Crashproof Code

Flying an experimental supersonic aircraft requires rock-solid flight software

12 min read

Most people can tolerate the occasional computer crashes that plague modern life. Not so the pilot of a jet fighter streaking through the sky at a notch above the speed of sound. A single software glitch could send the aircraft spiraling out of control, possibly killing the pilot. It's our job to make sure that doesn't happen.

Writing and testing software for the onboard computers that translate a jet pilot's commands into actions is hard enough at the best of times, but when an experimental technique for controlling a supersonic aircraft is thrown into the mix, the job gets really tough--and interesting. That's the task faced by our teams at Boeing Co. and NASA as a modified F/A-18 strike fighter tests out a new way of using its wings.

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The Future of Deep Learning Is Photonic

Computing with light could slash the energy needs of neural networks

10 min read

This computer rendering depicts the pattern on a photonic chip that the author and his colleagues have devised for performing neural-network calculations using light.

Alexander Sludds

Think of the many tasks to which computers are being applied that in the not-so-distant past required human intuition. Computers routinely identify objects in images, transcribe speech, translate between languages, diagnose medical conditions, play complex games, and drive cars.

The technique that has empowered these stunning developments is called deep learning, a term that refers to mathematical models known as artificial neural networks. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning, a branch of computer science based on fitting complex models to data.

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