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IBM’s Watson Learns to Cook from Bon Appetit Magazine

A Watson app will mine the recipe database to do your meal planning

1 min read
Chefs looking at a tablet recipe.
Photo: Jon Simon/IBM

IBM’s artificial intelligence program Watson has been training to be a doctor over the last few years, applying its machine learning skills to genetics and cancer. But apparently the AI likes to cook in its spare time.

In a just-announced collaboration with Bon Appetit, Watson is using the 9000 or so recipes in the magazine’s database to generate new recipes based on available ingredients and a suggested cuisine style. The AI uses both the magazine’s archive and its own database of flavor compounds to determine what ingredients will go well together, and comes up with surprising new combinations. For more on how this works, check out the IEEE Spectrumarticle about IBM’s cooking initiative for Watson from last year’s special issue on food and technology

In Bon Appetit’s first test run with Watson, the AI simply suggested ingredients that could be used in dishes for a 4th of July menu, and the chefs were left to figure out how to combine berries and marjoram, for example, to make a cobbler. But IBM has since improved the program to include cooking instructions as well. The creators say they don’t expect cooks to necessarily follow Watson’s every directive, but they do believe the program can provide inspiration by suggesting unusual ingredients in unexpected combinations.

The collaborators have developed an app that will allow home cooks to have Watson in the kitchen with them, but it isn’t available for general release yet. You can apply to be a beta tester here.

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Will AI Steal Submarines’ Stealth?

Better detection will make the oceans transparent—and perhaps doom mutually assured destruction

11 min read
A photo of a submarine in the water under a partly cloudy sky.

The Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Virginia cruises through the Mediterranean in 2010. Back then, it could effectively disappear just by diving.

U.S. Navy

Submarines are valued primarily for their ability to hide. The assurance that submarines would likely survive the first missile strike in a nuclear war and thus be able to respond by launching missiles in a second strike is key to the strategy of deterrence known as mutually assured destruction. Any new technology that might render the oceans effectively transparent, making it trivial to spot lurking submarines, could thus undermine the peace of the world. For nearly a century, naval engineers have striven to develop ever-faster, ever-quieter submarines. But they have worked just as hard at advancing a wide array of radar, sonar, and other technologies designed to detect, target, and eliminate enemy submarines.

The balance seemed to turn with the emergence of nuclear-powered submarines in the early 1960s. In a 2015 study for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, Bryan Clark, a naval specialist now at the Hudson Institute, noted that the ability of these boats to remain submerged for long periods of time made them “nearly impossible to find with radar and active sonar.” But even these stealthy submarines produce subtle, very-low-frequency noises that can be picked up from far away by networks of acoustic hydrophone arrays mounted to the seafloor.

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