Stories by Alison Snyder

Looking to AI to understand how we learn

Illustration of a robot arm holding a brain.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two parallel quests to understand learning — in machines and in our own heads — are converging in a small group of scientists who think that artificial intelligence may hold an answer to the deep-rooted mystery of how our brains learn.

Why it matters: If machines and animals do learn in similar ways — still an open question among researchers — figuring out how could simultaneously help neuroscientists unravel the mechanics of knowledge or addiction, and help computer scientists build much more capable AI.

One year on — No end in sight for deadly Ebola outbreak

Photo of Congolese carrying an Ebola victim in a coffin
Health workers carry a coffin containing a victim of Ebola virus in Butembo in May. Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

One year ago today, the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola. Since then, more than 1,800 people have died, the virus has been carried to the large city of Goma on the border of Rwanda and to nearby Uganda, and violence has killed health workers.

The big picture: Politics, violence and community suspicion are thwarting efforts to contain the virus, which shows no signs of abatement. Experts say this cycle could easily spiral out of control.

Einstein’s general relativity stubbornly passes yet another test

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Time and time again, Einstein's theory of general relativity passes cosmic tests near and far. It's a testament to the physicist's ingenuity and scientific and technological progress. But physicists also want to see general relativity fail a test.

Driving the news: Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues report today in Science that light from a star (dubbed S0-2) passing close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is affected as Einstein's theory predicts.