As more of the world’s population is permanently connected via broadband to the internet the potential for distributed computing and collaboration on projects increases.
Already projects such as Seti@Home have used computers belonging to members of the public who’d signed up to the programme to background process signals received from space and other similar projects are in operation; Wikipedia is edited by an army of volunteers the world over as well as individuals who may only use their own specialised knowledge to create or edit a particular page; and researchers have been digging information from the vast resources of Google Earth.
Now ESA have opened up the archives of Hubble space telescope imagery to the public so that previously unprocessed data could be unveiled in all it’s glory. The volunteers were unpaid but prizes were given for the best images to emerge from the process, those involved were simply doing it for the challenge and the chance to make a new discovery. One such volunteer, Judy Schmidt, did discover an object that would have otherwise remained unseen in the immense vault of data.