Many might associate current artificial intelligence (AI) abilities with advanced gameplay, medical developments, and even driving. But AI is already reaching far beyond even these realms. In fact, AI is now helping particle physicists to discover new subatomic particles.
Particle physicists began integrating AI in the pursuit of particles as early as the 1980s, as the process of machine learning suits the hunt for fine patterns and subatomic anomalies particularly well. But, once an unexplored and novel technique, AI is now a fully integrated and standard part of everyday life within particle physics.
Of course, continuing research in this field wouldn’t move forward at all without the physicists themselves, challenging and exploring our understanding of the natural world. But AI is becoming an ever-increasingly useful tool. For example, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the largest particle accelerator in the world, smashes together protons in an attempt to discover new particles and more fully comprehend the universe. But, with so many collisions — approximately 600 million per second — the amount of data created by the LHC are immense.
Pushpalatha Bhat, physicist at Fermilab, described the problem in an interview with Science Magazine. “This is the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack problem…That’s why it’s so important to extract the most information we can from the data.” And this extraction is where AI comes in handy. And this ability to extract data lent itself to the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson particle, which occurred using the LHC.
While AI has not and will never replace the world’s scientists, this unparalleled tool is being applied in ways that many could never have even predicted. It is, as previously mentioned, helping researchers to push the boundaries of understanding. It’s helping us to create modes of transportation that not only make daily life easier, but save countless lives.
AI is proving to be an essential component in the current quest to travel to and explore Mars, allowing probes to be controlled remotely and trusted to make changes in behavior according to a changing environment. And, even beyond medical advances, AI is making treatments more enjoyable for both patients and healthcare providers, altering an often-intimidating system.
AI technologies are also being designed that are capable of creating art. From paintings to music, we are learning that advanced machine learning algorithms are more than just the new face of industry. This makes a lot of people uneasy. Images of Will Smith in iRobot come into view, the voice of Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Oddysey starts speaking, and our science fiction nightmares seem realized.
But, while AI is not yet a perfectly integrated part of daily life, it is certainly pushing us forward. So, who knows, thanks to AI, we may soon really put humans onto the red planet and particle physicists might smash protons just right and reveal more about our universe than we could have ever hoped to know.