Education: Ask, and Ye Shall Receive

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Science  13 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5797, pp. 229
DOI: 10.1126/science.314.5797.229a

A neutron star is a burned-out stellar husk, so why does it still glow? Are gorillas more muscular than humans because they have higher testosterone levels? To answer queries like these, the MadSci Network, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, can draw on the expertise of nearly 800 volunteer researchers around the world. The question-and-answer site has expanded from a student project at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, into a veritable encyclopedia that archives some 36,000 entries. Visitors from grade schoolers to professionals post up to 150 new questions a day. A cadre of scientists sifts the submissions and farms them out to the appropriate experts, who usually provide answers within 2 weeks. For example, a neutron star glows because its strong electrical field tears electrons from atoms in its outer layer, and the speeding electrons release energy.

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