Hey, it can win on Jeopardy, so let's put our lives in its hands
By Paul Adams and Dan NosowitzPosted 02.17.2011 at 11:10 am 16 Comments
Last night, after Watson swept the floor with the human race, we asked Dr. David Ferrucci, head of the Watson team, about him. It. The brainmachine is really good at analyzing and assimilating data, so it seemed that, when it comes to feeding it data, who would know more about machine learning than Watson? Is Watson able to clearly identify what areas it wants to know more about?
What do you call an armor-penetrating munition? MAHEM. A smokescreen that instantly closes around a tank? DRAPES. A robot that scavenges and feeds itself? EATR, of course.
At the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military's mad-science research wing, program managers must do the seemingly impossible. Not just slow down the speed of light and make fake blood. They also have to describe these pie-in-the-sky ideas to journalists, the public and Congress.
That's how you get some of the most amusing acronyms ever.
A new technique uses electromagnetic pulses to detonate improvised explosive devices from afar, potentially thwarting the roadside bombs that have been the scourge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, lest anyone forget, the ongoing guerrilla conflicts in places like Colombia.
A Japanese inventor has figured out a way to convert plastic grocery bags, bottles and caps back into the petroleum from whence they came, providing a ready fuel source for individual homes that also diverts waste from landfills.
Images from the Stardust-NExT mission's Valentine's Day rendezvous with comet Tempel 1 began hitting the Web yesterday--there are 72 total images, but each one took a dial-up-worthy 15 minutes to download--with most of them depicting a grainy rock at a distance.
It seems like everyone in the twitterverse, the blogosphere, and tumblrdom is getting fed up with so-called content farms--those mostly-useless text generators that turn out articles based on the terms people most commonly search for.
Launching payloads into space is expensive, but high costs aside it’s also a horribly inefficient process. Conventional rockets are almost pure fuel, leaving only a small percentage (usually in the low single digits) of a launch vehicle's total weight available for payload. So NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio is looking into a whole new system of payload propulsion that uses lasers or microwaves to launch vehicles into orbit.
Rapid prototyping, or 3-D printing, has been used to create all kinds of amazing objects in a variety of media, but a team working under EADS in the UK wants to print something heretofore unheard of: the entire wing of an airliner. Working at the same facility where Concordes were once built, researchers there are already printing landing gear brackets and other aircraft components in hopes that one day they’ll be able to print out many of the critical parts for an entire aircraft.
New tiny force sensors made out of paper cost just four cents apiece, possibly enabling cheap microelectromechanical devices in anything from consumer electronics to medicine.
Harvard professor George Whitesides developed the paper accelerometers using chromatography paper, tiny sliver and carbon contact pads, and vinyl stencils. The process is so cheap and easy that the sensors could be disposable.
What better way to celebrate the romance of Valentine's Day than watching a supercomputer robot defeat Jeopardy!'s two greatest champions in a man-on-machine trivia throwdown? Gather your significant other; strap him or her to a couch if you need to, because this is important. Tonight, the first round of a very special Jeopardy! tournament begins.