Thursday, January 16, 2014

4 Apps That Turn YOU Into a Scientist

In case you hadn't noticed, the universe is huge.

There is just too much stuff going on. Scientific inquiry has shed light on particular areas, like gravity and bugs and how airplanes work, but there is still SO MUCH that we don't understand.

Think about the cure to cancer, or the exact number of times the Earth has been struck by meteorites, or the average age of every person alive; all of this information exists, but we don't have access to it. The answers lie behind a veil of ignorance.

Scientists poke holes in this veil, and they need your help.

Here are 4 apps that let citizens become scientists. I know your first instinct is to make raspberry mouth noises and get out your nerd-punching gloves, but try one of them out! You are contributing to making the world a little less unknown.

1. Kinsey Reporter 


The Kinsey Institute is an esteemed Indiana University research institute that aims "to advance sexual health and knowledge worldwide". Researchers need your help in gathering data on human sexual behaviour.

Users are encouraged to anonymously share reports of any sexual behaviour, such as:

  • Public displays of affection
  • Flirting
  • Sexual health issues, etc.

They can be about you, or someone completely random that you observe. These reports are assigned an approximate location and tagged. Here is an example of the data that can be generated:

Just think- these kinds of answers are coming from YOU, not some focus group that Cosmopolitan's writing team made up. This is real people doing real sexy stuff! Buzzfeed has deduced that there are at LEAST 21 delightful reasons to have more sex, and the data you contribute can help direct research in improving sexual health education and reducing sexual abuse and violence.

Cost: FREE. Get it, and start doing healthy sex things with people or alone!

Platforms: iPhone, Android

2. Galaxy Zoo

Scientists regularly receive overwhelming amounts of data. For example, the Hubble telescope and other lenses have snapped MILLIONS of photos of galaxies, and they all need to be classified. Galaxy Zoo shows you a photo and asks you simple questions about its shape and appearance. Each new photo is a galaxy that hasn't been classified yet. In its first year, Galaxy Zoo received 50 million classifications from over 150,000 people. You can do one galaxy or a hundred- either way you're still a scientist.

Cost: FREE

Platforms: Check out Galaxy Zoo online, they've recently moved to browser-based hosting

3. Loss of the Night:

This astronomically cool app helps scientists measure light pollution. Users are directed to a star by arrows, similar to a compass. Then, they are asked to try and identify nearby stars and constellations. This is combined with weather data to get an idea of light-pollution levels in your particular area.

I couldn't get it on my iPhone, but stargazers and night owls with Androids should try it and tell me what you think! Maybe with enough light-pollution data, Ottawa will smarten up and order a long-range missile strike on the No. 5 Orange strip club, which endlessly pumps halogen and dubstep through my bedroom window.

Cost: Free

Platform: Android

4. NoiseTube

This app turns your phone into a mobile noise meter!

NoiseTube started as a joint project between Sony Paris and Free University Brussels to measure the citizens' daily exposure to noise. Users measure the noise level, localize it to an area, then tag its source (airplane, traffic, unruly shrieking children etc.).

Cost: Free

Platforms: iPhone, Android

I, Scientist 

I know your interest is piqued, people. Next time you're early for a meeting or waiting for your friend to pee or doing any of those things where we whip out our phones: measure some noise, analyze some light pollution, catalogue some sex! We are all scientists <3

1 comment:

  1. Great share -- haven't heard of any of the apps before, but they all sound very neat.