I find it very sad, for all the reasons very well-expressed above by ERSTRS, Ronald C. Spencer, elainekeefe & Mitchell Criswell, that dusters' engagement with the SD@Home project now seems at risk of collapse. I fear the team are now in great danger of throwing away their prime asset, and their pioneering opportunity to encourage public participation in science.
Perhaps as scientists they will take more notice of graphs than individual opinions, so if they are in any doubt I present three of the latest graphs from Stardust Top 100 (phase 3)
, showing that (1) an unprecedented 33 of the top 100, otherwise likely to be the most enthusiastic, chose not to participate during the last week (12-19 May '10); it was 24 the previous week; (2) only 10 out of the 100 were sufficiently interested to score at or above their own previous working rate; and (3) the total score during last week dramatically fell to only 48% of last week (and just 34% of the first week):
I was particularly shocked to read Dr. Spencer's virtual resignation note, who has been one of the most enthusiastic and well-qualified dusters throughout the entire project (as a professional astronomer, and 3rd top duster), and particularly that Dan (to my mind disrespectfully) made no reference to it in his terse response.
And while moaning, I see no reason why they persist with those specifity/sensitivity percentages, since they have never had any ultimate bearing on anything at all, such as (during phase 2) membership of the 'Red team', who were simply the top (was it 19 or 29?) in the list regardless of their specifity/sensitivity.
It is now becoming difficult not to feel that the team actually wished we'd all go away for the moment. And as has been suggested to me by others, it could well be better that the present @Home program be temporarily suspended to avoid the growing disillusionment and frustration that appears to be building, not least in order to save such a pioneering distributed project as this from being discredited, thereby feeding the objections of those who feel that the public have no place in science.
I suspect the essence of the problem is that this small team (for otherwise admirable, well-argued and forward-looking reasons) actually bit off more than they could possibly chew, and were unprepared time/personnel/resource-wise to properly maintain. One only needs to read some of the early forum posts during the huge initial whipping-up of duster recruitment and excitement and compare them with the sad mirror-image of the present situation.
In particular, there has also been an awful lot of floundering regarding means of communication. There was nothing wrong with the excellent Update section of the forum during the early part of phase 1, until it seemed to have become too much for team members to be able to respond to, given the number and depth of questions.
Fair enough, but essentially they then stopped responding altogether, and embarked on a pacifying project of occasional responses and explanatory articles by ZackG, sadly aborted after only the first few when he moved on. The subsequent few flashy-looking 'Blogs' may have been to some degree informative, but were never designed to answer specific forum questions, any more than Andrew Westphal's few attempts at those trendy multi-media presentations.
And poor old DanZ! Like Brian Mendez before him, as the latest recruit to be public relations officer, he has had to function as a thankless go-between between 'them and us'.
By the way, where have all the 'DustMods' gone (moderators of the forum)? They used to be able to provide useful information independent of the team, and to share the benefit of their experience. Of the initial 10, only the ever-faithful 'fjgiie' now occasionally contributes (but has also drastically reduced his own dusting). No replacements have been recruited, only serving to suggest that the team now have minimal interest in the forum in general.
All this said, I have no reason to fault the team's apparently meticulous science, even though I wonder if they/we may temporarily being exploring a blind alley with the new fetish for HATs (I'm sure they worry about that too).
To be constructive, could I suggest it might be useful to take time out to sample a couple of tiles from each quadrant of the collector rather than concentrating on just the top-left third? I would naively predict that any IS particles coming from a not-quite head-on
shallow angle, and then deflected by the spacecraft surfaces, would be more likely to end up in the bottom
section rather than the top.
Of course science can indeed move remarkably slowly; I have no problem with that, and intend to hang around to see what may, or quite possibly, doesn't happen. After all, Nature is a totally inconsiderate Goddess, keen to hold onto Her long-held secrets. It's just the six of the team, along with the rest of us, who are trying to prise them from Her fist (oh dear, I've come all over poetic and sillyphosical! Time for bed.)