April 3, 2009

Robot scientist acts without human aid

A robot scientist acting without human help has made its first real, albeit modest, discoveries, say researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Named Adam, the robot is the creation of researchers at Cambridge and the United Kingdom's Aberystwyth University, New Scientist reported Friday.

Without human assistance, Adam formulated and tested 20 hypotheses about gene coding for 13 enzymes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as brewer's yeast, said Ross King, a biologist at Aberystwyth who leads the project.

It's certainly a contribution to knowledge. It would be publishable, King said, noting Adam has enough equipment to fill a small lab, including four computers that act as a brain and robotic arms, cameras, liquid handlers and incubators.

Adam, and a robot-in-the-making called Eve, will help free human scientists from routine and time-consuming scientific chores and some day may even be capable of ground-breaking independent research, King said.