How AI Knows Things No One Told It

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May 16, 2023

Large language models, like the artificial intelligence system that underpins ChatGPT, can perform tasks they were not trained to do, such as solving math equations and passing the bar exam. Researchers are trying to understand how these "emergent abilities" arise—and what they tell us about the inner workings of these AI. Read more in this week's top story!

Sophie Bushwick, Associate Editor, Technology

Artificial Intelligence

How AI Knows Things No One Told It

Researchers are still struggling to understand how AI models trained to parrot Internet text can perform advanced tasks such as running code, playing games and trying to break up a marriage

By George Musser

Public Health

Astronomy Tool Can Now Detect COVID in Breath

Laser-based optical frequency combs, originally developed to time atomic clocks, can also perform fast, noninvasive tests for COVID—and potentially other diseases as well

By Starre Vartan


Tweaking Vegetables' Genes Could Make Them Tastier--And You'll Get to Try Them Soon

Flavor is a tricky target, but technology and powerful genetic techniques are making it more feasible to improve the taste of vegetables

By Meghan Bartels

Materials Science

New Material Is Squishy, Conductive and Self-Healing

A new electrically conductive material could lead to better self-healing soft robots

By Sophie Bushwick


Virtual Reality System Lets You Stop and Smell the Roses

A wireless device worn on the face or lip can produce fragrances such as lavender and green tea in a virtual world

By Simon Makin


What Is the Future of Fusion Energy?

Nuclear fusion won’t arrive in time to fix climate change, but it could be essential for our future energy needs

By Philip Ball


Science Shows Why Traditional Kimchi Making Works So Well

A new study reveals why handmade fermentation vessels called onggi stand the test of time

By Rachel Crowell


Lab-Grown Monkey Embryos Reveal in 3-D How Organs Begin

At 25 days old, these specimens could be the oldest primate embryos ever grown outside the womb

By Gemma Conroy,Nature magazine


Why Nuclear Fusion Won't Solve the Climate Crisis

Nuclear fusion will scale up too late to avoid climatic catastrophe

By Naomi Oreskes


"Each week brings more companies announcing they will replace jobs with AI, Twitter threads about departments that have been laid off, and pseudo-academic reports about how vulnerable millions of livelihoods are to AI. So, from labor organizing to class-action lawsuits to campaigns to assert the immorality of using AI-generated works, there's an increasingly aggressive effort taking shape to protect jobs from being subsumed or degraded by AI."

Brian Merchant, Los Angeles Times


50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: June 2023

Computer chess master; private bathing for birds


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