Scientists at Cornell have built a machine that takes mountains of data from real-world experiments and spits out equations that describe the underlying natural laws at work. This isn't an April Fool's Day thing. The Guardian reports:"The machine took only hours to come up with the basic laws of motion, a task that occupied Sir Isaac Newton for years after he was inspired by an apple falling from a tree."So, will this machine be running the planet by lunchtime tomorrow? Probably not.It seems to work sort of like a chess-playing computer, finding equations by cranking through tons of possibilities by rote, rather thinking creatively like an actual scientific genius.And it can't tell which equations it discovers are worthwhile. The Guardian's video (warning: a little mathy) describes how the machine comes up with lots of possible equations that are more or less consistent with the data it's given-some of which are trivial. In effect, the machine cries "Eureka!" even when it discovers something stupidly obvious, leaving it to the scientists to make sense of its results. So it's sort of like a "Wolf!" machine too.That said, I'm pretty sure robots will replace theoretical physicists, and sooner than we think.
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