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 -
Monkey Gets A Bigger Brain, Thanks To Human Gene
'It's a madhouse! a madhouse!' - Planet of the Apes, 1968.
Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.' - Philip K Dick, 1954.
Mechanical Milking Of Microalgae For Fuel Production
'They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them.' - Hal Clement, 1950.
Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.
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.
Listen Up, Coppertop - Wearable Device Turns You Into A Battery
'It's our way or the highway.'
Solar Powered Robot Cleans Up Solar Panels For Free
'... with large padded feet, who were apparently polishing their way the whole length of Rama's six artificial suns.'
Spot Arm From Boston Dynamics Picks Up Like Heinlein's Hired Girl Robot
'Anything larger than a BB shot it picked up and placed in a tray on its upper surface...'
Electric Vehicle Prices Will Drop To $2,890
'the human seats took up two-thirds of the room in each'
TIGER Ultimate Mobility Vehicle From Hyundai
'He admired the fast-plodding, articulated legs...'
Drones Communicate With Each Other Using Quantum Encryption
'the curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits...'
Space Construction Tools For Large Structures By OAC
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...'
SpinCare Electrospins And Shoots Wound Dressing
'Over her lacerated right shoulder he sprayed art-derm...'
Tesla Model S And X Moves Toward KITT Knight Rider Styling
Now, that was a Pontiac Trans Am with some real style.
Sophia Robots By The Thousands
'There is a built-in microphone that hears everything you say, and an electric brain that selects a suitable answer.'
Scaly-Foot Snail Works With Iron
'Micro-Scale suit tiles fabricated by genetically engineered metal affinity bacteria...'
Updated Piaggio Gita Personal Robot Porter
'Carry his bag... and follow him faithfully...'
Las Vegas Tunnels To Have Autonomous Teslas
'...just a steady velvety whirr as the taxi sped along.'
TCL CSOT 17-Inch Printed OLED Scrolling Display
'..a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling colour.'
Reachy Humanoid VR Teleoperation App
"I went to the control room where the three other men were manipulating their mechanical men...'
Unitree A1 Robot ala Black Mirror and Snow Crash
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories