US: Dr. Albert Lin, an emerging explorer of the National Geographic Society and a research scientist at the University of California, now has more than 7,000 people around the world helping with his mission, called the Valley of the Khans Project. The idea of the mission is to find the tombs of Genghis Khan and his descendants, and other ancient Mongolian artifacts.
Genghis Khan was the first emperor of the Mongol Empire. He was buried in an unmarked tomb in northern Mongolia about 800 years ago. But finding tomb is a task that has eluded scientists for years. Mongolia encompasses more than 600,000 square miles of largely uncharted, rural territory, which makes Lin’s mission an extremely challenging one. Lin’s army of helpers are amateurs, working from their home computers.
Through a Web site called Field Expedition Mongolia, which Lin and his colleagues developed jointly with National Geographic, volunteers are helping sift through 85,000 high-resolution satellite images of Mongolia. For land survey, they are using GPS.
Every time volunteers log in to the site, they are shown some of these images. An online tutorial instructs them on how to look for particular objects and tag them as roads, rivers, modern structures or ancient structures. They can zoom in and out and scroll in all directions. They are also told to simply tag places as other if they see something peculiar. This is the sort of vague judgment that humans can perform but that computers cannot, Lin said.
Sometimes online volunteers led the explorers to disappointing finds, such as a herd of sheep on a satellite photo that looked like an ancient structure. But there were also some remarkable ones, such as the discovery of 3,000-year-old Bronze Age tombs, remnants of large cities and ancient monoliths hidden in the region’s vast, grassy steppe.
Every volunteer who logs on to the Valley of the Khans project site, developed with a design company called Digitaria, gets to feel like an explorer, digging through images and playing what feels like a game but performing work that has much more significant ramifications.
Source: Washington Post