AI detects mysterious ‘square structure’ on the dwarf planet Ceres

Scientists may need to think twice when using artificial intelligence to help in the search for extraterrestrial life, a new study suggests.

A Spanish team used an artificial intelligence system that interpreted the shape of a triangle outside a square from a NASA image of a crater on the dwarf planet Ceres.

The researchers then gathered 163 volunteers without astronomy training to describe what they saw in the image of the crater.

While AI detected a square and a triangle, most humans only interpreted a square.

But once the triangle was pointed to humans, the number of people who said they could see it increased from 7% to 56%.

This suggests that the influence of AI could be strong in the human brain when interpreting extraterrestrial features on other planets, even when it is questionable that they exist.

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Triangle or square, or both? Image of the Vinalia Faculae de Ceres region obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on July 6, 2018 at an altitude of approximately 36 miles

Triangle or square, or both? Image of the Vinalia Faculae de Ceres region obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on July 6, 2018 at an altitude of approximately 36 miles

“Both people and artificial intelligence detected a square structure in the images, but AI also identified a triangle,” said Gabriel G De la Torre, author of the study at the University of Cádiz, Spain.

“Despite being fashionable and having a multitude of applications, artificial intelligence could confuse us and tell us that it has detected impossible or false things.”

This compromises the usefulness of AI in the search for extraterrestrial technology firms, discernible evidence of advanced technology by alien civilizations, said De la Torre.

“We must be careful with its implementation and use in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”

De la Torre and his team of neuropsychologists observed one of the bright spots on the surface of Ceres, called Vinalia Faculae.

The image of the bright spot, found in a crater called Occator, was obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in 2018 at an altitude of approximately 36 miles.

Although the largest object in the main asteroid belt, Ceres is a dwarf planet, 587 miles in diameter, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Another perspective of the Vinalia Faculae region (rotated 180º from the previous one), taken by the Dawn probe. The geometries that humans detected most frequently are indicated (bottom right)

Another perspective of the Vinalia Faculae region (rotated 180º from the previous one), taken by the Dawn probe. The geometries that humans detected most frequently are indicated (bottom right)

Another perspective of the Vinalia Faculae region (rotated 180º from the previous one), taken by the Dawn probe. The geometries that humans detected most frequently are indicated (bottom right)

The dwarf planet became famous in 2015 when bright spots were observed in Occator.

The mystery of the light source was solved when a NASA probe came close enough to discover that they originated from volcanic ice and salt emissions.

De la Torre said that what AI detected in Vinalia Faculae, both a triangle outside the square structure, is probably just a whim of light and shadow.

The AI ​​vision system had previously been trained with thousands of images of squares and triangles.

However, De la Torre admitted that AI could identify or interpret extraterrestrial characteristics that go beyond human consciousness, “opening the doors to new realities for which we are not prepared.”

The experiment was an opportunity to explore how the search for technological signatures or spatial oddities could be influenced by our cognitive abilities and our awareness.

“ We were not alone in this, some people seemed to discern a square form in Vinalia Faculae, so we saw it as an opportunity to confront human intelligence with artificial intelligence in a cognitive task of visual perception, not just a routine task, but a challenging one with implications in the search for extraterrestrial life, which is no longer based solely on radio waves, “said De la Torre.

The results of the study have been published in Astronautics Act.

“Today, we live amid an increase in the use of artificial intelligence in many scientific and technological applications, including the search for extraterrestrial intelligence,” says the research paper.

“However, human perception and decision-making remain the last part of the chain in any data analysis or interpretation of results or results.”

What is the dwarf planet and why is NASA studying it?

Ceres is 590 miles (950 km) wide and was discovered in 1801.

It is the dwarf planet closest to the sun and is in the asteroid belt, which makes it the only dwarf planet in the inner solar system.

While it is the smallest of the known dwarf planets, it is the largest object in the asteroid belt.

It is less than three times from the Earth of the Sun, close enough to feel the heat of the star, allowing the ice to melt and reform.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft headed to Ceres after leaving the asteroid Vesta in 2012.

There is a great interest in the mission because Ceres is seen as an early solar system registry.

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