In contrast to the other hack days you find around the globe — the next big open one by Yahoo happening in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, at the end of July — this one had the theme of science. Which meant that, in addition to the normal hack crowd, we had a lot of real scientists, from biologists to psychologists up to some real rocket scientists.
Although I expected the Guardian's offices to look like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's laboratory, the explosions and chemical fumes were kept to a minimum. Instead there was a pretty cool crossover between people with lots of empirically collected information and those who know how to make data interesting on the internet.
If you want to see what you missed, check out Carolina Ödman's amazing time-lapse video of the event:
Short movie with timelapse sequences taken during the Science Hack Day http://sciencehackday.com/
The thing that went down like a ton of bricks and made a lot of the hacks possible was my introductory talk to YQL. It was amazing to see so many people immediately losing all fear of accessing web services, and mixing and matching them with other technologies.
After 24 hours of intense hacking, we crowned a few winners, who got telescopes, a massive Lego Mindstorms set, and geeky scientific toys from the London Science Museum:
- The "Getting your hands dirty hack" went to Team Dirt for their Open dirt map, a "crowdsoiling" tool to allow people to measure the quality of the soil in their area with a cheap chemistry kit, and then upload and geo-tag the results. This could lead to a quite interesting soil-quality database.
- The best Academic hack, or "Hooking up hack," went to the Co-Author cloud, a way to show your papers on Arxiv.org and your connections to other authors.
- The best technical hack or "They spy you hack" went to Random Orbit, a satellite tracking API.
- The best research tool hack went to Refwatcher, which used the Scorpus research paper API to look up references easily in any Wiki system.
- The "I am what now?" hack went to How fast am I?, a comparison app that shows information in comparison — e.g., "you run 32 times slower than a cheetah" — which allows us to make scientific information more understandable.
- The Honesty hack price went to the -seti.fm team which tried to convert SETI data to an audio stream, and flat out admitted that their demo is 100% faked (they will make it work though).
- The "Ouh it is so shiny hack" went to the Aurorascope, a hardware hack that was a soldered semi-transparent decahedron with LEDs that mirrored the information about the current sightings of the Aurora borealis. This was built as the author went to the Twitter conference to San Francisco instead of taking his girlfriend to the real Aurora, to bridge the time until they can do so again.
- The "It must be a lie" hack went to Weather Vane, a map hack that showed a flying pig on a map and rotated it according to the direction the wind is going at that time and in this place.
- The "You know, for kids" hack went to The Revolutionaries, an interface to see famous scientiest, who inspired them and who got inspired by them with information scraped from Wikipedia.
There are many other hacks to see, including a solar system entirely done with CSS transitions. Check a list of all the hacks on the Science Hack Day Wiki