More and more people are becoming DIYers (do it yourself) and often these folks extend their DIY capabilities and hobbies into small businesses. The DIY trend is also hitting science. Popular Science recently named Harvard astronomer Gaspar Bakos one of their 10 most brilliant young scientists for 2007.
Six years ago Bakos and three amateur astronomers built a small network of robotic telescopes. The first one cost under $1,000 and used it find a planet revovling around a distant star. Since then the network has been expanded to 6 telescopes and they have found 8 new planets. The total cost for this network is less than $50,000. NASA's new PlanetQuest observatory is expected to cost $1.8 billion. It will be interesting to see which is more effective at finding new planets.
The same trends that are driving DIY - cheaper computing, the Internet, etc. - are driving DIY science. It will be interesting to see if small science has as big an impact on big science as small business is having on big business.