The Washington Post

YouTube launches Space Lab, the latest in crowdsourcing academia

Correction: An earlier post said only one experiment would be rocketed in to space. SpaceLabs will host two high-altitude experiments.

For the inquisitive mind unable to afford an international space station but with an experiment ready for space, NASA will be opening its doors to two amateur scientists as part of a new joint project with YouTube.

Google just posted a high-resolution image of the Dead Sea Scrolls online for amateur religious scholars to study. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Space Lab is a crowd-sourced competition in which 14-18 year olds can upload a video of their homegrown science experiments in an effort to win the chance to test their theories 250 miles above the ground. The experiments will be streamed live on YouTube.

It’s the latest in a stream of projects set up to tap into the universal knowledge of the crowd. Last month, gamers unlocked a problem that puzzled AIDS scientists. Last week, ProPublica turned to readers to help scan documents for research. And Google just posted a high-resolution image of the Dead Sea Scrolls online for amateur religious scholars to study. As I wrote in a column on Sunday:

“The posting of the scrolls for the masses is the latest example of academic crowdsourcing, inviting the usually anonymous community of people online to contribute know-how, money or work to a given project. And scientists, journalists and academics have begun to recognize the value in that crowdsourced knowledge, turning to the community to unlock some of the most persistent mysteries of the world.”

For NASA, with its budgetary cutbacks, seeking assistance from the ground may just help its technology take that next giant leap for mankind:


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