Can computers make discoveries?

6th April 2011

Asked by: ANON

Computers have certainly helped make lots of discoveries in areas ranging from mathematics and astronomy to biochemistry. But during the 1950s, some computer scientists believed that their machines might one day make discoveries by themselves. The prediction appeared to come to pass in 1982, when a logic-based program named the Automated Mathematician (AM), developed by Douglas Lenat at Stanford University, announced its belief that every even integer greater than two might be expressed as the sum of two primes. Admittedly, humans had got there first: the German mathematician Christian Goldbach made the same claim in 1742, though neither he nor anyone else has ever been able to prove conclusively that all integers obey this rule. Even so, ‘Goldbach’s Conjecture’ is widely believed to be the first ever (re-)discovery made by a computer without overt human intervention.

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