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Comment Re:Cities in the desert (Score 1) 198

It would be more general to say - cities are found where people have a reason for wanting to live in large numbers.

Historically that has meant most often natural nexuses of transportation, centers of industrial and other economic activity, and governmental administrative centers. And cities have a natural tendency toward self-reinforcing growth - once economic activity and large numbers of people are located at once place, more of both tends to follow.

In the case of Las Vegas its founding as a major city was due to lax gambling laws, creating a "sin haven", a trick that can pretty much only be done once. Others have copied but with only modest, and often fleeting success - (cough) Atlantic City (cough). Also, it is next to a major river, and grew up at a time that the water rights of the river were not over-subscribed.

Notions of new cities growing up in deserts require an explanation of what it will be attracting people to live there in the first place.

Why is there a new city? All cities require an economic basis, a productive economy. The industries of the future are going to be high skill industries. You will note that new high skill businesses are invariably located in/near existing cities, usually in reasonably nice climates, often where costs are already high, because that's where they have to be to get the workers they need . What is going to attract those educated youngish types out to your new desert city? Even if a super billionaire business type decides he is going to found a new city, let's call it "Bezosville" or "Muskopolis", he may find the competitive *disadvantage* of recruiting employees may be too big a hit to take.

Comment Re:Patent Expiry Question (Score 2) 266

Another point to ponder. There is no way that Titleist's actual balls conform to many of the claims in these patents. But they don't have to. These are just claims made by patent lawyers and don't need to be reflected in any actual product. But no doubt some features of Titleist balls match the patents, there are so many of them (hundreds) and are so varied and broadly phrased they would have to. But that is also true of any other golf ball made by anybody.

Therein lies the secret of corporate abuse of the patent system to create virtual monopolies. You don't have to actually invent or show anything - you simply write up vast lists of claims to create hooks for lawyers to threaten to sue other people. The people who write these patents simply spend their lives poring over technical literature, concocting new descriptive language, dreaming up new claims to make, not actually inventing anything useful or even real.

Comment Re:Patent Expiry Question (Score 1) 266

So, patents do expire, right? Companies can't do this forever, right? Eventually after the 20 year time expires we can get nice things for cheap, right? Somebody...

Take a look at the patents (I posted a list and some direct links up-page).

The set of them are enormous grab-bags of literally hundreds of claims over every aspect of golf ball design and construction. You can paste-up Googled polymer chemistry terms, reworded descriptions of geometry, revised lists of hardness scores, etc. etc. to create new tossed-salads of claims until the end of time. This is "patent engineering" - creating dense obscure far reaching webs of claims for lawyers to file, there is not actual innovation in the lot of them.

Comment Re:Costco put some cards on the table (Score 1) 266

I think someone at Acushnet is in trouble now for sending threatening letters.

Surely not. This has been an extremely successful tactic to crush competition up to now. The ridiculous margin they are making on their balls surely covers the modest cost of a lawyer who writes threaten letters (and the legal department that is "innovating" by writing up new patents to file).

Comment Re:Costco put some cards on the table (Score 4, Insightful) 266

This being /. lots of people are speculating about what the patents might be, rather than simply following the link and then looking them up and actually knowing.

Here are links to four of the patents mentioned (there are eleven of them I don't have time to create markup links for all of them): US6994638, US8123632, US8444507, US9320944. The other patents are: US8025593, US 8257201, US 7331878, US6358161, US7887439, US 7641572, and US7163472. You can Google them like I did.

Looking over Costco's response, and looking at the patents themselves, I have a strong feeling of deja vu. Acushnet is not a patent troll, since they actually sell a product and are using the patent system to crush competition with litigation threats, but to my eye the patents are written in the finest patent troll tradition. They are all highly complex grab bags of a whole lot of claims written very broadly, a rich shopping list for lawyers to turn into legal accusations. Literally hundreds of separate claims are made in these patents, in a densely cross referenced fashion. They aren't patents of any identifiable invention, they are simply a wall of claims on every possible aspect of a golf ball so that something can be carved out to attack any competitor.

Note that Acushnet has never had to defend any of these claims in court! With the deeply broken patent system we have today, in which its stated purpose (to encourage innovation for the public good) has been turned on its head as a way of suppressing actual innovation and protecting established corporations, a patent cannot be assumed to have any validity until it has actually been litigated. The courts are called on to do the job of the patent examiners.

I doubt Costco is going to lose this case.

Comment Re:RottenTomatoes is Horrible, Agreed (Score 1) 395

Most of my favorite movies have low scores, most movies I consider epic and mind blowing have mediocre scores. That website is horribly wrong about movies 99% of the time....

I take you at your word oh AC. In which case Rotten Tomatoes is functioning perfectly even for you! Just apply your own preference metric to the site. If low scores=great to you then it is telling you exactly what you want to know. Go out and see the low scoring movies! Problem solved!

Comment Re:Mind Control (Score 1) 395

Indeed. Also this jerk has more than a touch of RIAA/MPAA disease - the belief that society owes them arbitrarily large amounts of money regardless of their product, demand, or business model. $850 million makes him cry? It should of been a billion, no make that two billion! How dare people publicly express a negative opinion about my movie! There shouldn't be any source of negative reviews! Only positive reviews should ever be published! It is so unfair to me!

Comment But Not the Fastest Star Known! (Score 2) 124

That would be S0–2, a star orbiting Sagittarius A* - the gigantic black hole at the Milky Way's center.

S0-2 has a longer orbit than 47 Tucanae X9, because it is highly elliptical, but at closest approach to Sagittarius A* is reaches 5000 km/sec. The speed of 47 Tucanae X9 is 3500 km/sec.

Comment Otherwise Known As A Jökulhlaup (Score 4, Interesting) 136

Glacier outburst floods are known as "jökulhlaups" in geology, an Icelandic word since it has been the scene of many historic floods of this type.

In 1755 a jökulhlaup from the Katla volcano had a peak flow of up to 400,000 cubic meters/second, about 20 times the flow rate of the Mississippi River, or twice that of the Amazon, making it briefly the largest river in the world.

But that's not the only destructive aspect of Iceland's volcanoes. In 1783 the eruption of the Laki volcano released 14 cubic kilometers of basalt and 1 cubic kilometer of airborne ash. It killed 25% of Iceland's population through poison gas: 500 million tons of hydrogen fluoride and sulfur dioxide were released poisoning the population and the livestock. The fatalities were both from direct poisoning (mostly from the hydrogen fluoride) and later starvation since most of the livestock was killed. The toxic cloud affected much of Europe as well, though not as severely. This eruption also created a three-year long period of unseasonable cold in the northern hemisphere leading to famine killing thousands, and possibly contributing to the French Revolution.

Comment Re:Not new proof of settlement (Score 1) 147

Very true.

This is only one example of a long series of discoveries over the last 40 years. An extensive system of earth works, causeways, and canals have been found along the Xingu river (an Amazon tributary). Large sections of jungle have turned out to be fruit tree orchards that over-grew with forest (which would have happened quite quickly once left untended). The entire Amazonian basin itself was virtually unknown to European civilization until the 20th Century - for most of that time it was outside of the control of colonial and later Brazilian government, being instead controlled by societies of Indians and escaped slaves. Societies of many tens of thousands of Indians, like the Yanomamo, only started being studied by westerners starting in the 1950s and to this day live in areas outside of state administrative control. Discoveries like this are being made all over the Amazonian basin, now that westerners are actually examining it.

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