Computer Science Makes Computers Scientists

April 4, 2009

Two stories this week show how the merging of science and technology is making the singularity closer to reality as two automated research projects in experimentation comes up with the identical discovery; Humans are obsolete.

Just kidding! Here’s what they DID discover:

Physics discovered by computer program.

(Wired) Cornell University researchers have created a program that can find relationships in large amounts of data. It sounds like simple data processing, but it is not:

The Cornell program came up with an formula describing the physics of a two-part pendulum. It did in a day what some of the most brilliant physicist minds took centuries to do. AND without any knowledge of physics or geometry!

This is only an example of what the researchers are hoping to do with such programs: To help human scientists analyze infinitely large data sets.

“One of the biggest problems in science today is moving forward and finding the underlying principles in areas where there is lots and lots of data, but there’s a theoretical gap. We don’t know how things work,” said Hod Lipson, the Cornell University computational researcher who co-wrote the program. “I think this is going to be an important tool.”

Condensing rules from raw data has long been considered the province of human intuition, not machine intelligence. It could foreshadow an age in which scientists and programs work as equals to decipher datasets too complex for human analysis.

Then again, if what’s going on in the UK is any indication, the human factor may be taken out of science all together.

 

Dr. Adam-Bot makes discoveries with yeast

“Normal robots just do what you tell them, but ADAM is different, because it can hypothesize and try to solve a problem itself.” – Ross King, of Aberystwyth University in Wales, U.K.

(Nat-Geo) (Science Daily) (and practically everywhere by now) What has to be the first ever “robot scientist,” Adam, has discovered new knowledge about baker’s yeast. Not exactly earth-shaking discoveries, but the fact that the totally automated Adam made these discoveries by itself is big news.

(From Nat-Geo) First ADAM was given a crash course in biology, including everything that is already known about baker’s yeast.

ADAM quickly set to work, formulating and testing 20 different hypotheses. The robot eventually identified the genes that code for enzymes involved in yeast metabolism—a scientific first for a robot.

Using independent experiments, King and his colleagues were able to verify ADAM’s results.

King’s reason for creating Adam is to help scientists in their research:

(From Science Daily) “Because biological organisms are so complex it is important that the details of biological experiments are recorded in great detail. This is difficult and irksome for human scientists, but easy for Robot Scientists.”

King already has plans for another robot scientist, Eve, that will be devoted to researching drugs for tropical diseases. As for possibly replacing human scientists outright, “While robots are better at coordinating thousands of experiments, humans are better are seeing the big picture and planning the overall experiment.”

This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

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