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Go Grandmaster Loses Tournament Against Google’s AlphaGo

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Google’s AlphaGo is on a roll. In January, the artificially intelligent Go-playing robot became the first computer to beat a professional player at the Chinese board game Go. Now, WIRED reports that AlphaGo has made its most decisive victory, beating Go Grandmaster Lee Sedol four to one in a five-game Go tournament.

While computers have vanquished professional chess players, bested humans at Jeopardy, and even solved Connect Four, this is the first time a computer has competed professionally in and won a Go tournament against a player at Sedol’s level. Go, which is played on a 19-by-19 grid, has more possible opening moves than perhaps any other board game. For instance, while Connect Four has seven possible opening moves, and chess has 20 possible openings, Go has 361. The sheer number of possible moves in a Go game has historically made developing a Go-playing computer hugely challenging.

AlphaGo, however, is a triumph in AI technology. The computer system used a neural network to not only learn Go moves from professional players, but to develop its own strategies and skills by playing against itself, CNET reports.

AlphaGo, the "player" at left, was aided by a human assistant who moved the pieces on the Go board. At right, Grandmaster Lee Sedol. Image credit: Getty

The tournament put the differences between humans and computers into sharp relief. On the one hand, AlphaGo played an idiosyncratic game, according to WIRED, making moves throughout the tournament that no human would choose. (As you can see in the photo above, AlphaGo got a physical assist from a human helper who moved the pieces on the Go board.) It also made mistakes that seemed amateurish to human observers. Sedol, on the other hand, made at least one uniquely human choice: After beating AlphaGo while playing with white pieces in the fourth Go match—his only victory—he chose black pieces for the fifth and final game, a decision he knew would put him at a disadvantage.

Throughout his first four games, Sedol had noticed AlphaGo struggling more when it played with black pieces, and so, rather than play it safe in the fifth game, he decided to see if he could beat the computer at its strongest. “I really do hope I can win with black,” he told WIRED before the final game, “because winning with black is much more valuable.”

Though Sedol ultimately lost, the game against AlphaGo was nevertheless a win for human innovation.

"The game showed that AlphaGo is far from infallible," explains WIRED. "There are holes in its education. But, able to draw on months of play with itself—on a corpus of moves that no human has even seen—it also has the ability to climb out of such a deep hole, even against one of the world’s best players."

[h/t WIRED]

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Is There a Limit to How Many Balls You Can Juggle?
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Carl Court, Getty Images

In 2017, a juggler named Alex Barron broke a record when he tossed 14 balls into the air and caught them each once. The feat is fascinating to watch, and it becomes even more impressive once you understand the physics behind it.

As WIRED explains in a new video, juggling any more than 14 balls at once may be physically impossible. Researchers who study the limits of juggling have found that the success of a performance relies on a number of different components. Speed, a.k.a. the juggler's capacity to move their hands in time to catch each ball as it lands, is a big one, but it's not the most important factor.

What really determines how many balls one person can juggle is their accuracy. An accurate juggler knows how to keep their balls from colliding in midair and make them land within arm's reach. If they can't pull that off, their act falls apart in seconds.

Breaking a juggling world record isn't the same as breaking a record for sprinting or shot put. With each new ball that's added to the routine, jugglers need to toss higher and move their hands faster, which means their throws need to be significantly more accurate than what's needed with just one ball fewer. And skill and hours of practice aren't always enough; according to expert jugglers, the current world records were likely made possible by a decent amount of luck.

For a closer look at the physics of juggling, check out the video below.

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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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iStock

Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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