A physicist tackles claims of a research paper that inspired an IFL headline, ‘Artificial intelligence may have just invented ‘alternative’ physics

Physicist Tom Hartsfield commented on a new paper, but disputed his claim that “without any prior knowledge of fundamental physics, our algorithm discovers the intrinsic dimension of the observed dynamics and identifies candidate combinations of state variables.” This does not appear to have happened.

The computer problem was classical mechanics: for a pendulum suspended on another pendulum, count the number of variables required to solve:

This problem requires two variables – the angle of each pendulum on the vertical axis – or four if a Cartesian (xy) coordinate system is used. If both pendulum carriers are suspended from springs rather than solid rods, the two variable lengths of the spring are added to get six variables in the Cartesian system.

Tom Hartsfield“No, AI has not discovered a new kind of physics” in big thought (September 17, 2022) Paper is open (for now).

Did not work well:

For a solid pendulum on a pendulum, she gave two answers: ~7 and ~4-5. (The correct answer is 4 variables.) Similarly, I calculated ~8 and ~5-6 for the double-spring pendulum. (The correct answer is 6 variables.) Researchers praise smaller estimates as being close to correct answers.

Tom Hartsfield“No, AI has not discovered a new kind of physics” in big thought (September 17, 2022)

But when he examined the supplementary material published with the paper, he discovered an even bigger problem:

The computer didn’t actually calculate 4 variables and 6 variables. Its best accounts were 4.71 and 5.34.

Tom Hartsfield“No, AI has not discovered a new kind of physics” in big thought (September 17, 2022)

These numbers are, respectively, an average college physics problem (four variables) and a more advanced one (six variables) that don’t approximate a correct answer.

The researchers hope to use AI to analyze unknown systems, but Hartsfield thinks it would be best to deal with known systems first.

You may also like to read: What does artificial intelligence in education mean for critical thinking skills? Students, as reported by Motherboard, are increasingly using GPT-3 and other text-generating software to write essays for them. I tested the GPT-3 with two questions from my recently submitted mid-term exam to my introductory statistics class. My GPT-3 answer was wrong. (Gary Smith)


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