Automated Biology Explorer (ABE), Robot Scientist
ABE, also known as the Automated Biology Explorer, is an artificially intelligent computer system that can analyze raw experimental data from biology experiments and derive the equations that describe how that biological system operates.
ABE was created by a group of scientists at Vanderbilt University, Cornell University and CFD Research Corporation, Inc. who published a paper on their Automated Biology Explorer in the October issue of Physical Biology. Their work expands on an earlier autonomous artificial intelligence program called Eureqa (see Eureqa Artificially Intelligent Computer Scientist), which in turn descends from the amazing introspective starfish robot developed by Josh Bongard, Victor Zykov, and Hod Lipson at Cornell. (See Starfish Robot Shows Robotic Introspection And Self-Modeling and Robot Walks After Conceptualizing Own Structure for information and videos.)
The biological system that the researchers used to test ABE is glycolysis, the primary process that produces energy in a living cell. Specifically, they focused on the manner in which yeast cells control fluctuations in the chemical compounds produced by the process.
The researchers chose this specific system, called glycolytic oscillations, to perform a virtual test of the software because it is one of the most extensively studied biological control systems. Jenkins and Vallabhajosyula used one of the process' detailed mathematical models to generate a data set corresponding to the measurements a scientist would make under various conditions. To increase the realism of the test, the researchers salted the data with a 10 percent random error. When they fed the data into Eureqa, it derived a series of equations that were nearly identical to the known equations.
"What's really amazing is that it produced these equations a priori," said Vallabhajosyula. "The only thing the software knew in advance was addition, subtraction, multiplication and division."
Here's part of the apparatus used in the experiment, a microformulator that lets ABE autonomously perform experiments without any human intervention.
So why should we (through grants from NSF and other agencies) fund the automated exploration of biology?
“Biology is more complex than astronomy or physics or chemistry,” maintained Wikswo, a physicist who has spent his career studying biological systems. “In fact, it may be too complex for the human brain to comprehend.”
This complexity stems from the fact that biological processes range in size from the dimensions of an atom to those of a whale and in time from a billionth of a second to billions of seconds. Biological processes also have a tremendous dynamic range: for example, the human eye can detect a star at night that is one billionth as bright as objects viewed on a sunny day.
Then there is the matter of sheer numbers. A cell expresses between 10,000 to 15,000 proteins at any one time. Proteins perform all the basic tasks in the cell, including producing energy, maintaining cell structures, regulating these processes and serving as signals to other cells. At any one time there can be anywhere from three to 10 million copies of a given protein in the cell.
ABE (and his human makers) have taken amazing first steps in this field. Science fiction writers have done their part to visualize the idea of a computer system that could do science on its own.
Larry Niven wrote about a Chirpsithra Supercomputer that was able to pursue research and make independent discoveries in a 1979 story The Schumann Computer. It also had it's own way to request hardware upgrades to advance the process.
"Rick, I'm suffering from sensory deprivation. I could solve the riddle of gravity in the time it's taken me to say this sentence. My mind works at speeds you can't conceive, but I'm blind and deaf and dumb. Get me senses!" she wheedled in a voice that had been a copy of my own, but was now a sexy contralto.
As far as I know, the earliest mention of a computer able to generate new science is the Total Environmental and Mental Simulator from John M. Faucette's 1968 novel Crown of Infinity.
...A computer that could simulate or duplicate the mental processes of any actual or artificial being, and through simulated total environmental stimuli create a situation of maximum stress upon that entity... No matter how much in intelligence potential Master or ally had, the TEMS always came up with a simulated being that was superior.
From a very detailed and nicely done Vanderbilt press release via Physorg.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/14/2011)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.
Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.
Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.
Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
'... biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'
Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."
Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'
DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'
Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.
ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.
When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'
Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'
'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'
Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'
Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'
Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.
Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'
Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'
Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories