August 28, 2014

IBM’s Watson supercomputer is set to tackle scientific research head-on after being re-programmed to analyse big data in the cloud.

Currently, the testing of scientific hypotheses and theories often takes days or months of arduous work, but with Watson’s Discovery Advisor program, this can now be carried out at a significantly faster rate.

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So far, the future does indeed look bright for the industry after initial tests involving research into p53, a protein related to several cancers, have yielded extremely encouraging results.

Dr Oliver Lichtarge, the principal investigator and professor of molecular and human genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine, said, “On average, a scientist might read between one and five research papers on a good day.

“To put this into perspective with p53, there are over 70,000 papers published on this protein. Even if I’m reading five papers a day, it could take me nearly 38 years to completely understand all of the research already available today on this protein.

“Watson has demonstrated the potential to accelerate the rate and the quality of breakthrough discoveries.”

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Mike Rhodin, the senior vice president of IBM’s Watson Group, also hailed the machine’s new abilities. “We’re empowering researchers with a powerful tool which will help increase the impact of investments organisations make in R&D, leading to significant breakthroughs.”

The supercomputer previously shot to fame in 2011 with a dominating performance on American quiz show Jeopardy, comfortably beating two of the show’s most successful contestants.


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