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The ghosts of Andrew Gleason and Warren McCulloch


Finding out the true scientific answer
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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Right. So you... you think of, well what can I... how can I tell if something is true? And the usual way is to think of better reasons. And at some point you say, well I’ll roll the ball down the hill and see if it... see if it reaches a maximum speed or if it keeps going faster and faster. And of course, you’ll get the wrong answer. It’ll reach a maximum speed, but that's... but for the first minute it’s accelerating and you’d get Newton’s law. After a while, it’s going 80mph and never gets any faster because the air's and... I once was looking at an exhibit in the science museum downtown. And one of the features of the science museum is that it has... it has this tube that's very long, about four or five stories. It’s a glass tube about this big. And they drop a feather and a... stone; I forget what the other thing is. And of course, the stone comes down very quickly, or it's a ball... something. And then, the feather slowly drifts, and then they pump the air out of it and do it again and they both come down at the same time, but if you look very closely after they both come down, then you see little pieces of feathers still coming down very slowly. 'Cause there’s still some air in the thing.

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) was one of the pioneers of the field of Artificial Intelligence, founding the MIT AI lab in 1970. He also made many contributions to the fields of mathematics, cognitive psychology, robotics, optics and computational linguistics. Since the 1950s, he had been attempting to define and explain human cognition, the ideas of which can be found in his two books, The Emotion Machine and The Society of Mind. His many inventions include the first confocal scanning microscope, the first neural network simulator (SNARC) and the first LOGO 'turtle'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Vacuum, Newton's laws

Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 12 May 2011