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Comment Ignorance of the Patent System on Slashdot (Score 4, Interesting) 214

... is amazing.
"Microsoft's patent here seems obvious..."
Really? well, I don't know about the inner workings of all cell phones, but I've yet seen a model that I can silence with a single instant button touch or one that uses an accelerometer to transmit a single clear command to the phone. -- Others may come up with examples which is great. Third parties can now (or soon) file with the USPTO to put prior art not considered by the examiner into the official record. This is a very recent change and I don't recall the details. It may be active just for business patents right now, but eventually all patent apps will be included and this one likely won't be examined before that rule is opened to all patents. So prep your arguments now! In any case the mere existence of accelerometers probably would not constitute obviousness which seems to be the main point being made by most.

"...and should have never been granted"
Well, it hasn't. This is only an application published 18 months after filing. With the current backlog in the USPTO, it won't be examined for another 2 years.

Comment Works great in a fast-growing organization (Score 1) 525

..but leads to really bad behaviors in a static or shrinking organization.

The large company I work for has just scrapped it after about 10 yrs when HR finally heard the pleas of managers.

Survival when the org is static or shrinking includes understanding what is the "currency" of your manager and *all the other managers* who have teams that are pooled with yours. Get known as a high achiever not just with your manager but the others. At least in our company there would be an annual meeting of those managers at some point to work out the rankings in there respective organizations to have the parent org come out to the required distributions. Horse trading ensues. Being known by your manager's peers helps you in that meeting.

Comment Re:Prior art is not the problem (Score 1) 176

I'm late to the party, here, but the parent comment is *not* +5 Insightful, it's 0 Has no clue about the patent system. You cannot patent ideas. An idea must be reduced to practice in some novel way in order to considered for a patent. The problem is that the US Patent office started to hand out patents for computer software and business models. Computer software is rightly copyrighted, not patented. And patenting business models (which is patenting ideas -not inventions) is simply an atrocity that is eroding the societal benefits of the Patent System.

"the standard for giving a patent should be that no one else is likely to come up with that idea for the next 20 years assuming no patent system to motivate them."

This is wrong on so many levels it's not even worth addressing.

Comment No, as first claim is easily avoided (Score 2) 177

As exemplified by the summary, there's a pervasive misunderstanding on Slashdot on how patents work. Just because someone is able to patent one method in the field of X does *not* exclude others from practicing in the field of X.
Don't get me wrong - method patents like this stink worse than the NY Giant's defense in the 4th quarter, but they are generally pretty easy to avoid by simply doing one step differently. Rival companies do this all the time with ligit process patents.

United States

Submission + - Killer amoeba attack humans

An anonymous reader writes: It sounds like the story from a 50s horror film. The simplest form of life on earth, amoeba, are eating the brains of humans. But this is no joke: six people in the US have died this year, and the cause is probably global warming. FTA: "Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, the spike in cases so far this year has worried health officials, who predict there will be more to come."
United States

Submission + - Kentucky getting loony museum of non-evolution

AliasMarlowe writes: The BBC reports that a creationist organization (Answers in Genesis) is building an alleged museum in Petersberg Kentucky, not far from Cincinnati Ohio. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own _correspondent/6549595.stm

The museum will be replete with animatronic dinosaurs and suchlike, with tyrannosaurs shown peacefully cohabiting with human children in a sort of Garden-of-Eden paradise. Geology, paleontology, and other branches of accepted science are not considered relevant to the "bible-based" twisted storyline. Of course, it's all presented as fact supported by the usual wierd hypotheses of creationists.

The BBC report has overtones of incredulity that such an inane insane fantasy world could really be promoted as fact. Even one of the museum park guides tactfully said he preferred to stick to accepted science. The BBC reporter was accompanied by Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, who castigated the creationist's misuse of facts intertwined with mythology.

Now that Kansas has started cleaning up its school board, is Kentucky stepping forward as the next base for the loony fringe?

Submission + - Was Einstein right? Scientists provide first peek

mknewman writes: http://einstein.stanford.edu/

14 April 2007
For the past three years a satellite has circled the Earth, collecting data to determine whether two predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity are correct. Today, at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., Professor Francis Everitt, a Stanford University physicist and principal investigator of the Gravity Probe B (GP-B) Relativity Mission, a collaboration of Stanford, NASA and Lockheed Martin, will provide the first public peek at data that will reveal whether Einstein's theory has been confirmed by the most sophisticated orbiting laboratory ever created.

Podcasts and audio downloads will be available online as soon as we can arrange them.

"Gravity Probe B has been a great scientific adventure for all of us, and we are grateful to NASA for its long history of support," said Everitt. "My colleagues and I will be presenting the first results today and tomorrow. It's fascinating to be able to watch the Einstein warping of spacetime directly in the tilting of these GP-B gyroscopes — more than a million times better than the best inertial navigation gyroscopes."The GP-B satellite was launched in April 2004. It collected over a year's worth of data that the Stanford GP-B science team has been poring over for the past 18 months. The satellite was designed as a pristine, space-borne laboratory, whose sole task was to use four ultra-precise gyroscopes to measure directly two effects predicted by general relativity. One is the geodetic effect-the amount by which the mass of the Earth warps the local space-time in which it resides. The other effect, called frame-dragging, is the amount by which the rotating Earth drags local space-time around with it. According to Einstein's theory, over the course of a year, the geodetic warping of Earth's local space-time causes the spin axes of each gyroscope to shift from its initial alignment by a minuscule angle of 6.606 arc-seconds (0.0018 degrees) in the plane of the spacecraft's orbit. Likewise, the twisting of Earth's local space-time causes the spin axis to shift by an even smaller angle of 0.039 arc-seconds (0.000011 degrees) — about the width of a human hair viewed from a quarter mile away — in the plane of the Earth's equator. GP-B Scientists expect to announce the final results of the experiment in December 2007, following eight months of further data analysis and refinement. Today, Everitt and his team are poised to share what they have found so far-namely that the data from the GP-B gyroscopes clearly confirm Einstein's predicted geodetic effect to a precision of better than 1 percent. However, the frame-dragging effect is 170 times smaller than the geodetic effect, and Stanford scientists are still extracting its signature from the spacecraft data. The GP-B instrument has ample resolution to measure the frame-dragging effect precisely, but the team has discovered small torque and sensor effects that must be accurately modeled and removed from the result.

"We anticipate that it will take about 8 more months of detailed data analysis to realize the full accuracy of the instrument and to reduce the measurement uncertainty from the 0.1 to 0.05 arc-seconds per year that we've achieved to date down to the expected final accuracy of better than 0.005 arc-seconds per year," says William Bencze, GP-B Program Manager. "Understanding the details of this science data is a bit like an archeological dig: a scientist starts with a bulldozer, follows with a shovel, and then he finally uses dental picks and toothbrushes to clear the dust away from the treasure. We are passing out the toothbrushes now."

The two discoveries

Two important discoveries were made while analyzing the gyroscope data from the spacecraft: 1) the "polhode" motion of the gyroscopes damps out over time, and 2) the spin axes of the gyroscopes were affected by small classical torques. Both of these discoveries are symptoms of a single underlying cause: electrostatic patches on the surface of the rotor and housing. Patch effects in metal surfaces are well known in physics, and were carefully studied by the GP-B team during the design of the experiment to limit their effects. Though previously understood to be microscopic surface phenomena that would average to zero, the GP-B rotors show patches of sufficient size to measurably affect the gyroscopes' spins.

The gyroscope's polhode motion is akin to the common "wobble" seen on a poorly thrown (American) football, though it shows up in a much different form for the ultra-spherical GP-B gyroscopes. While it was expected that this wobble would exhibit a constant pattern over the mission, it was found to slowly change due to minute energy dissipation from interactions of the rotor and housing electrostatic patches. The polhode wobble complicates the measurement of the relativity effects by putting a time-varying wobble signal into the data.

The electrostatic patches also cause small torques on the gyroscopes, particularly when the space vehicle axis of symmetry is not aligned with the gyroscope spin axes. Torques cause the spin axis of the gyroscopes to change orientation, and in certain circumstances, this effect can look like the relativity signal GP-B measures. Fortunately, the drifts due to these torques has a precise geometrical relationship to the misalignment of the gyro spin/vehicle symmetry axis and can be removed from the data without directly affecting the relativity measurement.

Both of these discoveries first had to be investigated, be precisely modeled and then be carefully checked against the experimental data before they are removed as sources of error. These additional investigations have added more than a year to the data analysis, and this work is still in process. To date, the team has made very good progress in this regard, according to its independent Science Advisory Committee, chaired by relativistic physicist Clifford Will of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., that has been monitoring every aspect of GP-B for the past decade.

In addition to providing a first peek at the experimental results at the APS meeting, the GP-B team has released an archive of the raw experimental data. The data will be available through the National Space Sciences Data Center at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center beginning in June 2007.

Conceived by Stanford Professors Leonard Schiff, William Fairbank and Robert Cannon in 1959 and funded by NASA in 1964, GP-B is the longest running, continuous physics research program at both Stanford and NASA. While the experiment is simple in concept — it utilizes a star, a telescope and a spinning sphere — it took more than four decades and $760 million to design and produce all the cutting-edge technologies necessary to bring the GP-B satellite to the launch pad, carry out this "simple" experiment and analyze the data. On April 20, 2004, GP-B made history with a perfect launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. After a four-month initialization and on-orbit check-out period, during which the four gyroscopes were spun up to an average of 4,000 rpm and the spacecraft and gyro spin axes were aligned with the guide star, IM Pegasi, the experiment commenced. For 50 weeks, from August 2004 to August 2005, the spacecraft transmitted more than a terabyte of experimental data to the GP-B Mission Operations Center at Stanford. One of the most sophisticated satellites ever launched, the GP-B spacecraft performed magnificently throughout this period, as did the GP-B Mission Operations team, comprised of scientists and engineers from Stanford, NASA and Lockheed Martin, said Stanford Professor Emeritus Bradford Parkinson, a co-principal investigator with John Turneaure and Daniel DeBra, also emeritus professors at Stanford. The data collection ended on Sept. 29, 2005, when the helium in spacecraft's dewar was finally exhausted. At that time, the GP-B team transitioned from mission operations to data analysis.

Over its 47-year lifetime, GP-B has advanced the frontiers of knowledge, provided a training ground for 79 doctoral students at Stanford (and 13 at other universities), 15 masters degrees, hundreds of undergraduates and dozens of high school students who worked on the project. In addition, GP-B spawned over a dozen new technologies, including the record-setting gyroscopes and gyro suspension system, the SQUID (for Superconducting QUantum Interference Device) gyro readout system, the ultra-precise star-pointing telescope, the cryogenic dewar and porous plug, the micro-thrusters and drag-free technology and the Global Positioning System-based orbit determination system. All of these technologies were essential for carrying out the experiment, but none existed in 1959 when the experiment was conceived. Furthermore, some technologies which were designed at Stanford for use in GP-B, such as the porous plug that controlled the escape of helium gas from the dewar, enabled and were used in other NASA experiments such as COBE (the COsmic Background Explorer, which won this year's Nobel prize) WMAP (for Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The experiment's final result is expected on completion of the data analysis in December of this year. Asked for his final comment, Francis Everitt said: "Always be suspicious of the news you want to hear."

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the GP-B program and contributed significantly to its technical development. NASA's prime contractor for the mission, Stanford University, conceived the experiment and is responsible for the design and integration of the science instrument, as well as for mission operations and data analysis. Lockheed Martin, Stanford's major subcontractor, designed, integrated and tested the spacecraft and built some of its major payload components, including the dewar and probe that houses the science instrument. NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and Boeing Expendable Launch Systems, Huntington Beach, Calif., was responsible for the launch of the Delta II.

Bob Kahn, author of this press release, is the public affairs coordinator for Gravity Probe B at Stanford.
XBox (Games)

Submission + - Dead Rising and Lost Planet to remain exclusive

Bizzeh writes: "as posted on Joystiq

At least "as far as current plans go." So says Capcom's senior director of strategic planning and research, Christian Svensson, posting on the official Capcom forums in the midst of a Devil May Cry outcry. When asked by fans whether the company's new mulitplatform strategy would extend to their pair of successful Xbox 360 titles, Svensson explains that "Dead Rising and Lost Planet are not slated to appear on Wii or PS3," noting that the reasons for the continued exclusivity "are quite convoluted" and are bound by a slew of suspicious non-disclosure agreements.

He goes on to say that Capcom's current approach — which sees Resident Evil 5 and Devil May Cry 4 coming to both PS3 and Xbox 360 — is for future titles and isn't meant to be applied in a "retroactive" manner. Of course, this comes just days after Svensson used the forum to respond to sulking petitioners and their disdain for Devil May Cry gracing multiple platforms.

"We are certainly moved that people are so passionate about our products that they would go to such extremes," he said in a seperate thread. "At the same time we feel that allowing more people access to our content pleases far more people than it displeases (after all, we're not denying DMC4 to anyone that was already going to get it). It really is the best decision for the company and for consumers."

Apparently, Dead Rising and Lost Planet simply missed the multiplatform boat.

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