A research team led by Columbia University sociology professor Duncan Watts is conducting an experiment called Music Lab an experiment that involves a lot of free MP3 downloads. After signing in and answering a few questions, you'll find yourself on a page listing 48 songs. If you click on a song, you'll hear a streaming version of it, along with a prompt to rate how much you like it. After answering, you're given the option to download it (free and legal) or to move on. I've listened to a handful of the songs, all of them by bands I've never heard of, and so far haven't found them particularly good. How the experiment works, and what the Columbia researchers are actually measuring, isn't explained anywhere on the Web page. But Matthew Salganik, a member of the research team, wrote to Boing Boing to spread the word about the experiment and attract more participants, and he explained it thus: "After listening to the music of Britney Spears, we became interested in why some musicians become superstars while other seemingly similar musicians don't. To understand this process better, we decided to find out how people form their musical tastes. We have created a Web site where people can listen to, rate and download songs by cool, up-and-coming artists. All the downloads are free and legal so the site is a great place to find new music, help support emerging artists and help out science -- all at the same time."