Vanity patent update

For those of my reader(s) following my ‘vanity’ patent (see, in order, here, here, here and here), here is an update…

At the instigation of a soon-to-be brother-in-law (thanks Wil!) I revisited my patent application after it was rejected. My lawyer and I spoke with the examiner on the phone, a painful experience as his accent was basically incomprehensible to me (and I have worked with a _lot_ of ‘damn foreigners’ over the years, quite a few Asian). My lawyer seemed to get what he was talking about and what I got out of the conversation (with the lawyer, afterwards) was the examiner felt our choice of words didn’t exclude the prior art. We word smithed the application a bit and resubmitted it and the examiner this time issued a final rejection. Of course, nothing is really final in these situations, it is just a matter of how much money you want to spend, but my lawyer said he would take this challenge on pro bono. My lawyer scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the examiner and insisted that the examiner’s supervisor be there (hoping that the supervisor had better English skills, thankfully the case), though, like everything else government related, it took over a month to make it happen. Yesterday we met with the examiner and his supervisor and we were finished in less than 10 minutes, possibly less than 5, and I didn’t even get to show the visual aids I brought! We discussed it afterwards and think that as the supervisor read our application and the examiner’s response he realized that the examiner was a bonehead (to put it bluntly, what I am best at). While the changes the supervisor suggested were not trivial (it entailed combining two claims), those changes could have easily been dealt with without rejection, indeed should have been. It seemed clear from the supervisor’s mannerisms and body language that he felt that once we had updated our claims the application would be approved, so at a minimum I will have my vanity patent I can hang on the wall.

Just a couple of days ago I found an article (“Personalized medicine could mean big business for D.C.-area companies“) that talked about how contractors in the IC (so-called ‘intelligence community’) were getting interested in genomics (hence DNA sequencing) as they could apply their experience with big data analytics. Since I have contacts in the IC, that article has prompted me to direct some attention to these people in an effort to get over this hump on funding. Presuming the USPTO application is approved as expected, there is still the Sept. 15 deadline for world-wide patents looming and there is no way I can afford the potentially $90K+ to apply for them. I feel quite sure that the US represents at most 25% of the global market value of the idea over the life of the patent; I suspect it would be so much harder to convince some company to purchase the rights as a defensive measure if the rights are limited to the US.

So yesterday was a good day… What will this weekend hold for me?

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Take THAT, Creationists: proof of human evolution

Adapting to Arsenic
Andean communities may have evolved the ability to metabolize arsenic, a trait that could be the first documented example of a toxic substance acting as an agent of natural selection in humans.

Really interesting article showing the power of evolution is with us even today, though as a biochemist in the laboratory I have seen proof of evolution many times in the past. Earlier I have blogged about arsenic and some research that initially was dramatically interesting, but then proved to be poor lab technique (lay people might be disappointingly shocked to learn how often that happens and this is far from the only case that made it through peer review and into publication). It is feasible this research won’t stand up to scrutiny, but such is the nature of science. It is an interesting topic, I have to imagine someone will want to try and reproduce the results.

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Someone gave the moon a swirly!

Mysterious Lunar Swirls on the Moon May be Caused by Crashing Comets

This is the first I have heard of this, but it seems it is an old ‘problem’. I guess the idea is since the comet has a huge ball of gas surrounding it that is moving at the same speed as the nucleus, when that cloud hammers into the moon (at the same speed as the nucleus, or 20-40,000 mph) it kicks up all sorts of dust the results of which can be seen from space as the color of the underlying dust is different.

Moon swirly

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Sailing stones, Mark II

Mystery Behind the ‘Sailing’ Stones of Death Valley Unveiled

I mention sailing stones before and my theory at the time was water, pushed by winds, would move the stones. It seems the new research supports that idea but also suggests that algae/bacteria may lubricate the way a bit.

Image of sailing stones

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Amazon causing literature to degrade?

More reasons to hate Amazon: Ursula Le Guin is right about their model of books as commodities “written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast”
The online bookseller does more than just shut down indie bookstores, says the venerable fantasy author

Disclaimer: I really like a lot of Le Guin’s work and respect her very much as a writer. Having done some research now on the publishing world as a writer I can see some of the things she is talking about. Since I am doing this with a profit motive (I like to write, but I don’t _need_ to write) I am trying to write something popular that sells well. Though what I write is focused on the story I want to tell, I do consider popularity elements as I make decisions on various plot points. I have gone back and rewritten sections because I feel they will market/sell better and, presuming my reviewers give me the thumb’s up and get it professionally edited, I suspect I will be making additional changes towards better marketability. Then, if I go with a traditional publisher, no doubt they will recommend more changes still. However, I am trying to tell a specific story and there is only so much I will bend before I no longer enjoy what I am doing (you have to do it for the joy in the beginning, that might be all you ever get!) and will drop the thing. I wonder if some of my favorite authors would ever get a chance in today’s publishing world. If Dune, one of the most popular Sci Fi books of all time, were Herbert’s debut novel, I doubt it would get considered today. It is too far from the mainstream and isn’t easily categorized. My attempt is firmly in the romantic thriller genera and, except for the focus being from the “bad guy’s” point of view (the title says it all: “Diary of a Contract Killer”) I believe is fairly conventional. Publishers want you to be different, yet the same, exactly like Hollywood. Everyone complains about how Hollywood never does anything new or different, Le Guin sees the exact same thing now in the publishing world and lays the blame at Amazon’s feet. I don’t see it as exclusively an Amazon issue, but they are certainly accelerating the trend (though they are also providing a platform for self publishing, which lowers the bar to the point that anyone who can finish a novel can get it published, though very few indeed will ever get paid for the time they invested). Though I am not convinced that changing Amazon’s behavior would change the trend (personally, I see this trend beginning decades ago and Amazon just riding the wave), I do think it needs to be said, heard and debated, so this is my small effort to broaden the article’s exposure.

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Outlaw paper shredders!

Congressman Warns of Encrypted “Dark Spaces”; Another Says: “Ooooh It Sounds Really Scary”

“The notion that encryption is somehow different than other forms of destroying and hiding things is simply not true,” Lieu told The Intercept. “Forty years ago, you could make the statement that paper shredders are one of the most damaging things to national security because they destroy documents that law enforcement might want to see.”

It is almost (almost) amusing to me how clueless these people who claim to represent us are (of course, they actually represent the elite 0.001%). I don’t recall the specifics, but fairly recently (couple of years ago) some idiot senator or representative endlessly championed our governments ‘need’ to read everyone’s mail, that is, until she found out that the govt was reading _her_ mail. Suddenly she was against it. What the hell did she think? Oh yeah, she didn’t…

And the idea that somehow the government can have a backdoor that only the government, under a court order (like that has been working so far!) can access. Even in the unbelievably unlikely situation where the backdoor created is unhackable (vanishingly small, so small it is unrealistic in a real world to consider possible, let alone probable), how long until corrupt members of our law enforcement start to use the access without going through proper channels (which, naturally, themselves are subject to abuse).

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Chimp Chefs

The naked chef? Chimpanzees can ‘cook’ and prefer cooked food – study
Findings suggest chimpanzees have the intellectual abilities required for cooking, which could have an impact on our view of human evolution

Really interesting as cooking food (on purpose) is highly likely to be one of the very early steps that put our ancestors on the path to becoming human (others being speech and farming). The theory goes that if chimps have a natural tendency to so something then our ancient ancestors likely had the same tendency as well (impossible to confirm or refute lacking a time machine).

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It is all the bacteria’s fault!

Bacteria may give you Type 2 diabetes

I talk about the microbiome off and on here, this is another that shows that the impact of our ‘friends’ we carry around with us can have significant life altering impacts. Now it seems a chronic infection might directly lead to type-2 diabetes. Not clear is cause/effect: does getting fat lead to the staph infection or does the staph infection make you fat? I hope the latter, then I can get a vaccination and shed some blubber without actually having to be inconvenienced 😉

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Any sufficiently advanced…

A co-worker has one of those cute quote things added to his email signature and today’s is “Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.”. That prompted me to Google and I found this:

Arthur C. Clarke, (Clarke’s third law)
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Vernon Schryver
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

Gregory Benford, Foundations Fear, 1997
Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

Advanced Music
Any sufficiently advanced music is indistinguishable from MIDI.

Any sufficiently advanced bureaucracy is indistinguishable from molasses.

Answer to Fermi’s Paradox
Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from nature.

Scott Rainey
Any sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from humour.

Oh, the Huge Manatee
Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from pretention.

Rich Kulawiec
Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

Carson Gaspar
Any sufficiently advanced application proxy is indistinguishable from any sufficiently advanced stateful inspection engine.

Andy Finkel
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

Cairns’s Third Law
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from life.

Michael Shermer
Any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is indistinguishable from God.

Clarke’s Third Law as applied to music
Any sufficiently advanced country music is indistinguishable from rock.
Any sufficiently advanced rock music is indistinguishable from jazz
Any sufficiently advanced jazz is indistinguishable from random noise.
Any sufficiently advanced random noise is indistinguishable from Yanni.

Alan Morgan (
Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from a genuine kook.

Throop’s Law:
Any sufficiently advanced tool can be used for something it wasn’t intended for.

Advanced content management system
Any sufficiently advanced content management system is virtually indistinguishable from a good wiki.

Any sufficiently advanced operating system is indistinguishable from Linux.

The Confusion, Neal Stephenson
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a yo-yo”. Spoken by Enoch the Red

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Glow-in-the-dark pee

Next Generation: Souped-up Probiotics Pinpoint Cancer
Genetically engineered commensal bacteria help researchers detect cancer metastases in mouse livers.–Souped-up-Probiotics-Pinpoint-Cancer/

This is a cool kind of biotechnology where you can actually see changes with your own eyes. Most of the experiments I did, in school as well as a professional researcher, required some sort of visualization tool (chemical reagent, spectrophotometer, scintillation detector, etc.) so each fraction of the sample had to be analyzed. However, since this glows in the dark, all you got to do is turn out the lights and you will know what has happened.

Oh, it might also save lives also…

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