Robot Makes Scientific Discovery (Mostly) On Its Own

Hugh Pickens writes “A science-savvy robot called Adam has successfully developed and tested its first scientific hypothesis, discovering that certain genes in baker’s yeast code for specific enzymes which encourage biochemical reactions in yeast, then ran an experiment with its lab hardware to test its predictions, and analyzed the results, all without human intervention. Adam was equipped with a database on genes that are known to be present in bacteria, mice and people, so it knew roughly where it should search in the genetic material for the lysine gene in baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Ross King, a computer scientist and biologist at Aberystwyth University, first created a computer that could generate hypotheses and perform experiments five years ago. ‘This is one of the first systems to get [artificial intelligence] to try and control laboratory automation,’ King says. ‘[Current robots] tend to do one thing or a sequence of things. The complexity of Adam is that it has cycles.’ Adam has cost roughly million to develop and the software that drives Adam’s thought process sits on three computers, allowing Adam to investigate a thousand experiments a day and still keep track of all the results better than humans can. King’s group has also created another robot scientist called Eve dedicated to screening chemical compounds for new pharmaceutical drugs that could combat diseases such as malaria.

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