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volume Cl number 44 « the official student newspaper at the university of alberta ♦ thursday, march 31, 2011 

"A moment 
of quiet 

The Gateway discusses 
the issue of suicide 
among young adults in 
the final installment of 
our mental health series. 




A QUIET SUBTLETY A man in Indonesia makes cloth prints in one of the winning entries in The Gateway Literary Contest. To see the others, check pages 12-15. 




U of A Studio Theatre 
takes a closer look into 
the enigmatic work of 
Gertrude Stein. 

A&E, PAGE 20 

Musical mysteries 

The Gateway talks to 
Mother Mothers Ryan 
Guldemond about the 
unexpected meaning he’s 
found in the band's lyrics. 

A&E, PAGE 19 

IBM researcher shows off 
Watson s complex innards 

News Staff 

In February. IBM’s “Watson" super¬ 
computer defeated two jeopardy! 
champions. On Monday. Watson 
researcher James Fan explained to a U 
of A audience exactly how they man¬ 
aged to do it. 

The idea for the project came from 
an IBM executive, who had to con¬ 
vince a team of researchers to take on 
the huge task. In 2007. the original QA 
machine fell well below the perfor¬ 
mance of a typical Jeopardy! winner. 

"What computers find hard is 
natural language. Jeopardy! is in 
this domain, and gives us a chal¬ 
lenge. It helps us to produce a cal¬ 
culable. novel way to measure the 
drive in technology, to measure the 
progress.” Fan said. 

Watson is built with a knowledge 
daialiase of 200 million pages of 
raw text, but a basic keyword search 
cannot cope with the complex seman¬ 
tics in a Jeopardy! clue. Watson instead 
uses several algorithms for many types 
of evidence, such as temporal reason¬ 
ing. statistical paraphrasing, and geo¬ 
spatial reasoning. 

The hundreds of gigabytes of data 
that comprise the knowledge set and 
algorithms are all stored within 2.880 

computer cores, which allows Watson 
to compute a series of likely answers in 
two to six seconds, rather than in the 
two hours it would take with a single 
2.6 gigahertz core. 

Each "candidate answer" is given a 
confidence, and if this figure is above 
a pre-determined threshold, Watson 
will ring in and give an answer in the 
game show. The threshold changes 
throughout the game—if Watson has 
a big lead, the threshold will be high to 
minimize risk, if lie's lagging behind. 

Watson will live more dangerously. 

While some human strategy is 
built into Watson, he does have some 
disadvantages compares! to his fleshy 

“We can hear Watson speaking [...] 
but Watson cannot hear other play¬ 
ers’ answers. If another player gels 
the right answer. Jeopardy! sends the 
answer back to Watson. But if a player 
gets rhe wrong answer, Watson has no 
idea what ir was." Fan explained. 


text harder to 


News Writer 

Reading comprehension from a smart¬ 
phone screen is as low as half of that 
when reading from a standard desktop 
monitor, according to a recent study by 
a University of Alberta research team. 

Janies Miller, professor of electri¬ 
cal and computer engineering and a 
member of the team that conducted 
the study, said tliai quirks inher¬ 
ent to smartphones and how people 
read from them means that mobile 
content providers need to develop 
smartphone-specific versions of their 
material if they want to have it prop¬ 
erly understood by users. 

’’People tend to read better on 
[paper] than on [desktop computers], 
and when you just drop down again, 
you’re making much more visual 
demands," Miller said. 

The study focused specifically on 
privacy policies used by websites such 
as Facelxtok and Google. Using a Cloze 
test — a standard test of comprehen¬ 
sion that omits words from a document 
at regular intervals and asks subjects 
to reinsert the correct word — Miller 
and his team found that comprehen¬ 
sion of a privacy policy when read on 
an iPhone-sized screen was rated at +8 
percent when compare to the same 
policy read on a desktop monitor.