writes "Wired has a story on two Cornell University researchers, that wrote a program equipped with the bare basics of mathematics and an appetite for number crunching and formula creation. This program was able to deduce the law of conservation of momentum as well as Newton's second law of motion. The program does this with a (very intelligently designed) genetic algorithm that evolves its answers until they fit the data. Initially a number of different guesses are tested against the dataset being worked on. Even if all the guesses are far off in the beginning, some are less so than others. The best ones are then selected for further breeding and mutations in a cycle that is repeated until good enough formulas have been found.
The scientists responsible are testing their program on other kinds of data, and claim that they're finding previously unknown patterns in human metabolism. Further applications could be to find patterns in weather, economics, and neurological data to name a few fields.
People in white coats are needed to make sense of the results for now, but surely the needed human behaviour can be patternized and automated in the not too distant future."