Welcome to What the Future.
On today's show, China sets its sights on the far side of the moon where no lunar lander has gone before.
Plants can drive robots now, thanks to researchers at MIT and [UNKNOWN] Alpha Zero A.I. reaches an incredible milestone.
Let's get into it.
China aims to break new ground in lunar exploration.
Early Saturday morning, the Chang'e-4 rocket launched into the sky.
The rover onboard is headed to a crater on the far side of the moon, which is always facing away from the Earth due to the moon's rotation.
No lander has ever touched down on the far side of the moon before.
Humans have only observed it via aerial surveillance.
Landing there presents some unique challenges.
The moon will block all communications from Earth.
That's why the Chinese launched a satellite into lunar orbit over the far side of the moon back in May, to relay messages between the rover and Earth.
The radio silence will allow the Chang'e 4 a unique opportunity to observe the sounds of space without interference from Earth noise.
The rover will also study rocks, solar, wind, and according to the Xinhua News Agency it will test whether silkworm eggs will hatch in moon gravity.
An official landing date hasn't been announced yet.
Though some have suggested early January as a likely possibility.
Since sun will be shining on the far side of the moon and the Chang-yi forest is solar powered.
We'll keep you posted on what the Chang-yi forest uncovers as the voyage tot the far side of the moon continues.
Plants can drive robots now.
This plant-robot hybrid is named Elowan.
Brought to you by the mad scientists that the MIT media lab, Elowan uses the plant's natural signals to trigger movement in the robot underneath.
Here's how it works.
Plant cells and tissue react to external forces such as light and gravity.
In this experiment researchers attached silver electrodes to the plant to detect its signals and placed lights on either side to trigger those signals.
The result is a robo plant that can drive itself toward the light.
Researchers say the eventual goal would be a new breed of self-powered growing plant robot hybrids.
Now, if all this has you picturing the dawn of some sort of vegan Skynet, whereby robotic plant overlords seek revenge on salad-eating humans, you're not alone.
I'm picturing it too.
Specifically, I'm recalling a scene from the 1979 documentary The Secret Life of Plants.
In which a plant reacts to the destruction of it's comrade and then seems to recognize the attacker when they reentered the room hours later.
I can't speak to the accuracy of the science conducted in that movie.
But I haven't looked at my house plants the same since.
Maybe it's just me being paranoid, but I feel like we should be 100% certain that plants don't hold grudges before we start turning them into cyborgs.
Computers have been beating master chess players since the 90s.
But Deep Mind's new AI is unique not because it wins, but because of how it wins.
Previous chess computers have relied on known chess strategies and used their processing power to examine thousands of possible moves and outcomes.
Alpha Zero's method of mastery?
Practice, practice, practice.
Starting as a novice player, making random moves, Alpha Zero played itself, a lot.
And not just chess.
It also mastered the classic games of Shogi and Go.
It beat the masters of each game with what some have been calling human-like intuition and creativity.
Developers say that the end goal is for AI to become smart enough to help us solve some of the greatest problems facing our world today.
But the real world isn't like a board game where the pieces are neatly laid out at all times.
That's why the next challenge will be to make an AI that can master games with incomplete information, such as a card game where the opponent's cards are hidden from view.
Alpha Zero feels like the end of the board game era of AI development development and the dawn of a new chapter.
Thanks so much for watching with the future.
I'm Jesse Earl and this will be my last show for 2018, so Happy Holidays to all you WTF-ers out there, I'll see you in the future.