JUN 24, 2020 6:19 AM PDT

How to Enable Computers to Solve Increasingly Complex Problems? Make Them "Think" Like a Metal

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

In metal works, the term annealing refers to a treatment with heat that increases the elasticity of a metal material. Since the 1970s, the nature of this metallurgic technique has been inspiring scientists to gain important insights into a seemingly unrelated field: algorithm-based problem-solving.

In mathematical and computing science, researchers often face the need to look for a balanced solution to problems full of competing variables. To come up with the best possible answer, they rely on simulated annealing (SA), a type of algorithms that seeks the optimal value within the "global" search space. 

Take the famous "traveling salesman problem" for example, it's a computational quest to find the shortest possible route that visits all destinations and returns to the starting spot. An SA-driven algorithm can help chart a journey with the minimum distance but still connecting all visiting cities.

So how did the cooling of a metal inspire the method of route optimization? During annealing, the heated metal atoms migrate inside their crystal lattice with enhanced randomness, which allows them to fix the wrongful placement of their positions (also known as the dislocations). As they cool down, their movement slows down and become less random. This natural process allows all atoms to settle into the lowest energy configuration and eliminates the recurrence of imperfection in the crystalline structure. 

This cooling metal-emulating algorithm has already found a wide variety of applications that involve process optimization, including the route programming of autonomous robots and drones, interpretation of X-ray crystallography, computer-based drug design, and network planning for natural gas delivery pipes.

Source: SciShow via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
JUL 16, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Climate Change Causes Carbon Loss in Soil & Root Problems in Plants
JUL 16, 2021
Climate Change Causes Carbon Loss in Soil & Root Problems in Plants
Concerns about runaway climate change and tipping points of no return are constant sources of fear in our warming world. ...
JUL 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Using Iron Waste to Clean Pesticides
JUL 30, 2021
Using Iron Waste to Clean Pesticides
Groundwater is something most people use every day. Whether for drinking, washing, or growing the food you eat, it is pa ...
JUL 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Spots Evidence of Water on Jupiter's Moon
JUL 29, 2021
Hubble Spots Evidence of Water on Jupiter's Moon
Scientists have spotted evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter's moon, Ganymede. The corresponding stu ...
AUG 01, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
New Compound Halts Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's
AUG 01, 2021
New Compound Halts Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's
Chemists have synthesized new compounds that can halt neurodegeneration linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurologic ...
SEP 22, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Commercial Fusion Energy Could be Within Reach, Thanks to the World's Most Powerful Magnet
SEP 22, 2021
Commercial Fusion Energy Could be Within Reach, Thanks to the World's Most Powerful Magnet
Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) announced this month that their new magnet might be the breakthrough needed to make fu ...
SEP 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
When a Meteor Destroyed an Ancient City, It May Have Inspired Biblical Tales
SEP 29, 2021
When a Meteor Destroyed an Ancient City, It May Have Inspired Biblical Tales
This meteor may have caused a blast as large as the one in the Tunguska Event, and totally flattened a city.
Loading Comments...