Mars Curiosity

Mars Rover “Curiosity”; photo via Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons

Q: If a robot sings “Happy Birthday” to itself, once a year, alone on Mars, is it or is it not the saddest thing in the history of birthday songs? A: Only if a human knows and sympathizes. Do the engineers sympathize, or is this some sort of macabre humor or just a jovial, detached, roboticist joke?

This is not current news, of course, but after writing about hitchBot and its tragic beheading in Jersey, I’m beginning to find a new fascination for the human/sympathetic responses to bots or robots. Perhaps I’ll start a Tumblr on A.I., bots and humans. One day. When I have time.

A caveat: the way Curiosity “sings” to itself is ingenious:

Using the Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) instrument, the most sophisticated chemistry lab ever to be sent to Mars, scientists have programmed it to resonate at varying frequencies that correspond to the notes of the famous birthday song. Usually, this resonance helps finely-ground samples of Mars dirt to filter through SAM for analysis … “To commemorate SAM’s birthday and Curiosity’s birthday on Mars, we decided to play a little song,” said Florance Tan, SAM electrical lead engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Tan went on to say that even in the thin air, the song should be audible. To no one. Insert “if a tree falls in a forest…” rhetorical and philosophical

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *