How the Space Pope is helping to find real exoplanets by playing Eve: OnlineEnlarge (credit: CCP)
Inside Reykjavik’s bustling Harpa exhibition centre, players of Eve Online—an RPG where millions of players explore the depths of space through trade, combat, and propaganda—are being told they can change the world.
In other years, attendees of the annual Eve Fanfest convention gather to meet online friends from the other side of the world, forge allegiances, and start in-game wars on the surprisingly rowdy pub-crawl.

But this is no ordinary year.

This year, Fanfest’s main stage plays host to Kyoto-prize winning scientist, Dr. Michel Mayor.
Famous for discovering the first ever exoplanet in 1995, Dr. Mayor finds himself experiencing another career first at Eve Fanfest. Mayor has swapped his usual audience of astronomy students for gaming’s most notoriously devoted community—and, despite some early reservations, they lap up every word. Mayor explains the science behind Project Discovery, a mishmash of clever software and stat-grinding that crowdsources scientific research from players of Eve Online. His talk is not only heard in the busy auditorium, but also by thousands of curious viewers on Twitch.
If nothing else, it’s clever piece of scientific outreach.

Like many ideas, Project Discovery began life in a bar, where Hungarian software engineer Attila Szantner posed a question to university researcher Bernard Revaz: what if, instead of just entertaining, video games could make the world a better place? Starting with the concept of citizen science—a research method which uses data gathered by regular citizens—Szantner mused that, as the world’s most dedicated workers, gamers would be the ideal candidate for a new breed of scientific research.
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