Now that we have gone through why we want to do this, let’s carry on with what we are going to do about it with these few projects.
An organised project is a successful project. Having an idea or question isn’t enough to do research – you must also have a plan of what to do, somewhere to note down what you find and write something to describe what you have done so others can know. All of this requires some form of organisation, and the most common way to do this is with some form of notebook.
An existing notebook like Notion can work, of course, but a shortcoming of Notion is its set of predefined modules. Going back to the doctrine espoused in our previous post, we don’t want to be a top-down organisation pushing down what we think is best for the user. Instead, we want users to be able to fulfil what they want. To this end, notes is designed to be a fully modular and user-extensible notebook application. If a user isn’t satisfied with the functionalities available, he can develop his own.
The organisation isn’t also just for the user. Notes also serves as a command and control centre for all the equipment we plan to push out.
Taking inspiration from the Maker Movement, for something to be successful it has to be “hackable”. Hackable things are modular and easily built upon, as well as not being too much of an investment to be accidentally damaged. Pipes is our answer to the problem of affordable chemistry lab equipment. Flow reactors provide a way for the reaction to be broken down into a series of simple steps. More importantly, each stage in the flow is independent of the next, creating a modular system whose components can be switched in and out as requirements demand.
Replicability is an important part of experimentation. An experiment has to be reproducible for its results to be of note. Much like how 3D printers introduced replicable machining to the hobbyist, we believe that flow reactors can introduce replicable reactions to the hobbyist. This is what pipes is: simple, modular flow reactors for the home chemist.
As mentioned before, equipment means nothing if there is nothing to experiment on. Major reagent suppliers such as Sigma Aldrich only deal with companies and not individuals. Supplies is simply the logical extension of this: a shell company that holds a repository of common reagents for people.
However, relying on a company does not fit our decentralised model, so we also have plans to use this company as a touchstone to gather groups of people into trusted collectives, which can pool their resources to purchase their own equipment.
For what pipes is to chemistry, bio is to microbiology. Starting with automated bioreactors, we want to develop a toolkit for affordable experiments in microbiology and genetic engineering for the hobbyist.
Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices are an important facet of data collection and so are another aspect we like to cover. Unlike the portfolios of pipes or bio, swarm is much more generic, covering anything that can be considered an IoT device – which is anything that connects to the Internet and sends or receives data. Therefore, instead of being a specific set of tools for people to use or build upon, swarmis instead a protocol or framework for IoT devices to interoperate with the wider notes framework, along with a few example devices that we think might be common use cases.
Research without publication only serves to benefit the researcher. Publishing this research allows knowledge to be shared, hence allowing the wider scientific community to benefit from any breakthroughs. However, modern scientific journals have editors editing submissions and pruning ones they don’t deem fit from the final publication. While this ensures the quality of the publication, it also presents a barrier to entry for the layman. Furthermore, the biases of the editor will inevitably colour the tone of the journal. We have no intention of running our own scientific journal. Editing is a full-time job, and we have no confidence in ourselves, or anyone for the matter, maintaining an impartial view.
Instead, journals is going to be a decentralised journal system employing a reputation mechanism to ensure the quality and mutual-checking of submissions. Anyone can publish, but how they will be viewed is another question.
With these projects, we hope that amateur research can be pushed back to the forefront of science, with interest and passion powering our advancements.