×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
December 6, 2017
Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool/Getty Images

Four hours is all it took for Google's DeepMind artificial intelligence program to learn everything there was to know about chess, The Telegraph reported Wednesday. DeepMind's AlphaZero program, which teaches itself from scratch, achieved "superhuman" knowledge of chess in less than the amount of time you'd spend, say, watching the extended version of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Chess has long been used to test the ability of artificial intelligence because the game's rigid structure is ideal for programming a computer with rules, and then letting it run its own tests against those rules. AlphaZero started this experiment knowing only the basics of chess gameplay, but by playing thousands of games against itself, AlphaZero updated its neural network with information about the effectiveness of certain moves — over and over again, until it became the best chess player in the known universe.

"The games AlphaZero played ... are far beyond anything humans or chess computers have come up with," said David Kramaley, a chess education expert. In 1997, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov by computing and evaluating positions that were programmed into the machine with the help of chess masters, but AlphaZero is different because it had to teach itself the positions to begin with.

DeepMind's founders hope AlphaZero can be used to solve pressing societal issues. In October, DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said, "If [AlphaZero] can be applied to other structured problems, such as protein folding, reducing energy consumption, or searching for revolutionary new materials, the resulting breakthroughs have the potential to drive forward human understanding and positively impact all of our lives."

Read the entire report on AlphaZero's prowess in chess and other games here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:29 p.m. ET

President Trump signed a directive Monday aimed at refocusing "America's space program on human exploration and discovery." The directive signals the administration's intention to send "American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars," spokesman Hogan Gidley clarified earlier in the day to Reuters.

Despite America having already checked the moon off its to-do list in 1969, Trump said "this time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond." Watch Trump's full comments below, and read James Poulos explain why the most important thing Trump can do is take us to Mars at The Week. Jeva Lange

3:12 p.m. ET

The White House responded to several of President Trump's accusers coming forward on Monday for a "round two" of sexual harassment allegations by saying that the "American people knew this and voted for the president" anyway.

The White House has firmly and continually denied that Trump sexually harassed women even though U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told CBS on Sunday that Trump's accusers "should be heard." In a statement Monday, the White House added: "These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year's campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory."

In response to a question on the same topic Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "In this case the president has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses and several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the president's claim in this process. And again, the American people knew this and voted for the president and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process."

Despite denying the women's accusations, Sanders also said: "This took place long before [Trump] was elected president. People of this country had a decisive election, supported president Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process." Watch below. Jeva Lange

2:39 p.m. ET

The America First Project, a self-described super PAC of attack dogs for President Trump's agenda, sent a 12-year-old girl from Virginia to interview Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in a move described by Bustle as "somewhat questionable." Moore is accused of having pursued, and in one case assaulted, teenage girls as young as 14.

The America First Project's Jennifer Lawrence says in the video that "after everything that's happened in this Alabama Senate race up until this point, we thought it was important … to bring Millie [March] here to show that there's a wide range of people who support Judge Roy Moore." It's not the first time the young interviewer, Millie March, has appeared in an America First Project video — her rave review of Trump's agenda at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) went viral last February.

March wanted to know if Moore would help Trump build the wall, what issues are important to Alabama voters, and what characteristics make a good senator. Some parts went better than others:

Watch the full interview below. Jeva Lange

1:56 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A Nebraska Republican National Committee member submitted her resignation Monday in protest of the RNC's support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Politico reports. Moore is accused by a number of women of having pursued — and in one case assaulted — them while they were teenagers.

"I strongly disagree with the recent RNC financial support directed to the Alabama Republican Party for use in the Roy Moore race," said the committeewoman, Joyce Simmons. "There is much I could say about this situation, but I will defer to this weekend's comments by Sen. Shelby."

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said this weekend that while he'd "rather see the Republican win … I couldn't vote for Roy Moore."

Simmons submitted her resignation to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Friday. "I will miss so many of you that I knew well," Simmons said in her email to colleagues Monday, "and wish I could have continued my service to the national Republican Party that I used to know well." Jeva Lange

1:46 p.m. ET
RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images

Watch out, windmills.

A new report published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience warns that wind farming could be seriously affected by climate change, as high rates of carbon emissions lead to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus trapping more heat on the Earth's surface. The resulting increased temperatures would reduce wind output in the global north while likely increasing it in the south, the scientists explain.

Using climate models and projections employed by the U.N., the researchers predicted that Japan, the central United States, and the U.K.'s wind energy industry would see significant losses in wind output if carbon emissions continued at high rates. The central U.S. would lose nearly 20 percent of its power alone, while Japan and the U.K. would lose 10 and 5 percent respectively.

The study did note "substantial regional variations" in its calculations, explaining that the "northern mid-latitudes" experienced more "robust responses" to carbon emissions, while wind power in the southern hemisphere was less distorted by climate change. The Guardian notes that wind in the northern hemisphere is fueled by severe temperature differences between the cold Arctic region and the warmer tropics, which means that a warmer Arctic would reduce wind output.

In the southern hemisphere, however, climate change could actually lead to more wind in regions like eastern Australia, eastern Brazil, and West Africa because of the temperature increase of coastal lands in comparison to ocean waters.

"We found some substantial changes in wind energy, but it does not mean we should not invest in wind power," said Kristopher Karnauskas, an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read the full study at Nature Geoscience. Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:19 p.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

A 32-year-old private investigator in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to attempting to use President Trump's Social Security number to access Trump's tax returns through a U.S. Department of Education financial aid website, The Associated Press reports. Jordan Hamlett was indicted in November 2016, arguing in court that he had no "intent to deceive" when he made an effort to access then-candidate Trump's tax records several weeks earlier. Hamlett claimed that his attempts to obtain the returns had been motivated "out of sheer curiosity."

Federal agents initially questioned Hamlett two weeks before the presidential election and were unaware at the time if his attempts to access Trump's tax returns had been successful or not. The agents "feared a public release of Trump's tax returns could influence the election," AP writes.

Trump's tax returns have remained a tantalizing mystery for many opponents of the president, as Trump is the first commander in chief in decades to refuse to release the forms. Hamlett's lawyer, though, argues that his client was operating as a "white hat" hacker, and that Hamlett had tried to notify the IRS about the vulnerabilities in the system. Hamlett faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Jeva Lange

11:59 a.m. ET
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Kim Jong Un is building an arsenal to rain missiles from the sky — and apparently those aren't his only celestial ambitions. USA Today reported Monday that North Korean state media claims Kim has the ability to manipulate the weather.

After the supreme leader made his way up to the peak of Paektu Mountain, an active volcano on the border of China and North Korea, a blizzard apparently stopped in its tracks. North Korea's state newspaper Rodung Simun said that the "fine weather" atop the volcano was so paradisal as to be "unprecedented" — proof that the "peerlessly illustrious commander" could bend the weather to his will. Perhaps even more impressive was that Kim's black leather shoes apparently remained unscuffed after his arduous climb.

The Kim family has a special connection with Paektu Mountain. It is said that when Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was born, so too was a new star, while a double rainbow appeared in the sky over the volcano. In 2009, snow apparently melted on the mountain's peak during Kim Jong Il's birthday, prompting observers to claim "that even the nature and the sky unfolded such mysterious ecstasy in celebration of the birthday of leader Kim Jong Il."

The younger Kim, then, has apparently inherited some of the superhuman abilities of his father, who was supposedly the author of more than 1,500 books and six of the world's superior operas. Kelly O'Meara Morales

See More Speed Reads