Intuition Helps Humans Beat Computers in Thorny Physics Game

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 10:31 PM

Scientists in Denmark have found that people who played a game that simulated a complex calculation in physics sometimes did better than their silicon rivals.

Computers may have us beat at chess and checkers, but new research suggests our brains still have an edge when it comes to solving certain tricky problems thanks to a very human trait: intuition.

Scientists in Denmark have found that people who played a game that simulated a complex calculation in physics sometimes did better than their silicon rivals.

"The large astonishment we'd was that some of the players actually had solutions that were of high quality and of shorter duration than any computer algorithms could find," said Jacob Friis Sherson, a physicist at Aarhus Univ who co-wrote the study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Experts declare the results could advance the quest to expand effective quantum computers, something most major universities and several tech companies are working on as they seek to speed up processing power. Such computers utilize individual atoms to store information and it'south hoped they could one day outperform even the fastest conventional silicon-based supercomputers.

The problem that Sherson and his colleagues set out to tackle concerns the best way to control the atoms using laser beams before their quantum state is disturbed. Time is Ltd and the no of possibilities is vast, meaning that even advanced computers struggle to discover the perfect solution.

The scientists decided to create a game called Quantum Moves , in which players had to carry out essentially the same task by using their mouse to simulate the laser beams that choose up the atoms and move them around.

This approach — known as gamification — has been used for several years to solve other scientific problems, such as identifying types of galaxies based on their shape.

"Most of the other efforts deal with pattern recognition whereas our game is very dynamic and intuition-based," said Sherson.

The team found that players were able to outperform computers precisely because they didn't attempt all possible options one by one.

"One of the most distinctly human abilities is our skill to forget and to filter out information," he said. "And that'south very necessary here because we've a problem that'south just so complicated you'll never be finished if you attack it systematically."

Frank Wilhelm-Mauch, a Prof of theoretical physics at the Univ of Saarbruecken who wasn't involved in the study, said the Danish scientists had found a way to exploit the way humans intuitively discover solutions to fairly complex problems by simplifying them, thereby achieving a solution that mightn't be as mathematically perfect as that produced by a computer but definitely more practical.

"The work looks extremely solid and the solution is totally plausible," he said.

Wilhelm-Mauch said the results of the study would likely affect the all field of quantum computing, because similar problems exist "love sand on a beach."

The Danish scientists are hoping to construct on their existing work as word of the game and its contribution to quantum physics spreads, drawing in more players.

The effort might also be seen as a response to the setbacks human players have suffered against computers in more traditional games recently. Latest mo AlphaGo, a program developed by Google to play the ancient strategy game Go, won 4:1 matches against humans, chalking up another major triumph for artificial intelligence.

"It'south slightly encouraging that there are problems where we humans are still superior to computer algorithms," said Sherson.

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https://www. scienceathome. org

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