Sunday, April 5, 2009

Adam becomes first robot to make a scientific discovery after conducting its OWN experiments

Professor Ross KingImage: Professor Ross King and a colleague with the robot scientist Adam

A robot called Adam that can think up theories and test them with almost no human help has become the first machine to make a new scientific discovery. Operating from a laboratory at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, the machine identified genetic processes in baker's yeast that were previously unknown. - dailymail

Unlike other pieces of lab equipment, a robotic system created by scientists from Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge can design and perform new experiments on its own.

In a study called "The Automation of Science," published in the latest issue of Science, the researchers asked the robot, named Adam, to find out which genes code for several enzymes of unknown origin ("orphan enzymes") in baker's yeast. Drawing on a database of yeast and other biological information, Adam came up with 20 hypotheses and designed several experiments to methodically test mutant strains against normal ones. The robot successfully identified--for the first time--the origins of several enzymes.


In the video, Adam carries out experiments to identify orphan enzymes in baker's yeast. First, it takes out a yeast library plate from the freezer. Then, it stab-picks the strain it wants and inoculates a plate. Adam carries the plate to an incubator and lets the yeast grow for 24 hours. Finally, Adam shakes and reads the sample, getting growth measurements for three days.

"The knowledge that Adam produces is expressed in logic," Ross King, a professor of computer science at Aberystwyth and first author on the paper, explained to me. This "makes the knowledge more reproducible and more useful." King believes that intelligent lab assistants like Adam will be common in labs within a decade or so.

via Technology Review: Blogs: TR Editors' blog: Robot Scientist Designs Its Own Experiments.

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