Man Vs. Machine, ‘Jeopardy’ Day 2: Humans Suffer Crushing Blow


UPDATED: Is Watson-mania gripping the nation? It could be: Monday’s first day of this week’s three-day “Jeopardy!” showdown between Man and Machine (the IBM supercomputer named Watson) scored the show’s highest ratings in four years — an 8.7 (just shy of an 8.8 the show scored in February 2007), according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Monday number represents a big increase in the show’s average for February 2010 — a 7.0, THR said. Ratings for Tuesday’s Day Two of the faceoff should be available some time on Wednesday, which is also the contest’s final day.

PREVIOUSLY: Resistance is futile!

Just ask “Jeopardy!” geniuses Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. On Day Two of this week’s historic “Man vs. Machine” face-off on the legendary quiz show, the game’s all-time champions were crushed under the awesome power of Watson, their IBM supercomputer foe which dominated Tuesday’s Double Jeopardy round so completely that it won the game by an unheard-of margin.

At the game’s conclusion, after the Final Jeopardy wagers were made and the answers given, the final score of this first-ever such competition between Man and Machine was Watson, $35,734; Rutter, $10,400; and Jennings, $4,800. And yet, the Final Jeopardy question was one of the few Watson got wrong –- and it still won!

The dramatic Final Jeopardy clue, in the category of “U.S. Cities” was: “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second-largest, for a World War II battle.” After the famed “Jeopardy!” music was played, Jennings and Rutter both had the correct answer – What is Chicago? (for its O’Hare and Midway airports). But Watson inexplicably guessed “What is Toronto” and affixed five question marks to the answer. Just as inexplicable: Watson’s wager of only $947. The “logic” employed by Watson’s electronic brain to arrive at this odd sum was not explained.

But the “Toronto” answer was a rare lapse for Watson on Tuesday as he demonstrated a breadth of knowledge beyond the ability of mortal humans. Unlike men and women, who have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the diversity of each person’s body of knowledge, Watson seemed to know everything – from Christchurch (the second largest city in New Zealand) to the Church Lady, one of Dana Carvey’s famed characters on “Saturday Night Live” (the category: “ ‘Church’ & ‘State’ ”).

As is customary on “Jeopardy!,” neither the contestants nor host Alex Trebek (nor Watson, for that matter) made any comment about the machine’s decisive victory. However, Watson’s flesh-and-blood foes have one more game –- on Wednesday -– to try and beat the Machine. Can the human race be saved? Stay tuned!

“Jeopardy! IBM Challenge” is airing Monday through Wednesday this week. Check local listings.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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