NOVA Labs doesn’t end with our explorations of the Sun and energy. We're actively developing a number of other Labs that will explore equally big ideas with the help of authentic data collections and realistic scenarios.
Next up is our Cloud Lab, which will explore the atmosphere and its role in regulating weather and climate. The Lab will give users access to data and images from NASA Earth science satellites; it might also feature a smartphone app that would enable users to upload photos of clouds and compare them to satellite images of the same formations captured at the same time. This information would provide valuable “ground-truthing” that could help scientists better understand the single most important variable in our planet’s energy budget—and its impact on climate and weather.
Image courtesy of NASA
Our fourth Lab will focus on cybersecurity. We’ll work with engineers from Lockheed Martin and Carnegie Mellon University to build a game—possibly a cyber version of the classic board game Risk—filled with realistic challenges that become more complex as the user’s level of experience grows. Supporting the game will be video clips and other materials that help users develop basic programming skills and better understand how to stay safe online.
Image courtesy of scanrail / iStockphoto
We’re also developing an RNA Lab that will feature an enhanced version of the popular online game EteRNA. Like Foldit, its groundbreaking predecessor, EteRNAchallenges players to solve fun visual puzzles. More importantly, these puzzles simulate actual molecules, which can be synthesized in a lab. So, in addition to learning about RNA and its many cellular functions through our videos and other content, users will have the opportunity to design entirely new molecules—and perhaps help scientists create the next miracle drug.
Image courtesy of EteRNA
And NOVA Labs wouldn’t be complete without a Brain Lab. We’re working with MIT computational neuroscientist Sebastian Seung to develop a Lab that will challenge users to map some of the millions of neural connections that are involved in such functions as memory formation and storage. Combined with NOVA videos, Seung’s game, Eyewire, will help users learn about brain function while also contributing to real-world research.
Image courtesy of Firstsignal / iStockphoto
Beyond that? We’re not sure, but we can say that there seems to be no shortage of great topics, huge data sets, games, crowdsourcing engines, and other ways to involve regular citizens in scientific research. So, come back regularly to look for new Labs and please let us know if you have ideas for projects that you and your friends would like to see.