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Researchers Enlist Gamers to Find Something Fishy About Mathematical Models


A school of fish.

Researchers at Uppsala University received the help of more than 1,700 players of an online game in testing how good mathematical models were at reproducing the collective motion of schools of fish.

Credit: shutupaustin

Uppsala University researchers recently implemented a Turing test in the form of an online game, with more than 1,700 players, to assess how good mathematical models were at reproducing the collective motion of real fish schools.

The online game involved members of the public and a small group of experts being asked to differentiate between the collective movements of real fish schools and those simulated by a model.

"By putting the game online, and through crowdsourcing this problem, the public have not only become engaged in science, they have also helped our research," says Uppsala University researcher James Herbert-Read.

Although the statistical properties of the model matched those of the real data, both experts and members of the public were able to tell the difference between simulated and real fish.

The researchers asked online players that answered all six questions correctly to give feedback on how they were able to differentiate between real schools and simulated ones. The players suggested the spatial organization of the groups and smoothness of the trajectories appeared different between the simulated and real schools.

"Our results highlight that we can use ourselves as Mechanical Turks through 'citizen science' to improve and refine model fitting," Herbert-Read says.

From Uppsala University
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