, but it is a goal that seems to be reasonable for reaching in the near future.
The ultimate payoff here, of course, is so incredible and is becoming more desired every day (see all that sludge sloshing toward the gulf coast line?). No large-scale carbon emissions. No politically- and environmentally-threatening nuclear waste. No sloppy oily deposits. Just clean, beautifully-glowing plasma to bring slick and fast electricity to satisfy all of our energy-hungry lives.
If you have the cash, you might try converting your garage to a fusion reaction laboratory. The entire human population on Planet Earth would be grateful.
“Extreme DIY: Building a homemade nuclear reactor in NYC” :: BBC News, Matthew Danzico :: June 23, 2010 :: [ READ with Video ]
Mark Suppes Blog about his Prometheus Fusion Reactor [ VISIT ]
The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium [ VISIT ]
Learn more about fusion from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [ VISIT ]
UPDATE July 25, 2010: Tip Sheet for Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Investigators, by Tom Ligon, from fusor.net :: [ DOWNLOA PDF]
A true mark of a scientist is one who does crazy and insane things for what he or she loves in the name of science. And, this certainly extends to citizen scientists who are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to collect the data … here, residents from New Hampshire and Massachusetts tread through muddy waters and not-so-pleasant conditions to help measure levels of E. Coli and other worrisome things in the Souhegan and Merrimack rivers.
Read more about how one local writer is impressed by their hard work and dedication…
“Citizen scientists doing what they can to test rivers, aid research” :: Nashua Telegraph.com :: June 10, 2009 [ READ ]
Mac Cowell, the co-founder of the growing do-it-yourself amateur research biotechnology virtual collective is interviewed by Seed Magazine for an interesting look into his push to bring real scientific experiences out from the halls of academia and into the inquisitive masses.
The program is an online infrastructure called DIYbio.org and is reaching out to anyone who is interested in tinkering with a little biology in their own garage. Be inspired by the exciting opportunities DIYbio can bring to your home wet lab and how you can participate in this new, and exciting open collaboration of biotech enthusiasts and serious amateur scientists.
“The Biohacking Hobbyist” :: Seed Magazine :: December 4, 2008 :: [ READ ]
Recently, one of our brave Endeavour astronauts inadvertently let a tool bag slip through her fingers (it wasn’t properly attached initially and so caught her unexpectedly). The bag was assumed to be lost to NASA, but it has been recently sighted by amateur astronomers as a reasonably bright satellite.
Only a pair of binoculars are required to view the tool back, and it is currently being tracked online at Spaceweather.com. Enter your zip code to see when you can spot the tools in space!
“Skywatchers spot ‘lost’ space tool kit” :: MSNBC.com :: November 25, 2008 :: [ READ ]
Last spring, citizen science activities received a wonderful feature the The Christian Science Monitor. Focusing on some of the largest nation-wide citizen science programs as well as a brief interview with Dr. Carlson of SAS, the article is another positive reflection that amateur research activities are growing and will continue to be encouraged.
“‘Citizen scientists’ watch for signs of climate change” :: The Christian Science Monitor :: April 10, 2008 :: [ READ ]