Author Topic: Robo-scientist makes gene discovery--on its own  (Read 1864 times)

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Offline pomprockerTopic starter

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Robo-scientist makes gene discovery--on its own
« on: April 03, 2009, 12:05:32 AM »

Earlier this week, we told you about a robot that could be controlled by human thought alone. Now comes news of a bot that doesn't need to bother with any human thought at all, thank you very much. It's a "robot scientist" that researchers believe to be the first machine to independently come up with new scientific findings. Aptly, the bot is named Adam.
While we've become accustomed to robots built to repeat a given task many times over, scientists at Aberystwyth University in Wales and the U.K's University of Cambridge designed Adam to take a more human approach to scientific inquiry. And while it may not win the Nobel Prize for physics just yet, Adam appears to be doing impressively well for a young scientist, carrying out scientific research automatically, without the need for further human intervention.
As reported in the latest issue of the journal Science, Adam autonomously hypothesized that certain genes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae code for enzymes that catalyze some of the microorganism's biochemical reactions. The yeast is noteworthy, as scientists use it to model more complex life systems.
Adam then devised experiments to test its prediction, ran the experiments using laboratory robotics, interpreted the results, and used those findings to revise its original hypothesis and test it out further. The researchers used their own separate experiments to confirm that Adam's hypotheses were both novel and correct--all the while probably wondering how soon they'd become obsolete.
"This is one of the first systems to get (artificial intelligence) to try and control laboratory automation," Ross King, a professor of computer science who led the research at Aberystwyth University, told Live Science. Current robots, he noted, "tend to do one thing or a sequence of things. The complexity of Adam is that it has cycles."
Adam is a still a prototype, but King's team--which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council--says they believe their next robot, Eve (don't leave those two in the lab alone together) holds promise for scientists searching for new drugs to combat diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis, an infection caused by a type of parasitic worm in the tropics.
"Ultimately," King said, "we hope to have teams of human and robot scientists working together in laboratories."

Offline Asellith

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Re: Robo-scientist makes gene discovery--on its own
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 06:35:13 AM »
So Skynet's real name is Adam?
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Offline frodo

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Re: Robo-scientist makes gene discovery--on its own
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 06:45:29 AM »
so is adam the robot still at cambridge university?

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Offline Razor Concepts

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Re: Robo-scientist makes gene discovery--on its own
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2009, 10:11:41 AM »
Wow this is kind of scary. Won't be too long before they program something to "survive by any means possible"  :o

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Re: Robo-scientist makes gene discovery--on its own
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2009, 11:29:09 AM »
Read the BBC article:

All the other news channels put so much spin into it that its not even remotely reality . . .

This robot is meant to replace biochem grad students. Why? Because biochemistry laboratory work is amazingly boring and repetitive, and no scientist wants to do it. Sounds like a job for robots! (I worked in a biochem lab for 3+ years, just watching them do it was boring enough!)

For any single experiment, grad students fill up a hundred or more beakers, each containing a different chemical or slightly different quantity of that chemical. They write down in the notebook all 100 of them. Make a mistake, redo large portions of it. Wait for some reaction. Then test each and every tube for a result. Plot it, look for spike or trend in the data. Repeat. Each cycle takes a day or two. If the data doesn't show anything, you feel like it was a waste. See a spike in the data, was it a mistake? You think you can do 100 perfectly every day? ha!

A robot can very easily do this.


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