Monday, April 30, 2007

SCOTUS majority opinion on non-obviousness

One of the ways in which a patent’s subject matter can beproved obvious is by noting that there existed at the timeof invention a known problem for which there was anobvious solution encompassed by the patent’s claims.

So if I teach in my class that there's only four types of problems, and there's only three types of solutions, then every patent claim that uses any of the 4x3 combinations should be denied as obvious.
The question isnot whether the combination was obvious to the patentee but whether the combination was obvious to a person withordinary skill in the art. Under the correct analysis, anyneed or problem known in the field of endeavor at the time of invention and addressed by the patent can provide areason for combining the elements in the manner claimed.
I guess there's a premium now on discovery of a new problem.
A person of ordinary skill is also a person of ordinary creativity, not an automaton.
A curious statement. Before courts had trouble identifying what "ordinary skill" was. Now they will have to figure out what "ordinary creativity" is.

We build and create by bringing to the tangible and palpable reality around us new works based on instinct, simple logic, ordinary inferences, extraordinary ideas, and sometimes even genius. These advances, once part of our
shared knowledge, define a new threshold from which innovation starts once more. And as progress beginning from higher levels of achievement is expected in the normal course, the results of ordinary innovation are not the subject of exclusive rights under the patent laws.
The difficulty of course is how to establish the threshold in each and every technology area at any given time.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

BBC NEWS | Technology | Mouse brain simulated on computer

BBC NEWS | Technology | Mouse brain simulated on computer: "US researchers have simulated half a virtual mouse brain on a supercomputer.

The scientists ran a 'cortical simulator' that was as big and as complex as half of a mouse brain on the BlueGene L supercomputer."

The researchers say that although the simulation shared some similarities with a mouse's mental make-up in terms of nerves and connections it lacked the structures seen in real mice brains.

Imposing such structures and getting the simulation to do useful work might be a much more difficult task than simply setting up the plumbing.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Botanists discover the signal that triggers flowering - life - 20 April 2007 - New Scientist

Botanists discover the signal that triggers flowering - life - 20 April 2007 - New Scientist: "After a quest lasting more than 70 years, botanists may finally have found what one leading textbook describes as 'the Holy Grail of plant biology' – the molecular command that tells a plant it is time to flower.

The discovery may help scientists tailor crops to different latitudes – an especially valuable ability as global warming begins to shift climate zones towards the poles."

A good example how solution to a detection problem creates potential for a much more efficient control in its supersystem.
Yahoo, founded in 1995, had a three-year head start on Google when it was launched as a human-created directory. Google has always relied on software spiders to crawl the Web and create its index. Hard as it is to believe now, Yahoo invested in Google early on and used its engine to power Yahoo search results until early 2004 when it began using its own search technology.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were unsure what business model they would use when they started their business. After snubbing merger talks in 2001 with Overture, the first search provider to use ads, Google launched its own pay-per-click model in early 2002. Overture sued for patent infringement and the case was later settled. Yahoo acquired Overture in 2003.

Technology story very similar to IBM/Microsoft deal in the early 1980s. A dominant company outsources service that doesn't make money. Then a new business model is discovered that boosts the upstart. The lesson: check outsourced technology for potentially new business models, i.e. the ability of the component to become the foundation of a new system.

Yahoo was too early in its quest to become a media company. After ten years of development Internet-based content distribution business model has not materialized yet.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Keeping clean tech down-to-earth | Perspectives | CNET "Electric power worldwide is over 40 percent of total global carbon dioxide releases, and it is the fastest-growing portion (in terms of human-released greenhouse gases). India, China and other countries are rapidly industrializing and bringing basic electric power services to their peoples. Their development, like U.S. electric power, follows least-cost options.

Our least-cost electric power options--coal-fired power plants--are by far our most destructive and dangerous ones. Coal burning directly kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in particulate, sulfate and mercury releases, thousands of tons of radioactive emissions yearly, and emits over twice as much carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour (kWh) as any other form of power generation. The coming costs from worsening droughts from Africa to Indiana, intensified storms, and rising sea levels will bring misery to billions."

PC World - Three Minutes With: Second Life Exec

PC World - Three Minutes With: Second Life Exec: "But they're not using traditional advertising means. The ones that do it effectively are providing a capability, service or product in Second Life to residents that they'll use while in Second Life. The actual proposition of creating a message or value around your brand takes quite a different form when you have a place to exhibit and make it real in the virtual world of Second Life."

Interesting problem - what and how to advertise in a virtual world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

G.S. Altshuller. The Fantogram Method. 1971.

1. The success of any problem-solving method depends, to a large degree, on the imagination of the inventor applying the method. Therefore, we recommend that inventors systematically develop personal creativity.

Inventing a magical plant is one of many tools that can be used for such purpose. The goal is to stretch and extend one’s imagination beyond the limits of everyday experience, so that a lack of "fantastic" thinking would not be a barrier to creating new ideas.

In this exercise [creating a magic object - ES], the task is to choose a set of common objects (M) and add to it one or more fantastic objects (x).

The set may comprise a certain type of objects: animals, birds, plants, flowers, sentient beings, machines, communication means, planets, hypothesis, elementary particles, etc. In the beginning of the course, it is more practical to use non-technical sets such as animals and plants because psychological barriers to understanding them are usually lower and easier to overcome.

2. The major difficulties in inventing a novel magical object are as follows: a) Identifying the boundaries for a selected set of objects, e.g. animals; and b) a psychological tendency to stay attached to common objects from the selected set.

One of the most common mistakes is combining two well-known animals and creating a chimera. Historically, this approach was used in myths and fairy tales to create more compelling stories. Some commonly featured chimeras were mermaids, centaurs, and sphinxes. Today, this method tends to generate trivial combinations that no longer excite readers.

Since the boundaries between common ideas and creative, imaginary ones are rather unclear, commonly “invented” fantastic objects tend to remain relatively close to everyday experience, or stay somewhere near its outer edges.

Our analysis shows that good sci-fi writers approach this problem from a slightly different angle. The writers begin with objects taken right from the border line between a common object to a more exotic one. For example, an average person may combine a dog with a dear and come up with a “dog with horns”. A good sci-fi writer would take a wolf and combine it with telepathy, thus inventing an animal that hunts its prey by tracking its victim’s thoughts. (R. Sheckley, The Odor of Thought). The difference between the results is quite striking. Nevertheless, we find that even the most talented sci-fi and fantasy writers actively employ a relatively small number of techniques and objects.

3. To have a productive “invent a magic object” session an inventor must learn how to determine boundaries for different object sets. Practice shows that even the simple step of identifying certain parts of a boundary line, i.e. different criteria for determining what would be a typical boundary, is often sufficient for making good progress.
To enhance the results we recommend using certain “boundary crossing” techniques according to the Fantogram method.
A fantogram, or fantasy table, lists typical attributes for different sets as well as recommended techniques for changing their characteristics ( see Table 1). It is a variation of the morphological analysis method proposed by F.Zwicky.

Transformation techniques
Generic Characteristic Specific Characteristic A B C D E F G H I
1g 1s

2g 2s

3g 3s

4g 4s

5g 5s

6g 6s

7g 7s

8g 8s

9g 9s

10g 10s

11g 11s

Table 1. A general purpose fantogram.
For an imagination development exercise we recommend the following generic boundary charactheristics (Column 1):
1g – chemical composition or physical state
2g – micro-structure ( e.g.. a sub-system of a object from the M group)
3g – object itself
4g – super-structure ( e.g. a super-system for the object)
5g – direction of evolution
6g – replication
7g – energy source
8g – transportation method
9g – habitat
10g – level of organization and/or control
11g – purpose, meaning of existence
These characteristics are key boundary segments for many technical and non-technical groups of objects.
Since any particular exercise involves objects from just one group, e.g. animals, we fill in some specific attributes for Column 2:
1s – proteins
2s – cells
3s - body
4s – pack, community, etc.
5s – from cell to organ, body
6s – reproduction, e.g. sexual, cloning, etc.
7s – oxidation of food
8s – walking, running, swimming, flying
9s – soil, water, air, etc.
10s – from chemical reactions within cell to laws in society
11s – food source, biological regulator, etc.

The transformation techniques can vary, but for traing purposes we use the following:
A – increase, decrease
B – combine, break apart
C – “anti-attribute” , i.e. change property to its opposite
D – speed up, slow down
E – shift forward and/or shift backward in time
F – change key dependencies, e.g. “property – time”, “structure – time”
G – separate the object from its function and/or attribute
H – change key relationship between the object and its environment
I – change an environmental ( physical) constant

The process of inventing a magic object using a fantogram involves five steps:
Step 1: Select a group of objects and fill in its specific characteristics in Column 2. (We just did it above for “animals”).
Step 2. Select a cell from the table that combines a characteristic of the group and a transformation technique
For example, take a combination of attribute 3S with technique A, i.e. “body – increase”. This means we are going to consider an animal whose size increases beyond customary boundaries.
Step 3. Run a “thought experiment” by applying the transformation technique to the characteristic.
Begin by imagining the animal gradually growing in size, as big as a mountain, a continent, an ocean, a planet a star.. (E.g. “ocean animal” in Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem; “planet animal in “When the World Screamed”, by A.C. Doyle).
Note: * Pay attention to concepts concepts created in the process because once in a while novel ideas start showing up in step 3.
Step 4. Select one of the ideas generated in the previous step. For example, let’s focus on an animal-mountain.
Step 5. Consider other characteristics from the table and apply them to the idea selected in step 4. For example, how does our animal-mountain grow (5s)? What does it eat (7s)? How does it move around (8s)? Where does it live (9s)?
Even first attempts to answer these questions may lead to interesting variations on the initial idea of the animal-mountain.
For example, a whale can be considered an “animal half-mountain” that lives in water. Animal-mountains could also live in solid environments or in an atmosphere. Imagine that The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is one of those animal-mountains…

Now that we have a specific object and have determined some of its characteristics, shift your attention to unexplored transformation techniques in columns B through I. Tackle the questions, “how does it eat?” etc mentioned in Step 5. For example, pick G, “separate the object from its characteristic.” Consider a small animal that can transform into a big one or behave like something other that itself. This means that the animal itself is small, but it looks or behaves like a big one. An example from nature would be a tiny spider that builds a large web, a foldable extension of its body. The spider spreads the web to capture its prey, and then takes it down before moving on to new hunting grounds ( a spider usually eats its old web before building a new one).
So, the animal has to be small AND big at the same time. Maybe it expands like gas? Let’s see how this could work. A relaxed, solid or liquid, animal lies quietly on the lawn. But when it wants to catch its prey, it “evaporates”, and becomes the size of a mountain, and hunts down its food. Such transition can be accomplished, for example, by a change in body temperature: warm-up, evaporate, condense, merge back into one small quiet body. An animal made of mercury rather than proteins.
This is just one of simple combinations of a characteristic and a transformation technique. If we try other combinations we may come up with a more exotic species. For example, in one of the training sessions, students combined characteristic 5k with technique G. They considered the same group, animals, but chose to separate its evolution from the animal itself.
In the beginning, this approach felt completely unworkable: how is it possible to separate the animal from its evolution? After some thinking, they figured out that technology evolution develops along similar lines: new ideas are tried on models, the best ones are selected, and mass production begins.
This way of thinking lead them to imagine a fish that, due to climate or other environmental changes, had to move to dry land. They imagined a fish that could create new variations of itself. The fish approached dry land. It didn’t know what dry land was, so it spawned lots of different fish variations. Some crawling, some jumping, some cold blooded, some warm blooded, etc. The vast majority of them died, but few returned – they passed the survival test. The parent fish then chose its favorite offspring model. The new generation of fish was created from the best model and moved onto dry land. Mission accomplished!
Later, the students found that this idea was genuinely new and it had not been anticipated in sci-fi literature. And it’s quite good too, since it’s built upon a fantastic notion, not a logical one.
Well, is this idea just a fantasy? Probably not. It’s quite possible that 30-50 years from now, space vehicles will be built using this principle. They might become capable of replicating and advancing in completely unknown, unpredictable environments.

Recommended exercises:
  1. Identify fantogram cells that represent:
    1. plasma creatures that live on the Sun;
    2. evolution that unfolds through changes in the same body, not through generational change;
    3. sentient ants;
    4. The Cheshire Cat.
  2. Describe a fantastic plant per 8u-C.
  3. Describe a fantastic plant per 8u-G.
  4. Describe fantastic clothing per 3u-H.
  5. Describe a fantastic building per 9u-C.
  6. Describe a fantastic source of light per 7u-C

A most common mistake in fantogram-based training is haste. We don’t recommend more than one imagination development session per day. Concepts must be thought through thoroughly, without unnecessary jumping from one concept to another. It is very important to learn focused imaginative thinking before taking on more difficult inventive tasks.

© G. Altshuller, 1971.
© E. Shteyn, 2007. English translation.

The association is urging locals to come up with their own ideas for the area's gardens and post them in the online world of Second Life, where people create virtual doubles of themselves called avatars.

Accomplir will shortlist five of the best projects, which will then be displayed on an island in Second Life.

The winner will be announced at the end of June and receive a reward of 275,000 linden dollars (785 euros, £530), the currency used in Second Life.

Accomplir will then go to the town hall with the winning idea, aiming to put pressure on officials to speed up the redevelopment process.

The alternative universe provides more opportunities for influencing the so-called real life. Blogging was just the beginning of the evolution. With regard to ideas, virutal world is a lot more productive than the material one. The selection process is also very scalable.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Research by security firm Symantec suggests that the raw value of a WoW account is now higher than a credit card and its associated verification data.

One card can be sold for up to $6 (£3) suggests Symantec, but a WoW account will be worth at least $10. An account that has several high level characters associated with it could be worth far more as the gold and rare items can be sold for real cash.

The value of virtual goods is increasing.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Microsoft has followed a rival in advocating virtualization as a way to try out software painlessly.

Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format can be used to collect an operating system, higher-level software and specific configuration details into a single package. A particular VHD image can be loaded into a virtual machine software such as Microsoft's Virtual Server product.

A good example of the "virutalization" trend.
Larry Sanger was a co-founder and first paid editor of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has grown to be quite big. How do you plan on competing with them? Do you really think we need another wiki?
Sanger: I think we absolutely need another wiki--first of all, simply because Wikipedia lacks credibility, unfortunately. It's a good starting place, as people say--on some subjects anyway--but it isn't really what we want out of a reliable reference resource. And frankly, I don't think that the Wikipedia community is prepared to make the changes that I think need to be made in order to transform Wikipedia into something that's really reliable.

Integrity problem. The new site tries to compete with a "good enough solution". History shows that this approach rarely leads to success. Maybe there's a specialization area where they can establish credibility.
Google makes mashup easy to make

a new feature of its maps service that it plans to launch on Thursday called My Maps. It lets anyone create mashups by essentially pointing, clicking, dragging and dropping. I used a temporary log in and password since the feature hadn't publicly launched yet, but normally I would log in using my Google account information.

Simplifying user control enables greater flow of information. Users can easily add his/her own software "tools" to Google's ecosystem. Each tool has a built-in control dependency on Google Maps ( source), which creates a long-term control point in the mashup application space.
Control is made easy and its elements are given away - a powerful approach to control point creation.