Monday, October 24, 2016

And Yet It Moves: Gravitational Waves

"The moment he was set at liberty, he looked up to the sky and down to the ground, and, stamping with his foot, in a contemplative mood, said, Eppur si muove [And yet it moves], meaning the earth."1
Giuseppe Baretti, on Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei knew the Earth revolved around the Sun and that it wasn't, as the Catholic Church would have him believe, some unmoving object around which everything else revolved. Despite religious pressure to acquiesce, he refused. Nearly 70 years prior to this "Galileo affair" as it has come to be known, Copernicus had published the first mathematical, geometric system to place the sun at the center of the solar system in his widely circulated book entitled On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543). Galileo, using a new invention called a telescope, was able to confirm these mathematical computations through observation, albeit indirectly. Although he was later confined to his house by order of the church for challenging the Bible's teaching in Chronicles 16:30, which states "the world is firmly established; it cannot be moved", he remained resolute, stating "and yet it moves".

In effect, Copernicus and Galileo demonstrated a common approach to the accumulation of scientific knowledge, that is, through mathematical prediction and observation - and the obstacles that must be overcome to bring this knowledge to light. Likewise, gravitational waves were also predicted by mathematics, but in the early 20th century, nobody knew how to measure them. On Feb. 11, 2016, after a long struggle and costing over half a billion dollars, our perception of reality was fundamentally altered when gravitational waves were announced to have finally been directly observed.

This article was written by Patrick Rhodes and published on January 12, 2016. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Artificial Intelligence: Solving the Chinese Room Argument

Yesterday, the very best AI (artificial intelligence) had trouble beating a novice human chess player. Today, the very best human player has enormous difficulty beating the best AI. Tomorrow, the very best human player will never beat any AI. However, that's not the worst news you've heard. This is:
Computers have no idea how to play chess whatsoever.
They also don't understand Chinese, but that doesn't stop them from trouncing us in chess or speaking Chinese. Let's find out how this is possible and speculate on whether or not we can actually create an AI capable of true understanding.

Yesterday: Pong

Mankind has been dreaming of AI since antiquity, so the idea is not new. Ancient Greek mythology, for example, tells of a giant bronze robot named Talos whose task it was to patrol the shores of Crete, protecting the inhabitants from invaders. In the Far East, circa 3rd century BC, the Chinese 'Lie Ze' text gives an account of mechanical men being given to King Mu of Zhou. Evidently, these automations were so lifelike that the king had some torn apart to ensure they were, in fact, artificial. The point is, the idea of thinking machines has been around for millennia.
This article was written by Patrick Rhodes and published on January 12, 2016. Click here to read the rest of the article.
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