Move over, Einstein: machines will take it from here

March 23, 2011 | Source: New Scientist Physics & Math

Researchers at Cornell University have developed an evolutionary computing algorithm called Eureqa that allows the laws of nature to be extracted from data at unheard of rates, says Michael Schmidt.

Rather than coming up with a hypothesis to test, they carry out experiments first, feeding the data into their computer to discover the laws of nature.

By randomly stringing together 10,000 simple mathematical expressions to create equations, Schmidt’s law-finding computer tested each equation to see how well it described the data. Some fit a little better than others.  Eureqa then “bred” these equations together to produce next-generation offspring that were different than the parents. Over thousands of generations, in one case, the computer discovered the law of conservation of energy.

Lipson speculates that this kind of machine learning will become the scientific norm, and we humans will forever be playing catch-up: “This is a post-singularity vision of science,” he says.