Google has always encouraged the driving forces to change the world. The tech giant is well-known for its several unorthodox methods in which it welcomes innovation. One of the most important among them is the company's "20 percent time," in which it allows its employees to spend a certain amount of time on their passion projects, which could be beneficial for the firm and its vision. The concept of Google is that innovation and productivity occur when human minds are let free to experiment. Milestones, such as Chromebooks, Gmail and now two newly discovered planets in the distant galaxy are the result of this idea, at least that's what a Google spokesperson said.
Reportedly, last week, Google made an astonishing announcement that a senior software engineer and artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Chris Shallue has unearthed two new planets with the help of machine learning and this whole feat was achieved by one of Shallue's side projects and not an official one. Now, they believe that in the near future, this technology could even be proved to be successful in finding aliens in the whole wide universe.
"I'm a Google AI researcher with an interest in space and started this work as a '20 percent project.' In the process, I reached out to Andrew, an astrophysicist from UT Austin, to collaborate. Together, we took this technique to the skies and taught a machine learning system how to identify planets around faraway stars." Shallue wrote in a statement published by Google.
Andrew Vanderberg is a doctoral fellow and an astrophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, who aided Shallue's work. It took them nine months to get the result.
In a statement by NASA Shaullue added, "Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves." Speaking of data, on Reddit, according to the Google employee, only the dataset about Keplar was so huge that it took him a total of two weeks to download and then also it didn't fit on a desktop.
The dynamic duo made use of a whopping 15,000 NASA data points to produce a neural network, which is essentially an artificial intelligence arranged like the neurons in a brain. This AI learned to identify small patterns of lights in the sky, which could be planets and which the earlier manual or automated tests had missed out. Basically, they taught the AI "how to identify planets around faraway stars," mentioned Shallue in the Google statement.
"We got lots of false positives of planets, but also potentially more real planets. It's like sifting through rocks to find jewels. If you have a finer sieve, then you will catch more rocks but you might catch more jewels, as well," stated Vanderberg.
Now, this technology is capable of working beyond just finding new planets. This technology takes us another step closer towards finding our extraterrestrial neighbours in the galaxy. Vanderberg explained it to CNBC Make It. He believes that we would now be able to get a glimpse of alien life forms sometimes between 2030 and 2050.
Following the achievement, CEO of Google Sundar Pichai and the former Chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, Eric Schmidt, both took to the Twitter to applaud the achievement.
However, tech giant Google is not the only firm that encourages this kind of flex-time side projects. 3M Company, formerly called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, had a policy of 15% time which had started in the 1990s, sated Ryan Tate in his book "The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business." Later, one of the employees of the company, Art Fry, had invented the famous 'Post-it' via this spare-time project only, reported The Wired.
So, as we can see, with this time-off projects, the limit resides beyond the sky.