Start up uwingu.com used a public naming contest to name a newly discovered planet. $4.99 to submit a name, $.99 to vote. A portion of the proceeds went to charity. This spring they started a campaign to name craters on Mars for a mapping project they have underway.
Before I got indignant about a fool and his/her money, I found that the site has already donated more than $50,000 to scientific research.
These types of crowdfunding can unlock sources of funding to scientists and increasing engagement and excitement around research. Experiment.com has funded 150 projects so far!
To me, just as exciting is the news that results from the first mission to Pluto, the asteroid Ceres and a comet are due this fall and in the next year. Now that's pretty cool! And look, no jokes about Uranus.
Plus what's not to like about the public connecting with science? We all benefit.