Thursday, November 26, 2015

Citizen Science Holiday Gift Guide - 2015

The Holiday season is here again and your shopping has begun.  Shopping for some people is easy, but what about the citizen scientist in your family...what do you get them?  And what gifts can a citizen scientist buy to share their love of this exciting field?   Fortunately your friends at OpenScientist are here to help.

Below is a small collection of items we think any citizen scientist would love to give...or get.  No what your age or or interest I hope you can find something below.  All on top of the many other items on my previous Citizen Science Holiday Gift guides from the last few years (2014 and 2012).  One key difference for this year is that I've teamed up as an Amazon affiliate for some of these items, meaning that if you purchase after linking from this site we receive a small commission.  Just purchase from any of the links below or search for all Amazon Citizen Science products. This won't make me rich, but I do promise to use 100% of the money I receive will go to continue providing more tools and information on this site.  So it's a win--win for all of us!

Do-It-Yourself Gamer Kit:  Most people buy video games to play...but citizen scientists make their own!  The $98 DIYGamer Kit provides you all the hardware pieces to build a handheld game console, as well as software to design games that run on it.  For more advanced gift-givers can you can buy versions that require soldering, while others are available solder-free for beginners.  And this is just the start.  TechnologyWillSaveUs also sells DIY Synthesizer, Biology and other kits for the Maker crowd.  So pick the one your friends will like most and help them start building!

Family Game Night: Compounded: The Board Game lets you and your family be the lab manager.  Collect and trade elements to create new and exciting compounds before your opponents do...and before they cause an explosion!  At $27 its the perfect gift for the chemists and biologists in your life.  If you need the perfect board game for biologists, try Peptide the Card Game, where players collect amino acids and compete to create new proteins.

GoPro Video: Perfect for recording all your scientific field work on beautiful 1080P High Definition video. Use it to verify findings for others, records data for review and analysis at home, and capture the joy of excitement to be shared with your loved ones (and friendly citizen scientists). For $139 the GoPro Hero Starter Bundle comes complete with a head strap for hands-free recording of all your adventures. I've used it myself for recording scuba dives and nature hikes, and bet the lucky gift receiver will find many more good uses too.

Cooking for Geeks: Unfortunate title aside, Cooking for Geeks is a great way to not only learn about the science behind the food we eat, but how to have fun with it too.  You not only get recipes optimized by the science, you also get tips on ways to experiment on your own to improve the food you eat.  The book also applies the scientific techniques used in the citizen science world to improve cooking, such as easy ways to properly calibrate kitchen equipment.  Perfect for the amateur investigator in your house.

Project MC2 Dolls: Mixing science and play, the MC2 line of dolls are perfect for young girls looking to enter the world of science.  They come with their own clothes and this case safety goggles and a real working volcano experiment! I've featured the Adrienne Attoms doll, but you can also get the Bryden Bandwidth, McKeyla McAlister, or Camryn Coyle dolls. You can also buy the MC2 Ultimate Lab Kit to conduct additional experiments of your own!

Science Barware: After a long day of research every citizen scientist needs a way to relax.  So help them out with some fun science-themed bar and glassware. With these your family and friends can drink out of the very same types of containers used in their research. Thinkgeek has a couple of fun items, including the Chemist's Cocktail Kit (with an Erlenmeyer flask mixer and test tube shot glasses), Laboratory Shot Glasses or the Erlenmeyer Flask Coffee Mug.

Three-Body Problem: This is the highly-acclaimed bestseller now translated into English.  Winner of the Hugo Award and a Nebula Award nominee, The Three-Body Problem chronicles what happens when Chinese scientists send radio signals out into the Universe to contact alien life.  When the signal is received by a potentially dangerous alien species, humanity splits into different factions figuring out what to do as Earth awaits its fate. Given the popularity of extra-terrestrial search (SETI) projects among citizen scientists, the insights offered into the Chinese scientific community, the human emotions explored, and the literary acclaim this book has received, it's a great gift for citizen scientists wanting a good beach read as they relax from their research.

Great Courses: What better way to learn about a new area of science than by attending a college-level course taught by world-renowned professors.  While there are a few different companies offering this type of content, I've found the Great Courses are some of the highest quality (and with some of their great sales, some of the highest value too!).   If you want something for the space enthusiast in your family I highly recommend  Skywatching: Seeing and Understanding Cosmic Wonders.  It not only highlights many of the wonders out there in the universe, but shows you how to witness them yourself with just a small telescope or binoculars.  Letting them see these amazing sights with their own eyes.  Others I've enjoyed and which you may also find interesting include Leonardo da Vinci and the High Italian Renaissance (famed artist and citizen scientist), and Roots of Human Behavior which uses the behaviors of apes and monkeys to help us understand where our humanity comes from.

uBiome Microbial Analysis: Everyone knows about the world of bacteria that live out in the world, but there is also a whole world of bacteria that live inside every one of us.  These are almost always good bacteria that help our bodies function, aiding digestion and performing other important tasks.  But each person's is different.  As their web site says, "Our microbes outnumber human cells 10:1. Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. Microbes perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins. Studies have also linked the microbiome to human mood and behavior, as well as gut health, human development, and metabolic disorders."  With uBiome you can collect DNA from various parts of your body and send it for a quick analysis, making it the perfect gift for the biologist in your family. Kits are available for between $90 and $400, depending on the amount of data you want.