Qualitative Reasoning for
Engineering Problem Solving

Sponsor: Computer Science Division, Office of Naval Research
Principal Investigator: Kenneth D. Forbus

Project Summary: This project explores the use of qualitative physics to integrate qualitative, quantitative, visual, and teleological knowledge in solving engineering problems. Qualitative physics provides a framework for organizing and integrating other kinds of engineering knowledge. It captures the kinds of knowledge engineers use when they are able to answer simple questions directly based on common sense, and when they figure out what specialized knowledge should be used in answering harder questions. Qualitative knowledge is crucial in interpreting quantitative results; for example, a boiler design that presumes an impossibly high operating temperature must be modified.

We have made substantial progress on developing formal models for quantitative thermodynamics domain knowledge that support automatic engineering analyses, on new ontologies for reasoning about fluids, on new methods for visual reasoning about diagrams, and on teleological representations plus an algorithm for deriving function from structure and behavior. The best way to summarize our current goals is that, in addition to continuing these developments, we plan to integrate them into the first broad-scale domain theory that incorporates qualitative, quantitative, teleological, and spatial knowledge, organized around multiple ontologies, that can be used for a variety of engineering tasks. We want to develop our ideas and experimental prototypes to the point where we can build systems that can

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