Science Hack Day – co-author cloud, lookUP images from Wikipedia, and more

Right now, a really cool event is happening at the Guardian in London – Science Hack Day. The basic premise is: get a load of science geeks* together in the same room, give them food and internet access, and see what they create. The official catchphrase is “Get excited and make things … with science!” I had been hoping to go along to the event, but in the end I found that I couldn’t find the energy to face Virgin Trains or have a very tiring weekend in between tiring weeks, so in the end I decided to watch from afar.

The first hacks are now being shared with the world, and I want to highlight two of them – hence this blog post.

Carolina Ödman and Stuart Lowe have created the “Co-Author Cloud” – essentially a tag cloud for who you’ve written papers with, but much nicer than most tag clouds – this one comes with extra swirly-ness! Here’s my little one (it is slowly growing over time…)

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The second one of them is lookUP. This is a great tool that Stuart Lowe’s been developing for some time now. It takes the name of an astronomical object, and looks it up in various online catalogues and databases to find out what it is. For most objects, it looks up the picture in WikiSky, but it can’t do that for objects that move around the sky – e.g. planets. Stuart’s modified it this weekend so that it looks up the planet on Wikipedia, and returns an image from there – see Ceres as an example. There’s a slight bug for high-resolution images – it uses the full resolution version rather than rescaling it, so Saturn is currently very slow – but I’m sure that Stuart will fix this soon.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of the outcomes of Science Hack Day! To hear what’s going on, follow @sciencehackday or the hashtag #scihack.

* Geeks in a good way, of course.