I am a huge fan of the history and idea of citizen science. Anyone who is knows Zooniverse. You can’t love citizen science and NOT know Zooniverse! So when I heard there was a Zooniverse science advent calendar! Well, I will leave it to your imagination.
To really appreciate the Zooniverse Advent Calendar, it helps if you know a little bit about them, but even if you don’t, you’re sure to appreciate the mix of games, puzzles, discovery, and challenges. This may very well be the best advent calendar I’ve seen, at least for rewarding and engaging activities to expand your horizons.
I’m going to detour for a second just to talk about their Twitter interface.
@The_Zooniverse does a great job of saying who they are, what they do, and why they do it. In their words: “A collection of websites where we ask the public to help us do real science online. Our projects include, Galaxy Zoo, Old Weather, Planet Hunters and more…” plus the URL for their website. Now, their websites are all so stunning, I am absolutely baffled why they don’t use any kind of graphic design for their Twitter background, instead relying on the generic default background supplied by Twitter.
Back to the Advent Calendar. The first icon I clicked on turned out to be for a Haiku competition of sorts.
The challenge was to write science haiku and tweet them to the Zooniverse folks, who would retweet the very best of them. A week later they did something similar with another style of poetry, the clerihew, a humorous four line rhyming poem slightly reminiscent of the limerick. I bet they do limericks next year! Here are my favorite two haiku from this year.
TEXT 1: @TychoGirl: Thin galaxy arms / Twirl flamenco-like around / Supermassive core.
TEXT 2: @TychoGirl: Santa, all I want / Is a fueled-up Saturn V / Fly me to the moon.
I already knew that Zooniverse is well known for their work with galaxies and outer space science, so I looked for something along those lines, and found it easily.
This was not a challenge or a game, but directed folk to an interactive prototype of the website for their PlanetHunters project on its anniversary.
Then I stumbled into the Milky Way Project announcement.
I hadn’t been aware that the Milky Way Project had its own Twitter stream until Zooniverse and it tweeted pretty much the same thing at the same time while I was tracking #advent tweets. Their advent calendar highlight was a word cloud celebrating the publication of the first peer reviewed research article from the project.
Hanny’s Voorwerp is probably on of the most magical and romantic stories of unexpected scientific discovery I’ve ever encountered. I was perversely delighted that they turned this into a Voorwerp version of classic pong, based on an open source version of the old arcade game, but using galaxies as the paddles. More about Hanny’s Voorwerp is on her independent website.
Those are just a few examples. Remember, there are a total of 24! Don’t you want to go see what else they have?
A great deal of the content analyzed by the Zooniverse volunteers comes from the Hubble Telescope. It seemed so fitting to include here a separate advent calendar from the Atlantic Monthly made entirely of images from the Hubble.