Comments on UT Austin McDonald Observatory, HetDex, Zooniverse project

I got an email about this HetDex Zooniverse project, called Dark Energy Explorer. I am reading the background, but it mentions no related research, your team, and what else you are trying to do.

It mentions many spectrographs. Any links to which ones you are using, where the data is stored, what else people are doing?

I have a couple of very simple questions:

It there a fixed relationship to the Z you are measuring and age? Or are there things like gravity, velocity and intervening matter that might affect the value?

Are there broad classes of galaxies at different ages in the past? Are they at different stages of galaxy evolution? Or are they all similar to what we have now, but shifted because of Z?

Who wrote the tools for the volunteers? Is the data available to try different approaches, visualizations, algorithms and ways to do what you are trying to do?

Do you have related things that might show up in these image? I am just thinking that too narrow a goal might answer one question, and skip some interesting things that show up.

Here is the link to your Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HetDex) project from UT Austin

Karl Gebhardt, Gary Hill, Phillip MacQueen, Erin Mentuch Cooper, Keith Hawkins, Rebecca Johnson, G Zeimann, Ethan Tweedie, Taft Armandroff, and several university groups are mentioned, but no links to any of what they are actually doing.

My eyes are getting old and tired, so human-in-the-loop classification methods are a bit hard for me. But I can usually find ways to make data easier to use, and find new ways to use it.

Where do I find the background about the people and purpose, resources and methods of the science behind your project? If every one of the places you are mentioned on the Internet is not connected to all the other pieces, you are wasting a lot of human time not giving a clear map and context of “HetDex”

“HetDex” has 40,700 entry pages on the Internet. Am I — and every other person with even a casual interest in what you are doing — supposed to each find and curate and try to understand that all — none of it connected, curated, indexed, mapped, organized?

site:HetDex.Org has only 562 entry pages, so it is not a central repository (yet).

The papers for HetDex are old. No links to Arxiv.Org preprints or active research. Links to the related institutions are broken at

Not a single obvious link to, or description of the data you are using, or hope to use. How much, how big, what formats, what cadences, which models, what tools, what assumptions, who is also working on what.

I spend some wonderful years at UT Austin long ago. I have spent the last 23 years studying global communities development and best practices on the Internet.

I really wish you would try harder to at least “try” to map “HetDex” on the Internet for any one interested. Try to get the data where a community can grow. Try to document who is in your community. Does anyone need help? Have you found good tools and visualizations and models? How does HetDex connect to related groups and surveys? What data groups complement your project?

Among the Zooniverse and other online communities – are you making efforts for your interested people to work with each other? Facebook, Twitter, email, YouTube and other social networks are NOT structured to help people work together efficiently. They have no clue how to share scientific data, models and online collaboration that requires care, precision, lossless formats and careful accounting for all content and contributions.

I only have time for a few notes and comments. I like the idea of what you are doing. But from my perspective you are making many elementary Internet mistakes that will cost a lot of people a lot of wasted time overall. Multiply that by the decades you might want to continue, it hurts a lot of people. Especially new people just trying to see – quickly and completely – who you are, what you are doing, what data and tools you offer, what you want to do, how that affects the world. Those kinds of things.

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation

Richard Collins

About: Richard Collins

Sculpture, 3D scanning and replication, optimizing global communities and organizations, gravitational engineering, calibrating new gravitational sensors, modelling and simulation, random neural networks, everything else.

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