Thousands of Italians Participated in a Nationwide Science Experiment While Quarantined (Video)

Over 7,000 people participated.

While abiding by quarantine rules, thousands of Italians are participating in a national science experiment.

The Italian National Research Council is taking advantage of an unprecedented amount of people staying homes by enlisting them to help gather information about light pollution — specifically how much light from the street floods into Italian homes.

Last month, more than 7,000 Italians downloaded an app to participate in a citizen science project called #scienzasulbalcone, which translates to “science on the balcony.” In order to gather information for the research council, participants turn off all the lights in their home and point their phone’s camera, while using the app, at the brightest source of light that’s flooding in. The app measures the light’s brightness and reports that data to researchers.

man wearing face mask walking
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There were participants from every Italian province represented in the study that lasted from March 23 to March 25.

“This pandemic risks creating doubts about science, because a lot of fake news is circulating,” Alessandro Farini, a vision scientist at Italy’s National Institute of Optics in Florence and one of the organizers of the experiment, told Nature. “With this experiment, we wanted to bring citizens closer to measurement techniques, to let them see the often complex process and allow them to participate in the scientific method.”

Information about light pollution is difficult for scientists to gather. It requires widespread access to people’s homes — and usually at night. But this data is important for scientists and public health. Light pollution can compromise astronomers’ views of space and also weaken immune systems for people living inside it.

Unsurprisingly, the data found that there is nearly twice as much light pollution in cities as there is in the Italian countryside.

Science experiments are just one of the few activities quarantined people can partake in. In France, a man ran the length of a marathon (26.2 miles) back and forth across his balcony. And in Spain, they are playing Bingo with neighbors from their windows.

Italy and France's quarantine has been extended til May while Spain started a slight lift in its restrictions, allowing non-essential employees to return to work. Italy also opened some stores, citing optimistic trends in their COVID-19 data.

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