Planet formation around binary star

Using ALMA, astronomers have taken a new, detailed look at the very early stages of planet formation around a binary star. Embedded in the outer reaches of a double star’s protoplanetary disk, the researchers discovered a striking crescent-shape region of dust that is conspicuously devoid of gas. This result, presented at the AAAS meeting in Washington, D.C., provides fresh insights into the planet-forming potential of a binary system. —> Read More

Incentivizing citizen science discovery for a sustainable world

As part of the symposium on Citizen Science and Information Technology, Carla P. Gomes will present on UDiscoverit, a program of Cornell University’s Institute for Computational Sustainability. The program seeks to accelerate scientific discovery by integrating citizen science data and crowdsourced information into advanced computational models and algorithms.How are scientists seeking to inspire volunteers and fellow scientists to develop global efforts? —> Read More

How Citizen Science Changed the Way Fukushima Radiation is Reported

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Photos By Ari Beser

Tokyo – “It appears the world-changing event didn’t change anything, and it’s disappointing,”said Pieter Franken, a researcher at Keio University in Japan (Wide Project), the MIT Media Lab (Civic Media Centre), and co-founder of Safecast, a citizen-science network dedicated to the measurement and distribution of accurate levels of radiation around the world, especially in Fukushima. “There was a chance after the disaster for humanity to innovate our thinking about energy, and that doesn’t seem like it’s happened. But what we can change is the way we measure the environment around us.”

Franken and his founding partners found a way to turn their email chain, spurred by the tsunami, into Safecast; an open-source network that allows everyday people to contribute to radiation-monitoring.

“We literally started the day after the earthquake happened,” revealed Pieter. “A friend of mine, Joi Ito, the director of MIT Media Lab, and I were basically talking about what Geiger counter to get. He was in Boston at the time and I was here in Tokyo, and like the rest of the world, we were worried, but we couldn’t get our hands on anything. There’s something happening here, we thought. Very quickly as the disaster developed, we wondered how to get the information out. People were looking for information, so we saw that there was a need. Our plan became: get information, put it together and deseminate it.”

An e-mail thread between Franken, Ito, and Sean Bonner, (co-founder of CRASH Space, a group that bills itself as Los Angeles’ first hackerspace), evolved into a network of minds, including members of Tokyo Hackerspace, Dan Sythe, who produced high-quality Geiger counters, and Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s former Chief Technical Officer. On April 15, the group that was to become Safecast sat down together for the first —> Read More

Weekend Roundup: Mutiny Against the Status Quo

At this stage in the American election season it is far from clear, despite early wins and losses, who the presidential nominees will be. As Julian Baggini writes, what is certain is that America, like much of Europe, is experiencing a mutiny against the status quo. The populist revolt against political and economic elites is spreading across borders everywhere except — so far — East Asia, where the prospects of the average person have risen instead of fallen over the past decade.

Behind the anger against the establishment is a constellation of factors that bleed into each other: the widespread conviction that the present system has become grossly unfair since the 2008-2009 financial crisis as incomes stagnate for most while wealth accumulates at the top; pervasive insecurity created by slow growth combined with rapid, job-displacing technological advance and wage-depressing globalization and, finally, a sense of identity loss as both the real and imagined scale of immigration challenges familiar ways of life.

As if a once upwardly mobile society now rigged against the middle class were not enough, everybody knows that the election process in the U.S., which is supposed to allow for self-correction in a democracy, has itself become corrupt. Jaded citizens have caught on to the fact that when big money rules over the many, when contributors count more than constituents, voting is a form of disenfranchisement disguised as consent of the governed.

When too many are excluded and too few benefit from the status quo, the governing consensus can no longer command allegiance. People look outside the mainstream for alternatives that fit their experience, answer their anxieties and suit their prejudices. Thus we see a range of rage that extends from nativist, xenophobic scapegoating of the even less fortunate to a passionate embrace —> Read More

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