Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

New AI Is Capable of Beating Humans At Doom (denofgeek.com) 170

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Den of Geek UK: Two students at Carnegie Mellon University have designed an artificial intelligence program that is capable of beating human players in a deathmatch game of 1993's Doom. Guillaume Lample and Devendra Singh Chaplot spent four months developing a program capable of playing first-person shooter games. The program made its debut at VizDoom (an AI competition that centered around the classic shooter) where it took second place despite the fact that their creation managed to beat human participants. That's not the impressive part about this program, however. No, what's really impressive is how the AI learns to play. The creator's full write-up on the program (which is available here) notes that their AI "allows developing bots that play the game using the screen buffer." What that means is that the program learns by interpreting what is happening on the screen as opposed to following a pre-set series of command instructions alone. In other words, this AI learns to play in exactly the same way a human player learns to play. This theory has been explored practically before, but Doom is arguably the most complicated game a program fueled by that concept has been able to succeed at. The AI's creators have already confirmed that they will be moving on to Quake, which will be a much more interesting test of this technologies capabilities given that Quake presents a much more complex 3D environment.

Ebola Vaccine Trials Forcing Tough Choices 178

An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers hope an experimental vaccine for Ebola can help protect against infection and slow the spread of the disease. Efficacy trials for the vaccine begin in a few months, and it's forcing some difficult decisions for health care officials. The first test will involve front line health care workers, who, as a group, are at the gravest risk of infection. But every trial needs a control group, and scientists are bitterly divided over whether the vaccine should be withheld from a portion of those putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. Development of the vaccine has been vastly accelerated already, due to the virus's spread and its mortality rate.

"The leading alternative is a design known as step-wedge, which essentially uses time to create a control group. In this design, researchers take advantage of the inescapable reality that large-scale trials can't give everyone the vaccine on the exact same date; they compare the rates of infection in people already vaccinated with those who have yet to receive the shots. Barney Graham, a virologist ... says "people are more comfortable" with the step-wedge design, because everyone in such a study would get the Ebola vaccine. But statistically speaking, this design makes it more difficult to determine the vaccine's worth, and it takes longer." NY Mag has a related story summarizing the treatments currently being used to fight Ebola.

Comment Why the outrage? (Score 1) 354

I don't understand the outrage over Netflix changing the terms of the deal. Let's face it, this happens all the time. Sometimes it's good for a given customer, sometimes it's bad. Businesses that stand still don't survive. In this case you get your disk a little slower in some cases. Previously, they added a bunch of original content (Orange Is the New Black anyone?).

When the deal changes in such a way you don't think you are getting your money's worth, don't buy it anymore

Comment Re:Evolution at BYU (Score 1) 100

It's easy enough to compare. It was not my last degree in sciences (others not at BYU), and I work in the field. Even during my undergraduate at BYU I had friends at several other significant universities, including MIT and Princeton. I took time off to spend a few week with each attending classes. I'm not looking at this from an isolated perspective.

Comment Re:Evolution at BYU (Score 1) 100

I suppose this depends on a number of things, and perhaps in the end you may be right. But at the moment there really isn't a clear conflict; the conflict is more manufactured than real, especially if you see religion as a road to life happiness and not an explanation of all things. I admit that there is a certain about of dealing with ambiguity that is required. Frankly, I tend to be much more of an agnostic or a deist than your average Christian. I tend to believe that my life is mine to live, there is such a thing as a good way to live life from a happiness perspective, and my religion provides some guidance along those lines, but ultimately I have to figure it out for my own life

So far as science is concerned I tend to think that we are very, very far from a complete understanding of the universe. There are so many things that we simply don't understand that I don't worry too much about conflict between the possibility of the existence of a God and what science is telling me. The evidence is what it is, we build theories to understand and predict it, and we use those to move forward, but I don't kid myself thinking that we have a complete understanding of the world around us. We will be working for a long time yet to get there.

You could make an excellent argument you can only be clear minded about science or religion. That is to say, if your world is evidence based but you are willing to work with things where there is no evidence I think you can still be a clear minded scientist. On the other hand if you put assertions without evidence in the first place and try to work science around it you're going to have problems.

If the religion is really real, the first approach will leave the two in agreement in the end, but if it is not true you aren't really in a bad place when you can see the whole picture. If you adopt the other approach inevitably you will end up with some kind of conflict that just doesn't leave room for thinking.

Comment Re:Evolution at BYU (Score 5, Informative) 100

At least there's one professor at BYU that believes in evolution!

I understand why it might be tempting to put BYU in a basket along with the rest of the evangelical christian universities. However, on the issue of evolution it could not be more different. I graduated from there with a degree in microbiology and my college at least evolution was the coin of the realm, just like it is in any serious biology department. I did not have a single professor that did not see evolution as you might expect a biologist to see it; as the only serious explanation of the data at hand, the only theory that works with what we know and provides valid predictions of future results. Not once did I hear even the smallest bit of credibility being given to creationism or its various variants (intelligent design, etc).

And yes, my professors were all Mormons. You might ask yourself how they square this. It turns out that while there are certainly Mormons that take a very literal reading of the bible on this issue, that is not the official church position, and there are many members that don't see it that way at all. Basically I had several professors that explained it as religion was about how to live life, science was about how life works, and we really have no idea how the two come together. The bible, while providing a lot of information to believers on a moral life, provides no real information on how the world works in any of the scientific fields.

Interestingly, many believe this is on purpose, that God has no interest in proving his existence; it's a matter of faith for a reason. Because of this He stays out of offering scientific explanations. I realize that sounds distinctly like a cope-out, but frankly it leads to a fairly rational place where you can function as a scientist an still be a Mormon. And by function I don't mean some half-way hands over eyes sort of a way, but in a real, go where the evidence takes you sort of a way.

Take it for what it's worth, but that was my experience

Comment Re:Where is Separation in the Constitution? (Score 3, Insightful) 770

Funding or otherwise supporting a religion is understood to fall under the establishment clause. So when you fund something, or let it use your property, or otherwise enable it you are establishing it. The issues with this particular school is that it is publicly funded. There are many, many private, religious schools out there that teach all kinds of viewpoints including creationism that comply with one or more religious traditions. These are not in question, it is only the ones being funded by the government that are being looked at askance. If you choose to go against any number of supreme court decisions and take a very narrow view of the meaning of the word establishment to be a strict synonym with found or start it would allow the government to effectively promote a state religion by sending it unlimited funds. BTW, when you are reading about similar issues you will see the 'establishment clause' referenced. This is what they are talking about, saying that whatever the government is doing is supporting, funding, or otherwise establishing a religion in violation of the constitution.

Comment Re:Translated for our international readers (Score 2) 195

Bird strikes at supersonic speeds are not the issue. You will notice that the intended refit doesn't make the canopy handle supersonic bird strikes, only bird strikes up to 400 knots, or a reasonable cruising speed. The problem they are facing is hitting birds while cruising at much slower speeds than supersonic, much closer to the ground.

Comment Re:Why is SSN secret? (Score 5, Interesting) 390

Besides that, it's a horrible, horrible secret. Until just a few years ago the first five digits could be easily determined from your birthday and location of birth, leaving only 4 digits of somewhat randomness, and even that went in sequential order, giving you a pretty good guess at a much small range. To add insult to injury, whenever a company thinks they are helping you keep it secret they will ask you for the last four digits of the number, the only four digits that actually matter.

Slashdot Top Deals

When Dexter's on the Internet, can Hell be far behind?"