Politics

Congressman Upsets IBM Supercomputer Watson

In this photo taken by Feature Photo Service for IBM: Dr. Eric Brown from IBM Research preps four members of congress - Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.) - for an exhibition game against IBM's Watson on Monday, Feb. 28, 2011. (AP)

In this photo taken by Feature Photo Service for IBM: Dr. Eric Brown from IBM Research preps four members of congress - Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.) - for an exhibition game against IBM's Watson on Monday, Feb. 28, 2011. (AP)  (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - NO RESALE)

IBM supercomputer Watson, which established its dominance by trouncing on "Jeopardy" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, met its match Tuesday night against a New Jersey congressman.

Seven-term Democratic Rep. Rush Holt beat Watson in a round of trivia after the artificial intelligence powerhouse defeated four other congressmen -- Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Jared Polis, D-Colo., Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y.

"I played a full round against @IBMWatson tonight and was proud to hold my own," Holt tweeted. "The final tally was Holt $8,600, Watson $6,200."

In a statement issued Tuesday, Holt added, "More importantly, I was proud to join IBM and other members of Congress to highlight the importance of science and math education and research and development. While it was fun to out-do Watson for one night in trivia, it is vital that, as a nation, we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world for generations to come."

Holt's victory, part of an event hosted by IBM in Washington, D.C. to highlight the importance of information technology to U.S. global competitiveness, shocked some of his fellow lawmakers.

"I seriously CANNOT believe that @rushholt beat @ibmwatson," Himes tweeted, noting that the bumper stickers in his district read: "My Congressman IS a rocket scientist."

Holt is the only physicist serving in Congress. Before being elected in 1998, Holt worked as an educator, scientist and arms control expert, according to his Web site. 

At the State Department, Holt monitored the nuclear programs of countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the former Soviet Union. For eight years at Swarthmore College, he taught courses in physics, public policy and religion. And for nine years, he was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton's largest research facilities and the largest center for alternative energy research in New Jersey.

Holt is also a former "Jeopardy" champion.