February 4, 2010

On Resolving Exoplanet Nicknames

While i was building the "Exoplanet Seeker", i discovered a wonderful capability of Freebase and i think i've found an extended use for it's auto-suggest feature.

If you start typing the nicknames of some exoplanets such as "Bellerophon" or "Osiris" or "Methuselah", you would notice that it suggests the correct exoplanet and shows it's official name. For example, if you started typing "Bellerophon" in the empty field it would start showing 51 Pegasi b, the historic exoplanet co-discovered by Michel Mayor. Or typing in "Methuselah" would bring up PSR B1620-26 b--the oldest known exoplanet believed to be 12.7 billion years old.

Immediately i appreciated this capability to bring up the official name by just typing the nickname, and we owe it to Freebase. It actually would prove to be a nice platform upon which to implement the proposal of Wladimir Lyra to give each exoplanet a nickname--in which case the "Exoplanet Seeker" would function as a nickname-resolver. A practical use would be this: If you can't remember what the cryptic official name of that odd exoplanet was, but you remember it's nickname (which often is the case), just go to The Exoplanet Seeker to help you find out the official name!

All this would only work if we saved the nickname in the 'alias' of the exoplanet data within Freebase. Somehow, behind the scenes the system looks up the aliases of objects within freebase and gets resolved by the auto-suggestion capability.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg--many more useful apps can be developed if enough exoplanet data is entered into Freebase. I hope some folks join me in filling up more data about exoplanets on freebase so many other developers can create more mash-ups utilizing this impressive platform.