You've probably heard of Watson, IBM's super-intelligent supercomputer that dominated on Jeopardy! not too long ago. Turns out he's not a bad cook, either.
At South By Southwest, IBM has set up a food truck staffed with chefs from the Institute of Culinary Education, who are whipping up (strange, uncanny, surprisingly tasty) daily recipes dreamed up by the machine.
Here's the background. For about two years, IBM has been working on a way to harness Watson's data-driven computing into more creative fields--the kinds of things where, unlike a game show, there's no one right answer. The first experiment with that has been in the kitchen. By mining a database of freely available online recipes (as well as recipes from professional chefs and a molecular textbook) and estimating which ingredients might combine for a dish pleasing to a human palate, Watson has been creating unlikely culinary works. The quintillion possibilites--seriously, quintillion--are narrowed down and ranked by presumed tastiness and novelty.
With that data uploaded and organized by type of food, regional origin, and tastiness, the company designed an app that can make logical decisions on what might make for a good dish.
A person piloting the app starts with an ingredient; I chose bacon during a demo from IBM Watson Group researcher Patrick Wagstrom. (Because I am in Austi, I have been walking, and I am hungering for grease.) After that, I selected a region, opting for something English with influences from another country. Watson spit out a list of potential dishes it could make with those restrictions--it seems to be some kind of Michelin-star-worthy soup auteur--and I went with a quiche. Following a second of number-crunching, it showed me a list of ingredients it was planning on using. (Wagstrom admits it's bugged out a few times in this section, forgetting dough, etc.) A few tweaks later, I had a recipe for a respectable-sounding quiche made with comte cheese.The IBM Food Truck IBM Research
Well, "recipe" might be a stretch. There's an option where Watson can compute some vague thoughts on how one might cook a quiche ("cook the butter," "add the cheese") but nothing you'd feel comfortable taking as gospel. Instead, Watson turns cooking into a game of artificially-intelligent Chopped, giving you the ingredients and letting you mix, combine, and remix to taste. "Watson doesn't have a mouth," Wagstrom says.
If you have some talented chefs, though, that could lead to a spark of constraint-induced creativity. At the food truck in Austin, ICE chef Michael Laiskonis, a pastry chef by training, had Watson select a Vietnamese-themed kebab dish that included apple, as determined by an online poll from IBM. Apple isn't exactly your typical kebab ingredient--and neither are strawberries, which were also included in the recipe--but the result was subtly sweet, and surprisingly pleasant next to a bit of ground pork.
Laiskoni's been working with Watson for about two years now. "My experience with it has already changed my approach to creativity," he says. One time, he tells me, Watson requested a dish created by cottage cheese and pork belly. And the result wasn't bad.
But, Wagstrom says, there's still the occasional hiccup when you're dealing with (literally) 1 quintillion potential recipes: "Every once in a while it might recommend lemon juice and cream." Tweaks are being made.
You can read the recipe and instructions for the apple kebabs below, or check it out at IBM's site.Ingredients
ground pork: 8 ounces
scallion: 1 tablespoon of white portion, finely minced. green portion thinly sliced and held in ice water
Granny Smith apple: 1 tablespoon, brunoise, additional for garnish
ginger: 3 1/s teaspoon, divided
lime zest: 1 teaspoon, divided
lemon zest: 1 teaspoon, divided
mint: 1/2 teaspoon, finely chopped
Vietnamese curry powder: 1 teaspoon, divided
vanilla bean: one split and scraped, pod discarded, divided
lard: as needed
vegetable oil : 2 teaspoons, more as needed
lime juice: 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon, divided
lemon juice: 2 teaspoons
chicken breast: 8 ounces
pineapple: 1/2, trimmed, sliced and juiced
shiitake mushrooms: 2 ounces, thinly sliced
carrot: 1/4 cup, sliced into fine julienne
cucumber: cut into fine diceInstructions
1) First, make the pork meatballs. Thoroughly mix ground pork, scallion, 1 Tbsp apple, ½ tsp grated ginger, 1 pinch lime zest, 1 pinch lemon zest, ½ tsp mint, ½ tsp Vietnamese curry powder, pinch white pepper, ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped, until combined. Season with salt and add lard as needed. Portion and roll the mass into 24 meatballs, weighing approximately 10g each.
2) Arrange the meatballs in a single layer into lightly greased roasting pans and place in a 160˚C/320˚F convection oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked. Remove from the oven and season with salt. Reserve.
3) To prepare the curry chicken whisk together the water, oil, 1 tsp lime juice, 1 tsp lemon juice, and ½ tsp curry powder. Marinate the chicken in the curry mixture for about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken and remaining marinade into a shallow saucepan over low heat, stirring, until chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes. Allow the chicken to cool in the marinade. Remove the chicken and cool.
4) To prepare pineapple broth, combine the pineapple juice, 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, 2 tsp grated ginger, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp lime juice, and 1 pinch each lemon and lime zest. Gently heat to 60˚C/140˚F. Cover and allow to infuse one hour. Strain and season with salt and white pepper; reserve warm.
5) Next, make the flash pickled shiitake mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms in a shallow pan with vegetable oil and season to taste. Add the carrot, ginger, lemon juice, and lime juice. Slowly reduce until liquid has absorbed. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and remove sliced ginger. Adjust seasoning and acidity as desired.
6) To assemble, into each dish place two of the warmed pork meatballs and portioned chicken. Top with a small amount of the diced, apple, cucumber, and strawberry, followed by the pickled shiitake and carrot mixture. Pour a small amount of the pineapple broth into the dish and finish with the scallion, mint, chive, and 1 pinch lime zest. Season with Maldon salt and an additional grind of white pepper
Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news, designed to capture the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft.
Pentagon Reveals North Korean Drone
In a report by the Department of Defense on the North Korean military, there's a little eye-catching nugget: North Korea reverse-engineered an American drone. Despite what Fox News or North Korea's press claim, however, the unmanned aircraft in question is no "strike drone." Instead, North Korea copied an MQM-107 Streaker target drone. It's the kind of flying dummy that American pilots and anti-aircraft missiles literally use for target practice. North Korean press described their drone as "being capable of precision strike by crashing into the target," in which case North Korea took an American target and made it into an awkward cruise missile.MQM-107E Streaker Target Drone U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons via Wikimedia Commons
Earthquake Damage Filmed Up Close
When the earth upends itself in a violent fashion, as it tends to near Christchurch, New Zealand, the unsettled ground isn't the safest place to send people surveying for damage. Instead, the University of Canterbury's geography department is flying a drone to film the damage, so that people don't have to risk their lives exploring uprooted buildings.
The drone used here is a Draganfly quadcopter. Watch the video below:
Facebook Considers Drone Purchase
New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace's Solara is a very interesting drone: Covered in solar panels, it flies above the clouds and then stays there, for up to five years straight. Online timesink Facebook is in negotiations to buy Titan Aerospace and take advantage of Solara's role as an "atmospheric satellite." Solara drones could store the cloud in the clouds and serve as wireless relays for areas with poor internet access.
Judge Strikes Down FAA Ban On Commercial Drones
Yesterday, a federal judge in the case Pirker v Huerta (Huerta is the administrator of the FAA) ruled that the FAA does not have explicit legal authority to prohibit commercial use of a hobbyist airplane. This is big news. Until the FAA has a legal definition that distinguishes "model airplane" from "drone" (or, in the technical terms of the courts, "unmanned aircraft system"), the FAA cannot claim that internal memos grant legal authority to fine people for using drones. This is a victory for hobbyists that want to use drones as more than just recreational vehicles, and it sets an important precedent in drone law.
Dolphin Stampede On Film
From the Dodo:
This amazing footage was shot by Captain Dave Anderson, who operates a whale-watching company in Dana Point, and combined with other video of grey whales migrating off of San Clemente, and a mother whale snuggling with her calf in Maui -- all filmed from the vantage point of a drone.
The drone used appears, based on its shadow, to be a DJI Phantom with a GoPro camera slung underneath. Watch the video below:
Drone Laws Advance In New England
In the absence of federal drone regulation, states are doing it for themselves. Massachusetts state Sen. Robert Hedlund introduced a bill that would regulate unmanned aircraft in the Bay State. Here's the strongest provision in Hedlund's bill:
" Data collected on an individual, home, or area other than the target that justified deployment shall not be used, stored, copied, transmitted, or disclosed for any purpose, except with the written consent of the data subject. Such data shall be deleted as soon as practical, and in no event later than 24 hours after collection."
This means that any incidental data collected by a drone couldn't be used, so if the drone catches an illegal U-turn while following a different high speed chase, the illegal turner isn't in jeopardy. The bill is currently referred to Joint Committee on Transportation.
In neighboring Rhode Island, state Rep. Teresa Tanzi introduced the Plantation State's own bill regulating unmanned aircraft. For data protection, the Rhode Island bill states "Any aggrieved person or entity may move to suppress the contents of any information or data derived from the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle." In addition, Tanzi's bill requires state agencies to hold public hearing before even acquiring drones.
Both the Massachusetts and Rhode Island bill explicitly prevent unmanned vehicles from being armed. Why? To prevent things like this stun-gun drone, probably.
Did I miss any drone news? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So you want to keep bingeing on Netflix, but you need to wake up early tomorrow. What’s the worst that could happen?
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Popular Science.
Chaotic Moon Studios, a startup making, uh, about anything you can think of, invited me to their Austin offices today during South By Southwest to check out a live demonstration of a stun gun-loaded drone. Obviously, I came.
The gentleman here is an intern named Jackson, who is the most fearless person I have ever encountered. He got stunned like a pro.
The drone, Chaotic Moon says, could be used to incapacitate criminals. It's menacing enough already, but maybe we could put a police siren on it one day, just to get the full effect.
Globally, deforestation driven by clearing land for cattle alone accounts for close to one-fifth of global greenhouse gas pollution. The amount of poop, urine, and farts produced by hundreds or thousands of cows in CAFOs (concentrated animal feedlot operations) often leads to water pollution and air pollution, the latter largely methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas that contributes to destabilizing the climate. Livestock account “for 14.5% of human-induced greenhouse-gas emissions, exceeding that from transportation,” notes the report.
To add to the environmental insults, meat animals are fed about 1 billion metric tons a year of the same cereal grains that humans consume, increasing the pressure on supplies of food and fresh water.
But globally, more and more people are turning to farmed animals for dietary protein. Meat production is on track to more than double by 2050. In response, an international research team suggests eight ways to make ruminant agriculture—raising cows, goats, sheep, buffalo, camels, llamas, reindeer, and yaks for meat and dairy—environmentally sustainable. Publlished this week in the journal Nature, the strategies favor diverse approaches tailored to local conditions, rather than a universal approach that ignores local cultures, geographies, economies, and environmental realities.
With around 70 percent of cereal grains consumed in developed countries going to feed animals, and around one-third of the world's grain supply worldwide, the most important step may be feeding animals less human food.
Far from being incompatible, the researchers emphasize that “[C]rop and livestock farming complement each other. Half the world's food comes from farms that raise both,” they point out. “Animals pull ploughs and carts, and their manure fertilizes crops, which supply post-harvest residues to livestock.”
Instead of feeding livestock grains like wheat, corn, and soybeans, stress the researchers, cows, goats, sheep, and other ruminants should get as much food as possible from sources humans cannot consume. These include grazing, fodders like hay and straw, and silage (a feed created from the entire cereal plant, not just the grain). It's how ruminants are supposed to eat, judging from the fact that they naturally have “forestomachs” that can break down fibrous plant matter into nutritious calories and high-quality microbial protein before sending it on to the main stomach for digestion.
"We need to be able to use ruminants in the way that they evolved. Maximize grazing, and then using byproducts as well from other industries," says co-author Michael Lee of Bristol University, in a podcast that accompanies the article. "We need to reduce the amount of imported soya and cereals into ruminant systems, which is not sustainable. In other words, and very simply, less human food into animal feed."
It can be done: 95 percent of milk in the European Union comes from grass-fed livestock, the article notes, while in New Zealand milk cows get just 10 percent of their diet from grains, and 90 percent from grazing.
Among the report's other strategies for sustainable livestock:
- Raise regionally appropriate livestock, instead of importing breeds that while very productive in the temperate climates of most industrialized nations, don't thrive on locally available animal fodders, or in the heat, humidity, diseases and parasites of tropical areas.
- Keep animals healthy, and prevent transmission of illness to humans. This includes improved quarantine, hygiene, and cross-border disease surveillance practices, as well as low-density husbandry (the antithesis of the typical U.S. cattle feedlot).
- More support for research into using low-cost supplements, such as native plants and plant extracts proven to help ruminants thrive, and produce meat and milk with “proportionally less by-product greenhouse gas and ammonia.” One example: An enzyme in red clover improves a ruminant's ability to metabolize dietary protein.
- Choose quality over quantity: The average American eats about 276 pounds of meat a year, compared to 7 pounds a year in India. A good target to shoot for would be about 11 ounces (300 grams) of high-quality red meat a week, suggests the report. “[H]igh-quality animal foods [are] rich in protein, essential amino acids, iron and various essential micronutrients that improve chances for normal physical and cognitive development,” states the report. But eating lots of poor quality meat “such as burgers, sausages, and ready meals” won't cut it, environmentally or nutritionally.
- Support husbandry practices that mesh with local cultures using livestock beyond their value at producing food or pulling things on wheels. “Keeping animals provides wealth, status and even dowry payments.” And short-terms savings accounts: “When families encounter large expenses..they can sell an animal or two to cover the cost.”
"It's about developing the correct system for the correct environment," says Lee in the podcast.
In the above video, a drone piloted by Austrian Raphael "Trappy" Pirker flew over, and filmed, the University of Virginia's medical school campus. Pirker sold the video to an advertising company, which prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to file a $10,000 complaint against him. Yesterday, a federal judge in the case Pirker v Huerta (Huerta is the administrator of the FAA) ruled that the flight was legal, as the FAA did not have any explicit legal authority to prohibit such commercial use of a hobbyist airplane.
This is big.
Commercial use of drones is a legal gray area. Model airplanes, radio controlled and flown within sight of the pilots, are legal, and have been for decades. In recent years, advances in video streaming technology, as well as reduced costs for aviation components, have enabled drones that can do far more than the model airplanes of the 20th century. One change in particular is that drones can now be piloted through first-person video, meaning the drone is neither out of sight nor within sight of pilot. And because the drone is recording video, the mere act of flying a drone includes producing film, which, before this latest ruling, was legal if kept by the pilot but illegal if sold.
The FAA is working on incorporating drones into U.S. airspace; the agency authorized six states as drone test sites in December, but the full plan for integration isn't expected until 2020. In the meantime, the law was super vague, especially on three points directly relevant in the case of Pirker v Huerta: What's the difference between a drone and a toy? Below what altitude does the FAA's jurisdiction end? And what counts as piloting a vehicle?
The ruling in Pirker v Huerta primarily addresses the first point: the difference between a model aircraft and an aircraft. Here's the relevant text from the ruling;
It is concluded that, as Complainant: has not issued an enforceable FAR regulatory rule governing model aircraft operation; has historically exempted model aircraft from the statutory FAR definitions of "aircraft" by relegating model aircraft operations to voluntary compliance with the guidance expressed in AC 91-57, Respondent's model, aircraft operation was not subject to FAR regulation, and enforcement,
The ruling also clarifies that a 2005 memorandum within the FAA regarding unmanned aircraft isn't sufficient as law the public is expected to obey, saying
As policy statements of an agency are not - aside from the fact that the guidance policy therein, expressed is stated, as for internal FAA use -binding upon the general public, and as any regulatory effect is disclaimed, these Policy Memoranda cannot be, and are not, found as establishing a valid rule for classifying a model aircraft, as an UAS, or as finishing basis for assertion of FAR regulatory authority vis & vis model aircraft operations.
Here is what this means: Until the FAA has a legal definition that distinguishes "model airplane" from "drone" (or, in the technical terms of the courts, "unmanned aircraft system"), the FAA cannot claim that internal memos grant legal authority to fine people for using drones. This is a victory for hobbyists that want to use drones as more than just recreational vehicles, and it sets an important precedent in drone law.
Of course, the battle isn't over. As University of Washington law professor and robot expert Ryan Calo notes,
the Pirker decision applies to the narrow class of “drone” he was flying—a “Ritewing Zephyr powered air glider.” Presumably it applies to all model aircraft. There are suggestions here and there that the order could apply more broadly. The judge mentions that the classification “unmanned aircraft system” does not appear in the Federal Aviation Regulations either and that the public notice the agency filed around the term was defective. Nevertheless, I would not assume that any aircraft without a pilot is suddenly outside the FAA’s jurisdiction.
Pirker v Huerta is just the first ruling in what will be a long and gradual struggle to integrate robots into the skies. There are likely many more rulings to follow.
Update 3/7 5:15 pm: The FAA is definitely appealing Pirker v Huerta. Here is the FAA's statement in full:
The Federal Aviation Administration today issued a notice appealing a decision by an NTSB Administrative Law Judge in the civil penalty case, Huerta v. Pirker.
"The FAA is appealing the decision of an NTSB Administrative Law Judge to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the Board rules. The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground."
The above image, allegedly of Marie Curie, adorns stamps around the world. But there's a problem: It's not Marie Curie.
It's instead a photo of Susan Marie Frontczak, snapped by Paul Schroder in 2001. Frontczak makes a living portraying the famous scientist on stage, and has done so for 13 years, in some 350 performances across 30 U.S. states and nine countries, she told Popular Science. The image (of Frontczak) can be found on "Marie Curie"-themed stamps in Mali, the Republic of Togo, Zambia, and the Republic of Guinea.
Frontczak said she had mixed feelings about the stamps. "I find it a compliment that it was similar enough that they were convinced," Frontczak told Physics Buzz. "There's some essence [of her] that got captured." But she isn't necessarily happy about her likeness being used without permission.
She hopes to turn her one woman show Manya: The Living History of Marie Curie into a film.Marie Curie, actually Here's the (real) image of Marie Cure that Frontczak modeled her shot after. Courtsey of Susan Marie Frontczak The Republic of Togo thought Frontczak was indeed Marie Curie, on this stamp made in 2011 on the 100th anniversary of Curie's Nobel Prize in chemistry. Courtsey of Susan Marie Frontczak
He’s the legendary astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson's new TV series, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, will premiere on Sunday, March 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and again on March 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.
Popular Science: Would you rather have a jetpack or flying car?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: What I would rather have is a transportation system that requires neither: a wormhole.
PS: What incredible thing will we see in our lifetime?
NDT: I think that we will know whether or not there’s life on planets other than Earth. And I think the best location would be on Mars or on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
PS: When we find life on other planets, is it going to come and eat us?
NDT: No. People’s first thought every time scientists discover something new is, “Oh, my gosh, you created a virus, so there’s gonna be a killer virus.” I’m not more afraid of something I might find on Mars than I am of a polar bear who’s pissed off because his ice floe is melting.
PS: What technical advance do we really need in astrophysics?
NDT: The ability to observe a spectrum of light passing through the atmosphere of an exoplanet. It would be able to tell us if there are biomarkers indicating that life thrives on the surface.
PS: What technical advance do we really need in space exploration?
NDT: Ways to shield us from cosmic rays from the galaxy and from the sun. Also, we’ll never travel to the stars unless we understand the fabric of space-time better or find out how to make a wormhole.
PS: China put its first rover on the moon in December. How will this affect the U.S. space program?
NDT: China says it wants to put stuff on Mars, and there’s no question that they are going to follow through with their plans. I don’t claim any deep geopolitical insight. But I do know that if we go back into space in a big way, it will not happen unless we feel militaristically motivated. Or, unless we feel we can make scads of money.
PS: What would a space program with only scientific goals look like?
NDT: If I put on my pure scientist hat, you wouldn’t send humans into space. You have to feed them and keep them warm. A robot couldn’t care less. We can design robots to do what humans can do and better.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Popular Science.