Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • Fairness requires that I point this out: An article in the Guardian that I cited in my last Odd Lots was in error. NASA had nothing to do with the paper in question, which was written in his spare time by a postdoc who happens to work for NASA. That makes the paper no less ridiculous, but at least NASA isn’t doing stuff down that far along the dumb spectrum.
  • And I’ll give this project a fair shot, though I would prefer to see NASA do this on a non-exclusive basis rather than for a particular publisher only. No word on whether and what Tor/Forge is paying for the deal. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • Samsung has cited Kubrick’s film 2001 in a patent prior art case. (Engadget has a shorter entry with a still.) I wasn’t aware that fictional concepts can be raised in prior art challenges, but evidently it was done back in the 1960s when waterbeds were coming into common use. Robert A. Heinlein had described a waterbed in his 1942 novel Beyond This Horizon, and it was cited in a prior art challenge that cost Charles Hall his patent on the waterbed in 1968.
  • My computer books and articles have been cited in patent applications 37 times, but I don’t know if it’s possible to look up prior art case citations. Will have to research this.
  • While we’re citing citations, I was recently cited in a book by Paul J. Nahin, Number Crunching: Taming Unruly Computational Problems from Mathematical Physics to Science Fiction . The citation, on page 281, briefly describes my reprints of the Carl & Jerry stories from Popular Electronics. Alas, he cites me as “Copperhead Press” but mentions of the boys are way down in the last year and I’m glad they were mentioned at all. Thanks to Bruce Baker for letting me know.
  • If you’re interested in hurricanes, here’s a nice summary page with automatically updating satellite imagery and lots of interesting graphics. The satellite imagery can be animated to show changes over the last several hours.
  • I didn’t think this was new news, but apparently star formation is slowing down, as material that was originally hydrogen is “locked up” in white dwarfs, neutron stars, and heavy elements, even after a supernova has blasted a star’s substance back into interstellar space. I didn’t think that 70% of a supernova’s mass fails to return to the gas pool, but that seems to be the case.
  • Jim Mischel sends along a link to a marvelous homebrew bandsaw made mostly of wood. (The blade and the hardware may be inescapably metallic.) The site as a whole has lots of interesting woodpunk concepts and projects. I especially like the wooden gear template generator, which calculates a gear outline that can be printed to paper and then cut out from wood.
  • Whew. We get the message, guys.


  1. David Stafford says:

    If there’s a french fry out there with your name on it don’t bother ducking.

    > I wasn’t aware that fictional concepts can be raised in
    > prior art challenges.

    Prior art can come from pretty much anywhere for design patents.

  2. Larry Nelson says:

    Forget french fries, go for the real food:

    1. Helluvit is, bacon is lots healthier than it’s made out to be. The more fat I eat, the more fat (my own) I lose, and the better my blood numbers get. I’m guessing I’d weigh 145 if I could simply stop eating potatoes and pasta.

  3. Erbo says:

    The 2001 novelization also describes a tablet-like computing device, the “Newspad,” which displays major newspapers and stories in them. (Heywood Floyd uses one while aboard the Aries-1b spacecraft en route to the Moon.) Though there are some aspects to its operation that a modern tablet user might find clumsy (e.g. having to physically plug in a network connection; navigating to individual news stories by keying a 2-digit reference number instead of just touching a hyperlink), it’s certainly recognizable as what it is.

    The pad shown in the movie was used aboard Discovery, and I don’t think we ever saw the astronauts interacting with it, but it did display full-motion video as well as text, giving it other tablet-like qualities.

    1. If I recall from a book I no longer have (the making of 2001?) there were TV sets mounted under that tabletop, and that’s where the full-motion came from.

      I don’t begrudge Apple (or anybody) genuine inventions, but a lot of patents are absurdly obvious, and they’re costly as hell to break in the court system. This one will be interesting to watch.

  4. Mike Brown says:

    > I don’t know if it’s possible to look up prior art case citations.

    You can look at the complete file history for recent patents and all published patent applications on the USPatent and Trademark Office’s PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval) system. That would let you see the paper which cited your publication – it’s probably an Information Disclosure Statement filed by the applicant. The actual publication is also on PAIR, but for copyright reasons can’t be downloaded except by the attorney who filed the IDS or folks at the USPTO.

    The URL is

  5. Carrington Dixon says:

    It’s kind of sad that the US Manned Space Program is again science fiction.

    Where is D. D. Harriman when you need him?

    1. Erbo says:

      Perhaps Elon Musk is the modern-day Harriman.

      Among other things, SpaceX hired Shuttle astronaut and ISS Expedition 6 commander Ken Bowersox as Vice-President of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance. So, if they make routine private spaceflight a reality, I’m happy to say that a Bowersox will have been at the forefront of the effort. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *