By Stacy Palen
Sometimes, you just want to look at a lot of pretty pictures. Juno’s got ‘em. This is a nice intersection of science and society because there are issues of intellectual property rights here that can prompt students to think a little more deeply about who owns science and scientific data.
Below are some questions to ask your students based on this article.
1). What is a “citizen scientist?”
Answer: A citizen scientist helps scientists analyze raw data or produce images from raw data.
2). The images shown in the article have been processed to create “visually pleasing work for the public.” Click through to the dedicated Juno website to look at a few raw images. How do these processed images differ from the raw images?
Answer: The processed images have much greater contrast and are more colorful. The colors are often changed.
3). What information is lost when the images are processed in this way, and what information is made more available?
Answer: Information about composition is lost, especially if the color is changed, but information about wind patterns is enhanced and made more visible.
4). Is it “honest” to process images in this way and present them as images of Jupiter?
Answer: Answers vary.
5). Are these images art, science, or something in between? Support your answer with an argument about the purpose of art and/or science.
Answer: Answers vary, but something in between is most likely.
6). What is the benefit of making “visually pleasing work for the public?”
Answer: Answers vary, but I expect to see something about public support for science.
7). You may have heard the term “intellectual property”; this is the concept that gives rise to copyright law, for example, where artists and writers own their work. Historically, images from NASA spacecraft have been part of the public domain—because the public paid for the spacecraft, they own its products, and anyone could use them to make posters or T-shirts. These images, though, have a more complicated origin. The raw data comes from the spacecraft, but the processing has been done by an unpaid graphic artist who has done something absolutely unique with each image. Who do YOU think “owns” these images: the public or the artist? Explain and support your viewpoint.
Answer: Answers vary, but I’m looking for something “well-reasoned and insightful.”