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Bringing open source to astronomy March 28, 2009

Posted by Sarah in astro 2.0, science.
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A very interesting paper was posted on astro-ph this week on software development in astronomy. Authored by Benjamin Weiner of Steward Observatory in Arizona and many colleagues, the paper is one of many on the State of the Profession submitted to the 2010 Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics (lots of interesting papers in this category, check out the full list here). The position paper describes a problem that I think is well known in the astronomy community: that software development for instruments and large simulations is not adequately funded, and that the developers do not get the recognition they deserve for their extremely valuable work. They call for changes in the way that software development is tackled in research. I entirely agree.

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Citizen Geology: Earthquake-spotting @ home October 29, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Earthquake in Reno, Nevada in April this year, as detected by traditional earthquake sensors (black) and by laptops participating in QCN (blue).

Earthquake in Reno, Nevada in April this year, as detected by traditional earthquake sensors (black) and by laptops participating in QCN (blue).

Citizen science is a term loosely used to describe scientific research projects that use resources offered by the general public, without specific training, often enabled by the internet. The SETI@home initiative was one of the first high profile projects in astronomy to use computing power in the homes of non-scientists to process large volumes of data; more recently the Galaxy Zoo project enlisted volunteers to help with the identification of galaxy shapes.

Now geology has also joined the fray of citizen science with the Quake-Catcher Network, led by scientists from Stanford University and UC Riverside. Using the same BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networked Computing) infrastructure that enabled SETI@home, it links thousands of laptop and desktop computers around the world to help gather data from earthquakes, as they occur.

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