Johns Hopkins University
Fall/Winter 2007
Vol. 5, No. 1

RESEARCH

Pinpointing “Pockets of Hope”

Cosmology’s Force to Be Reckoned With

Student Research From the Field

> 100,000+

Total War: The Big Picture

Plumbing the Mysteries of the Mind

Embrace Your Inner Cynic


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100,000+

That's the number of volunteers, as of early October, who have signed on to help an international team of astronomers map the 1 million galaxies that pepper our skies. "the response has been breathtaking," says Hopkins astrophysicist Alexander Szalay. "The traffic was 20 times higher than what we hoped for. This shows the publis is really interested in science if they feel they can contribute in a meaningful way."

Why turn to amateur astronomers for help, given the advanced state of computer technology these days? Though computers would do "reasonably" well at sorting, they "would inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird, and the wonderful," notes the homepage for the mammoth project, dubbed "Galaxy Zoo." Visitors to the site (http://www.galaxyzoo.org) will find stunning digital images of galaxies—many never viewed before by human eyes—captured by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico. "It will be great to have all the galaxies classified," says Bob Nichol, of the University of Portsmouth. "It's as fundamental as knowing if a human is male or female," adds colleague Daniel Thomas, also of University of Portsmouth, "We now have the world's largest computer brain working for us, through the combined power of all these human brains."