Type of site
|Created by||Hod Lipson|
|Launched||Early November 2009|
Eureqa is a mathematical software tool originally created by Cornell's Creative Machines Lab and later commercialized by Nutonian, Inc. The software uses symbolic regression to determine mathematical equations that describe sets of data in their simplest form.
The program has, on its own, discovered the Law of Conservation of Energy. In the years since initial tests, the program has been used to discover equations for scientific processes, some of which scientists still do not understand, since the program yields answers, but not the steps to get there. This phenomenon is a focus on ongoing research. The program is also able to identify data gaps and order experiments to expand the data set into a new area. Eureqa has helped scientists understand how the bacteria Bacillus subtilis changes into a spore under extreme conditions. The program also helped scientists discover a simpler equation to describe the behaviors of cell growth and division, but why it works is yet unknown.
Origin and Development
The program was named Eureqa after the famous Greek expression of Archimedes Eureka, and the k was replaced by a q to reference the word equation. The technology was developed by Hod Lipson and Michael Schmidt since 2007. The program was originally created to automate robotic design and assist robots in repairing themselves by discovering what is wrong. After this was accomplished the creators realized the software could have a wider applicability. In early November 2009 the program was made available to download for free by anyone. Lipson described the machines benefit in dealing with fields where scientists are overwhelmed with data but lack theory to explain it. In the October 2011 edition of "Physical Biology", Lipson described a yeast experiment that predicted seven known equations. This took place after Lipson had asked scientists from different disciplines to share their work to test Eureqa's versatility.
The machine works by doing random equations with the data: the Cornell lab calls this process "genetic programming".  Most of the equations do not yield anything useful, but a few of the equations will make more sense than the others and those few will be used as the basis of a new round of several billion more equations until a result is reached. This has been used to discover formula with "invariant relationships", such as Laws of Nature.
Reception and Use
As of 2012, over 35,000 people, mainly researchers and students, have made use of the program. Slate magazine did a piece exploring how programs such as Eureqa could replace human scientists. People have downloaded the application for many uses, such as analyzing the herding of cattle and the behavior of the stock market.
- Shtull-Trauring, Asaf (February 3, 2012). "An Israeli professor's 'Eureqa' moment". Haaretz. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
- Manjoo, Farhad (September 30, 2009). "Will Robots Steal Your Job?". Slate. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
- Keim, Brandon (December 3, 2009). "Download Your Own Robot Scientist". Wired Magazine. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
- DaSilva, Extropia (March 25, 2011). "Eureqa! Signs of the Singularity?". h Plus Magazine. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
- Ehrenberg, Rachel (January 14, 2012). "Software Scientist". Science News Digital. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
- Schmidt M., Lipson, H. (2009) “Distilling Free-Form Natural Laws from Experimental Data,” Science, Vol. 324, no. 5923, pp. 81 – 85.
- Salisbury, David (October 13, 2011). "Robot biologist solves complex problem from scratch". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
- Chang, Kenneth (April 2, 2009). "Hal, Call Your Office: Computers That Act Like Physicists". New York Times. Retrieved April 22, 2013.