This is a podcast from a talk of Antoine Clarke with the title â€œThe Wisdom of Crowdsâ€. The talk was part of the monthly meetings of the Libertarian Alliance. It was given on Monday the 11/01/10. The Libertarian Alliance organises a meeting on every second Monday of the Month at The Institute of Education, off Russell Square – student bar, Room S13, Thornhaugh Street , London , WC1B 5EA. The meetings are free of charge and everyone is welcome. Coming along is highly recommended. More information can be found here. And here is the talk.
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April 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm
The Wisdom of Crowds
Below is an article.
More on the book & the talk from me later!
On Tuesday, 17 February 2009 the Today programme reported that the experts in astronomy had been greatly aided by the wider public in their research on galaxyâ€™s regarding their shape and other aspects.
One of the things that arise from reading the book by James Surowiecki is that Rousseau may have had something in his general will for both authors tend to condemn communication. It is not too clear why Rousseau did, but Surowiecki makes it clear that diversity will thereby be lost, and this seems to lower the trial and error aspect of his paradigm that he never quite seems to be explicit about but seems to be its major merit over restricted expert opinion. The author sees that communication can reduce the crowd to consensus which is like reducing it to one person but he, oddly, does not say that what is lost is better trial and error. Yet this seems to be what he is getting at.
Scientists seek galaxy hunt help
By Christine McGourty
BBC science correspondent
The classic spiral: M51, also known as the whirlpool galaxy
Members of the public are being asked to help study cosmic dust samples returned by the Stardust space mission.
A capsule containing dust from stars light years away landed in the Utah desert on Sunday.
The particles are buried in gel that was exposed to the interstellar dust stream during the probe’s seven-year voyage around the Solar System.
Scientists need volunteers to sift through millions of pictures of the gel to locate the few dozen tiny grains.
The project, known as Stardust@home, has been set up by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
“No-one has ever had a contemporary interstellar dust particle in the lab, ever, to study,” senior fellow Andrew Westphal told the BBC News website. “It is really a unique opportunity.”
Dr Westphal developed the technique that the US space agency (Nasa) will use to scan the ultra-light gel (aerogel) in which the interstellar dust grains are embedded.
The gel – which is contained within a “honeycomb” of collector trays – will be scanned by an automated microscope at a clean room in Nasa’s Johnston Space Center in Houston shortly after landing.
The impacts are almost invisible and can only be found with a microscope with a field of view smaller than a grain of salt.
Volunteers will be able to access the images via a web-based “virtual microscope”. To take part, they need a reasonably up-to-date computer with Netscape or Internet Explorer, patience and some spare time.
People who register will have to go through a web-based training session to see if they are suitable. Dr Westphal believes the untrained eye may be better at spotting what amounts to a cosmic needle in a haystack.
“It’s probably better for people to look who won’t have any pre-conceived notion of what these things look like,” said Dr Westphal.
Scientists think they will find only a few dozen interstellar grains. More than 1.6 million individual fields of view will have to be searched over the course of several months.
Once located, the particles will be extracted from the gel and analysed in research labs around the world.
“We will probably find the first grain within the first month,” Dr Westphal said.
As well as the satisfaction of taking part in the space project, volunteers have another incentive – the chance to name any dust grains they find.
“There is a tradition in the interplanetary dust community that people name particles, usually those collected in the stratosphere by high flying aircraft,” said Dr Westphal.
Examples to date included Florian and Benavente, he added.
Stardust’s main mission was to chase a comet and capture material from its coma, the cloud of dust and gas that surrounds its nucleus.
But it also trapped a sprinkling of dust from the interstellar stream that flows through the Solar System.
The particles contain the heavy chemical elements that originated in stars.
“Ultimately, this is the stuff we are made of,” said Dr Westphal.
“The fact that we really don’t know what the typical interstellar grain looks like is outrageous – this is really a search for our own origins.”
A new project known as Galaxy Zoo is calling on members of the public to log on to its website and help classify one million galaxies.
The hope is that about 30,000 people might take part in a project that could help reveal whether our existing models of the Universe are correct.
Computer users undergo a three-minute online tutorial and are then allocated a series of images and asked to decide whether each one shows a spiral or an elliptical galaxy.
If it’s a spiral galaxy, they’re asked to decide which way it appears to be rotating.
The images come from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico, US.
Kevin Schawinski, an astrophysicist at Oxford University, UK, is one of the team who devised the project.
“I classified about 50,000 galaxies myself in a week,” he said. “It was mind-numbing.”
He’s hoping that involving the public will speed the work up.
“It’s not just for fun,” he added. “The human brain is actually better than a computer at pattern recognition tasks like this. Whether you spend five minutes, 15 minutes or five hours using the site, your contribution will be invaluable.”
The project was inspired by others, such as stardust@home, in which the US space agency invited the public to help sort through dust grains obtained by a mission to a comet.
Dr Chris Lintott, another member of the Oxford team, said: “What the Stardust team achieved was incredible, but our galaxies are much more interesting to look at than their dust grains.
“We hope that participants in Galaxy Zoo will not only contribute to science, but have a lot of fun along the way.”
He added: “One advantage is that you get to see parts of space that have never been seen before. These images were taken by a robotic telescope and processed automatically, so the odds are that when you log on, that first galaxy you see will be one that no human has seen before.
“It’s not often you get to see something unique.”
The hope is to have 20,000-30,000 people take part and to have some results in a matter of months.
Cosmologist Kate Land, another member of the team, is expecting amateurs to make a better job of it than the experts: “We get hung up on the details. I got stuck myself! I’ve found that members of public are much better; they just go with it, on first instinct.
“They don’t get too stressed about the images. Astronomers aren’t the best people to do this.”
She is hoping to test theories about the rotation of galaxies.
She added: “Some people have argued that galaxies are rotating all in agreement with each other, not randomly as we’d expect.
“We want people to classify the galaxies according to which way they’re rotating and I’ll be able to go and see if there’s anything bizarre going on. If there are any patterns that we’re not expecting, it could really turn up some surprises.”