Discovering our Magic Planet at Curiosity Carnival

Discovering our Magic Planet at Curiosity Carnival

29th September saw 10,000 people engaging with university researchers at the Curiosity Carnival, Oxford's contribution to European Researchers Night, which was celebrated by hundreds of cities across the continent.

The evening included a programme of activities for all ages and interests across Oxford's museums, libraries, gardens and woods. (CPDN) researchers were at the Ashmolean Museum demonstrating 3D climate data as part of the climate modelling citizen science project.

The Magic Planet is a 3D globe projector which ran visualizations of climate model simulations of possible weather, including rainfall and wind speed and direction.

These climate models are used to answer questions about how climate change is affecting our world, to improve our understanding of the climate system and help manage future climate risk.

Running these models takes a huge amount of computer power and time, but the world's largest climate modelling experiment speeds up the process by using the downtime on thousands of volunteers' home computers across the planet.

Recently the researchers found that climate change increased the chances of seeing a European summer as hot as 2017 by at least a factor of 10 and a heat wave like Lucifer by at least a factor of four, since 1900. Such summer heatwaves with temperatures over 40C could become normal by 2050.

Team members Professor David Wallom & Dr Sarah Sparrow from the Oxford e-Research Centre and Dr Friederike Otto and Dr Sihan Li (Meredith) from the Environmental Change Institute, were on hand in one of the upper galleries of the Ashmolean Museum to explain the data being visualized on the Magic Planet 3D projector, and to appeal for more volunteers for the climate modelling programme.

Visitors to the stand ranged from school children to fellow researchers writing PhDs on climate science. They were also joined by one of the community's longstanding moderators, Maureen Villar.

People interested in joining the volunteers from all over the world who already contribute their computer's downtime to the world's largest climate forecasting experiment can find out more at

How it works
Distributed computing involves using the processing power of many computers to solve a large problem. The internet allows volunteers from across the globe to contribute to large-scale projects to achieve results that would take many times longer to process on an individual super-computer. runs in the background on your computer and automatically:

  • receives instructions from the project scheduling server via BOINC software
  • runs climate models to produce output data
  • uploads the output to the data server
  • notifies the scheduling server that your work is complete, and asks for another task.