A Robot Performs Science
By any standard, it was an elementary discovery — the identification of the role of about a dozen genes in a yeast cell. But what made this finding a major breakthrough was the unlikely form of the scientist: a robot. In April, "Adam," a machine designed at Aberystwyth University in Wales, became the first robotic system to make a novel scientific discovery with virtually no human intellectual input. Robots have long been used in experiments — their vast computational power assisted in the sequencing of the human genome, for example — but Adam was the first to complete the cycle from hypothesis to experiment to reformulated hypothesis without human intervention. Interviewed after Adam's experiment appeared in Science, inventor Ross King argued that artificial intelligence had almost limitless scientific potential — and that a computer would one day make a discovery akin to Einstein's special theory of relativity. "There isn't any intrinsic reason why that wouldn't happen," he said. "A computer can make beautiful chess moves, but it'