Sunday, March 26, 2017

Geek Highways: Wallops Island


As always, I'm on the road again -- this time, making a pilgrimage to Kitty Hawk, where human heavier-than-air flight had its humble beginning.

A long drive through grey and brown countryside brought Marianne and me to Wallops Island, site of one of  NASA's five main launch facilities. It's humbling to stand here, on the shores of space at the slender instant in time during which life leaves the planet.

When I was born, most people would have told you flat-out that human beings would ever walk on the Moon. Yet it happened only sixty-six years after that first fifty-nine second flight that it happened. That's roughly one human lifespan!

Long after Apollo 11, people commonly said that a computer would never beat a human grand master at chess. Then, in 1997, Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in a six-game match 3 1/2 to 2 1/2. So, as people will, the doubters redrew the goal lines and said that a computer would never beat a human go master.

On March 15, last year, AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol in the last game of a five-game match. Final score: AlphaGo 4, Lee Sedol 1.

Something to keep in mind next time somebody tells you we'll never have a true AI or a colony on an extrasolar planet.

Above: One of the rockets outside the Wallops Flight Facility. I probably had the plastic model back when I was a teen.


1 comment:

TheOFloinn said...

Yeah, right. If man walked on the moon, why aren't there men walking in the moon right now? Hunh? You trying to tell me they stopped! Next you'll be telling me this country can't even put people into orbit anymore unless they cozy up to the Russians.