O'Really?

December 17, 2008

Happy Christmas Lectures 2008

Machines that learn by Kaustav BhattacharyaOne of the most important Christmas traditions in Europe, aside from drinking too much, excessive eating and generally conspicuous over-consumption, are the Royal Institution Christmas lectures. This year, they are being given by Professor Christopher Bishop (pictured right), Chief Scientist at Microsoft Research and are on the subject of the Quest for the Ultimate Computer. This hi-tech trek includes subjects such as machine learning, microchip design, artificial intelligence and Web technology. Here is the blurb from the one of the lectures to give you a flavour:

“Computers are extraordinary machines, able to perform feats of arithmetic that far exceed the capabilities of any human. They can store a huge quantity of data, and recall it perfectly in the blink of an eye. They can even beat the world champion at chess. So why do computers struggle to solve apparently simple tasks such as understanding speech, or translating text between languages? Why is a 3 year old toddler better at recognising everyday objects than the world’s most powerful supercomputer? In the last of this year’s Christmas Lectures, Chris Bishop will look at one of the great frontiers of computer science. We’ll see how some of the toughest computational problems are now being tackled by giving computers the ability to learn solutions for themselves, in much the same way as people learn by example. This has led to impressive progress with problems such as recognising handwriting and finding information on the web. But we are only beginning to explore the power of computation, and there are many challenges ahead in our quest for the ultimate computer.”

Broadcast on Channel 5 (starting Monday 29th December, consult your UK TV guide for details), these lectures are aimed at children, but can be enjoyed by kids of all ages (including grown ups). The lectures will also be available as a webcast from rigb.org and probably youtube as well. Whatever you’re doing over the coming holidays have a very happy Christmas, pagan solstice festival, winterval. Wherever you are, don’t forget to enjoy an intellectually nourishing side-portion of Computer Science with your festive feasting!

References

  1. http://www.rigb.org/christmaslectures08/
  2. Watch this: Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2008, The Guardian 2008-12-29
  3. Review of Last Night’s TV: Christmas Lectures, The Independent 2008-12-30
  4. John Benyon Christmas Lectures: Untangling the Web
  5. Rich from Bechtle Christmas Lectures 2008, much better!

[Picture of Chris Bishop by Kaustav Bhattacharya]

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