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Go Figure

Go Figure

Go Figure

You may have heard about the 1997 chess tournament where a computer program beat world champion Gary Kasparov. But no computer program can even hold a candle to a master of a game called "Go." We'll talk with game expert Dr. Elwyn Berlekamp - after this on Earth and Sky.


(Tape 0:03:36-0:03:43) We have very good pattern recognition skills, to which a large part of our brain is devoted. Just sort of recognizing what's what.

DB: This is Earth and Sky, and you're listening to Dr. Elwyn Berlekamp, an expert in the theory of games. He spoke with us about pattern recognition and a game called "Go," an Asian board game growing in popularity throughout the world. One reason for the growing interest in Go may be that although a computer beat the world's top chess master, no computer is even close to beating a Go master. That might be because skill in Go is related to the human talent for pattern recognition. Dr. Berlekamp:

(Tape 0:02:48-0:03:00) Forty years ago we were sort of proud that computers could do the things which most humans considered most difficult, like solve complicated differential equations…(Tape 0:03:08-0:03:16) There are a lot of other things which humans all do very well because they learn them when they're babies, like how to recognize your mother's face… (Tape 0:03:44-0:04:13) We see a strange person, and in a few seconds we know who they are. Good Go players just look at the board and in a few seconds they recognize what's there, in a similar way. And yet when you try to detail how that works, it's very hard. We do not yet understand pattern recognition well enough to do it anywhere near as well as humans do.

DB: Thanks to Dr. Elwyn Berlekamp for speaking with us. For links to websites related to the game Go, visit our website at earthsky.worldofscience.com. With thanks to the National Science Foundation, I'm Deborah Byrd, for Joel Block, for Earth and Sky.

Author: Beverly Wachtel

Thanks to the following individual who aided in the preparation of this script:

Dr. Elwyn Berlekamp
Department of Mathematics
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

If you enjoyed this program, you may be interested in the following:

Mathematical Go, Elwyn Berlekamp & David Wolfe. Wellesley, MA: Academic Press, 1994.

Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, Elwyn Berlekamp, John Conway, Richard Guy. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, Inc., 1982.

American Go Association:

No-name Go Server:



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