This is not the first time I encouraged Daily Kos readers to visit the Zooniverse citizen science site. This is because the site has been exceptionally smart to not only come up with a set of projects in which ordinary interested citizens can make real contributions, but they have done a fantastic job of configuring these projects in a way that makes scientific discovery enjoyable. .
Personally, I spent hours identification of individual chimpanzees (including watching some of them teaching their children to split nuts using stones) and identified hundreds of potential planets orbiting distant stars. I also transcribed old logbooks, sifted data shared between naturalists, helped recreate an 18th century town and helped recover a collection of anti-slavery documents.
As the datasets are completed projects come and go, but there is always a fascinating set of projects where the volunteers not only do a busy job, but make a real contribution.
For those with determination, there is a project underway to extract the names of people killed by the Nazis from an assortment of old records. If that sounds too dark for a sunny spring day, move on to transcribing “computer” notebooks – like the women who did the math behind some of astronomy’s greatest discoveries. And if that puts you in a spatial mood, you can try to find out what’s beyond Neptune by searching the data at Planet 9.
Over the past year it seems like everyone picked up a hobby. There has probably been more baked bread and more crocheted sweaters than ever since 1960. But as people get woefully tired of the pandemic, some of these new obsessions start to turn into simple … sessions (personally, I am between two cultures of fresh rosemary, and without it, the one hour focaccia is just not the same).
Until what will hopefully be a few more months before things get back to normal (normal? Normal than? Normal-adjacent?), This would be a great time to step in and learn how to translate old script fragments, or identify pollinators high in the canopy of African forests, or helps to find dark energy. If you have a good ear, you might be able to help identify frogs by their song, or crack the code on the language of dolphins.
And if you find a project you like, let others know. Not only is it more fun and satisfying than the app you play on your phone, but also much lower in calories than most COVID-era hobbies.