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No. 88: Jul-Aug 1993

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Computers can have near-death experiences!

When HAL, the treacherous computer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was being slowly disconnected, it began singing "A Bicycle Built for Two." In other words, the cutting of the computer's interconnections did not result in gibberish, rather memories that were previously stored flashed through its data processors. Something similar seems to happen with nonfictional computers.

When a type of computer program termed an "artificial neural network" is "killed" by cutting links between its units, it in effect approaches a state which "might" be something like biological "death." S.L. Thaler, a physicist at McDonnell Douglas, has been systematically chopping up artificial neural networks. He has found that when between 10% and 60% of the network connections have been severed, the program generates primarily nonsense. But, as the 90% (near-death!) level is approached, the network's outout is composed more and more of previously learned information, like HAL's learned song! Also, when untrained artificial neural networks were slowly killed, they responded only with nonsense.

(Yam, Philip; "'Daisy, Daisy'," Scientific American, 268:32, May 1993.)

From Science Frontiers #88, JUL-AUG 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987