And though the holes were rather small, they had to count them all

And though the holes were rather small, they had to count them all

In way, way higher math news, a new study reports that any fool can count as well as an astronomer.

“What we can say is that a random assortment of people with nothing better to do can chart the moon just as well as professional researchers,” Stuart Robbins, professional researcher at the University of Colorado said in a statement.  “I’ve been waiting 5 to 50 years for someone to report that, so I can quit astronomy and go study goat-arousal.  That’s where the big bucks are!”

The finding is a boon for CosmoQuest, a joint venture between Cosmopolitan Magazine and Carquest Auto Parts that has amateurs identify relationship tricks to get your husband to do basic car maintenance.  They also count stuff.

“Put simply, math is hard, and astronomers need all the help they can get!” said Space Barbie candidate and co-author Pamela Gay, who runs CosmoQuest out of her dream house at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

The study compared the performance of 8 scientists against that of thousands of teenage girls, under the supervision of Hot and Bright Star Danica McKellar (shown below improving the self-esteem of her team by using math to identify craters).


While individual volunteers and scientists saw vastly different numbers of craters, averages of the two groups’ vastly wrong numbers were similar statistically.  “This is an utterly meaningless coincidence that proves nothing, but the closeness of the two errors was ‘reassuring’ for teenage girls with math-induced self-esteem issues,” according to Ms. McKellar.

The participants were asked to identify craters at least 18 pixels (35 feet) across using pictures taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.  The area for the images under study was about 1.4 square miles, about 1/3 the size of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus.  (The project was conducted over spring break so that drunk students would not trip over the 2-foot wide pixels and sue the school.)

Studying craters allows scientists to estimate when the bombardment of the moon, Earth, and other bodies was at its most intense without having to go there or explain what possible difference it makes.

The new study, including a picture festooned with actual numbers (top), was published March 4 in the wax-and-feathers edition of the journal Icarus(Warning: Keep in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.)

(Count to three before clicking on the craters to read the original story.)

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