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Wednesday, February 9 at 8 p.m. – The Smartest Night on Television, a NOVA broadcast event

(Rochester, NY) Get ready to match wits with smart animals, smart materials, and smart machines, when WXXI-TV/HD presents a mind-blowing three hours of science in a specially themed primetime programming event, NOVA's The Smartest Night on Television, airing Wednesday, February 9 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

On this evening NOVA takes a 360-degree look at what it means to be "smart". WXXI-TV/HD kicks off the night at 8 p.m with NOVA scienceNOW’s How Smart Are Animals? hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the program shares remarkable findings and footage of animal intelligence and the surprising behavior of several kinds of animals, including dogs, dolphins, and talking birds that researchers are revealing.

Immediately following at 9 p.m. New York Times technology reporter David Pogue hosts Making Stuff: Smarter, the fourth and final installment of NOVA’s fascinating series on materials science, spotlighting the latest developments in “smart materials,” many inspired by nature and containing the potential to transform our lives.

The evening culminates at 10 p.m. with a NOVA special presentation:
Smartest Machine on Earth: Can a Computer Win on Jeopardy!?

The program chronicles NOVA’s unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to IBM researchers as they develop the technology for "Watson," the state-of-the-art computing system, named after company founder Thomas J. Watson. The film examines the technological feats and hurdles necessary to develop Watson, the challenges artificial intelligence researchers face in mimicking the human thought process, and potential applications for the future.

Smartest Machine on Earth will premiere just five days before Watson is set to make television history on Jeopardy! -- competing for a grand prize of $1 million against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the show’s most successful and celebrated contestants of all time – in matches airing over three consecutive days on February 14, 15, and 16 at 7:30 p.m. on WROC-TV.

Watson is not connected to the Internet instead, it is stuffed with millions of documents —including anthologies, dictionaries, encyclopedias —from various sources, such as Wikipedia, The New York Times, and World Book Encyclopedia, from which it searches for answers. It’s been trained on thousands of Jeopardy! clues, but during game time it “hears” the questions for the first time just like its human competitors. Watson is fascinating to see in action. Its accuracy now rivals the best human players: It has a “life-like” voice and is extremely fast on the buzzer, something that certainly frustrates its human opponents. The system also utilizes a sophisticated game strategy, calculating how much money to wager depending on its confidence and how much it stands to lose.

The IBM Watson team, led by David Ferrucci, provides intimate access into the often challenging and humorous creation this one-of-a-kind machine. “I don't think the world has ever seen a machine quite like Watson… something that can answer over this breadth, that can answer with this kind of confidence… this quickly, with just enough-- horsepower-- computational power to fit in a room,” says Ferrucci. The film also explores other groundbreaking artificial intelligence technologies and introduces viewers to machines that see, speak, and move through the world. Some of the world’s top computer scientists discuss the overall meaning of Watson, and whether we are close to building a true artificial intelligence.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of IBM
Photo Caption: Watson's mock Jeopardy! score.



WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. Log on to wxxi.org for more information about our services and programs.